State of Florida Paid Out $11 Million in Workplace Harassment Settlements
Over the course of 30 years, the state of Florida has paid out more than $11 million in over 300 cases of workplace harassment in the public sector, according to an article by CBS News outlining an Associated Press report.
Published in November, the Associated Press report chronicles cases of workplace harassment against Florida state government since 1987. A disproportionate number of these cases involved employees in the Florida Department of Corrections, representing approximately 60 percent of the total.
In terms of amounts and situations, these public sexual harassment cases varied wildly in nature. On the low end, there was a $5,500 settlement to a public university student who alleged supervisor harassment. There was a $129,000 settlement to an employee who worked at the Florida Department of Health. On the high end, there was a $1.3 million settlement in a class-action lawsuit by nurses employed by state correctional facilities.
While compiling this report, the Associated Press also requested settlement information from Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and Division of Risk Management. Specifically, the Associated Press intended to isolate cases of workplace harassment against top Florida lawmakers.
In response to this inquiry, the Division of Risk Management cited a 1997 settlement. In that case, a legislative employee alleged harassment by a lawmaker. That employee received a $165,000 settlement. Though there was no mention of a 1988 payment of $47,000, made in secret to prevent sexual harassment charges against a state lawmaker.
Federal and State Workplace Harassment Laws
Federal and state laws work together to protect against workplace harassment. From a federal standpoint, there is the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. From a state standpoint, there is the Florida Civil Rights Act.
In either case, it is unlawful for an employer to allow unwanted or unwelcome conduct in the workplace. It is crucial to note that unwanted conduct has to be consistent and pervasive. One-time or minor infractions do not always rise to the level of workplace harassment. Racial slurs and other charged insults generally constitute workplace harassment. The same applies to assault or battery in the workplace.
There is an important limitation to workplace harassment. The unwanted or unwelcome conduct must be directed toward a person who is part of a protected class. The list of protected classes includes:
- Genetic Information;
- National Origin;
- Sex (including gender and pregnancy); and
- Age (for those older than 40).
Contact Us Today for Help
Victims of workplace harassment are encouraged to consult with a skilled employment lawyer to protect their rights. Penichet Law in Miami, Florida, has proven skill and capabilities in various labor and employment law disputes, including workplace harassment. If you need legal help, contact us to get started today.