If you have been accused of harassment at your workplace, you may be worried about how this accusation will impact your life. You do have legal options when accused of harassment, and a lawyer can help you understand what steps to take next.
In some rare cases there may be a false allegation entangled with genuine ones. There could be several reasons as to why there might be a false allegation of harassment against you. It could also be a minor misunderstanding that gets cleared up after an investigation is conducted.
What Is Workplace Harassment in Florida?
Harassment in the workplace is when an employee is mistreated because of certain protected characteristics. Florida Statutes § 760 and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission define workplace harassment as mistreatment of a person based on their protected characteristics. Those characteristics include age, race, national origin, religion, disability, pregnancy, and sex. Other types of “meanness” in the workplace do not fall under these workplace harassment laws.
For instance, if a man were being harassed at work simply on the basis of being a man, this would be considered workplace harassment. He is being harassed based on a protected biological trait.
Furthermore, if someone were being teased at work because of a disability, that too would be considered workplace harassment. Such behavior would make their work place a “hostile work environment”. The accused could be subject to termination and legal action.
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What To Do After You’ve Been Accused of Harassment at Work
Being accused of workplace harassment is no laughing matter. It’s important to take the accusation seriously and explore your options. A workplace harassment lawyer can help you understand what legal steps you can take following an accusation.
- First, your lawyer will look at every aspect of your case to help you make decisions about possible next steps.
- Then, they can help you understand the laws and the possible case outcomes.
- An attorney can also collect evidence they can use to defend against work harassment allegations, such as interviewing coworkers or employees.
- Next, they can guide you through any legal process you are facing, whether you go to court or not.
- If you do go to court for these allegations, your lawyer can be by your side, watching out for your best interests.
Laws and legal processes can be complex and challenging, but legal help is an option. Understanding the challenges you’re up against can bring you peace of mind.
What Is a Hostile Work Environment?
One type of workplace harassment is based on the definition of a “hostile work environment”. This is when a person is subjected to frequent, repetitive harassment that creates an extremely distressing situation for an employee. Lawsuits and claims filed based on a hostile work environment are among the more common types of workplace harassment cases.
For example, if a woman is subjected to daily sexual comments or touched inappropriately on her body, she could file a claim or lawsuit based on a “hostile work environment”.
One incident of a rude or mean comment does not rise to the level of a hostile work environment. There would probably have to be evidence of repetitive harassment for this case to be successful. If you have been accused of creating a hostile work environment, you may have a defense if it can be proved the behavior was not repetitive.
What Are Examples of Workplace Harassment?
Workplace harassment comes in many different forms, from inappropriate jokes and sexual innuendo to physical violence and unwanted touching. The law is broad on what acts or words constitute harassment, but here are some examples below.
- Threats of violence
- Physical assault
- Showing someone inappropriate or sexual pictures without their consent
- Offensive slurs
- Inappropriate jokes
- Unrelenting flirtation or sexual comments
Remember, a few isolated incidents of name-calling may not rise to the level of workplace harassment, but repetitive behavior over a prolonged time could. You have the right to seek legal guidance when accused of workplace harassment.
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Defenses Against Accusations of Harassment at Work
In the United States, all people are assumed innocent until proven guilty. This means when you’ve been accused of harassment in the workplace, you have the right to defend yourself.
One defense against workplace harassment charges is the innocence defense. This is a defense in which you are innocent of the allegations against you. Evidence is provided that proves you did not harass an employee as accused.
Credibility of Victim
Another defense you could use when faced with a harassment case could involve examination of the credibility of the victim. For instance, if the victim who is claiming workplace harassment has a history of lying, making false accusations, or having reason to see you suffer, you could use the victim’s credibility as a defense.
Not Repetitive Behavior
If you made one inappropriate joke at work and someone filed a harassment claim against you, it could be proved the behavior was a one-time incident. You could highlight your employment history and behavior record to show the incident was not repetitive.
What Can I Do to Help My Case?
You can improve your case by collecting evidence in your defense. You should remain calm and do not retaliate or confront the accuser. You should look at your employer’s harassment policy and provide it to your lawyer.
Seek Legal Assistance When Accused of Harassment at Work
Defending yourself against accusations of harassment in the workplace is your right. False accusations do occur, and legal options are available. Contact Bogin, Munns & Munns to obtain a case consultation and learn more about your rights.