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EMPLOYMENT CLAIMS

HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT

If you believe that you have been a victim of a hostile work environment, the employment attorneys at Burnett Wilson Reeder can help you. We will sit down with you during a free consultation and discuss your case with you. Our attorneys have extensive experience in trying employment claims, and will work tirelessly on your behalf so you are free to work without fear of any form of harassment.

In today’s workplace, harassment is as prevalent as ever, which is why it is essential that you know your legal rights to a safe working environment. Harassment comes in several different forms. Harassment can be sexual in nature, consist of racial epithets, gender inequality, and several other forms. Under the law, this harassment becomes a “hostile work environment” and actionable when a reasonable person would find it hostile or abusive and when the victim subjectively perceives it to be abusive. A hostile work environment may result from the actions of a boss, fellow co-worker, or even a non-employee (e.g., an independent contractor). There is no bright line test to determine whether or not you have been subjected to a hostile work environment. This is precisely why you should seek the assistance of the employment attorneys at Burnett Wilson Reeder.

At Burnett Wilson Reeder, we have the experience and legal resources necessary to consider the facts of your case in the context of the extensive law on this subject to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your case. Some of the factors of your case that we will consider, and which you should be prepared to discuss are:

(1) the frequency of the offending conduct;

(2) the severity of the offending conduct;

(3) whether the offending conduct was physically threatening or humiliating, or a “mere offensive utterance”; and

(4) whether the offending conduct unreasonably interfered with your job performance.

Keep in mind that this is not an exclusive list and that each factor does not necessarily have to be met in order to constitute a hostile work environment.  Rather, courts look at the “totality of the circumstances” when considering hostile work environment claims. In fact, in extreme cases, a single instance of harassing conduct can constitute a hostile work environment. We will discuss all of the possible factors with you when you meet us for your free consultation.

In addition to discussing the facts of your case, we will discuss how best to proceed with your case. The law related to hostile work environment cases is complex. There are both federal and state laws that apply to all hostile work environment cases and the two do not operate the same way. The Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (“FCRA”) (Fla. Stat. § 760.10) and Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) both prohibit employers from creating a discriminatorily abusive working environment for those in a protected group (one cannot discriminate by race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status).

Though the FCRA is based on Title VII, the presuit rules are very different. Under the FCRA, your case must first be reported to the Florida Commission on Human Relations (“FCHR”). If the FCHR determines that there is “no cause” for the claim, the complainant’s only remedy is to request an administrative hearing within 35 days. If, after the administrative hearing, the “no cause” determination is upheld, a civil suit under the FCRA is prohibited. Under Title VII, your case must first be reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”). However, the decision of the EEOC is not binding and is simply a prerequisite to filing suit and there is no requirement for an administrative hearing.

Other significant differences relate to the damages recoverable. Under the FCRA, there is no limit on the amount of compensatory damages recoverable and punitive damages are capped at $100,000. Under Title VII, depending on the number of persons employed by the employer, a prevailing party may recover an aggregated compensatory and punitive damage award of $50,000 to $300,000. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, which we will discuss with you during your free consultation.  Additionally, there are differing, strict time limitations for each law that we will go over with you.

While it is natural to fear retaliation from your employer for bringing a harassment claim, the law prohibits it. Under both the FCRA and Title VII, it is against the law for employers or employees to retaliate against individuals that file harassment charges. Importantly, it is also illegal for employers to retaliate against anyone within the “zone of interest” of the complaining employee. Therefore, neither you nor those close to you (like a wife, husband, or fiance) can be fired because you or a loved one make either a FCRA or a Title VII claim.

Similarly, you should not fear reporting any harassing conduct to the FCHR or EEOC since employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees that make such reports. If the FCHR or EEOC agrees with the harassment claim, the harassment victim can receive compensation for back pay, as well as compensatory and/or punitive damages depending on the type of hostile conduct. In short, both state and federal laws protect victims that file hostile work environment claims, but navigating the laws requires the assistance of experienced attorneys like those at Burnett Wilson Reeder.

If you have been a victim of a hostile work environment, contact us and pay nothing unless you win the case. Determining the extent of your rights as a harassment victim can be a challenge, and speaking on your own behalf can be a scary and often unwise exercise. The attorneys at Burnett Wilson Reeder will fight on your behalf by investigating  your case before filing any hostile work environment claims, advocating your case during the pre-suit claims process and, if necessary, arguing your case to a jury with our experienced attorneys. In every case we take on, we provide clients with the personalized attention that the case merits.

It is essential to note that time is of the essence if you want to bring hostile work environment claims against an employer. There are strict and complex time deadlines that apply (the time limits are as little as 240 days from the date of termination). If you believe that you have been a victim of a hostile workplace environment, do not wait to contact the employment attorneys of Burnett Wilson Reeder. We will discuss the details of your case with you during our free consultation and work with you throughout the course of the case in order to meet your goals.

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