The “happiest place on Earth” in Orlando employs more people than any other corporation in Florida. Not all people find it a happy place to work though. Accusations of groping by members of the public are not uncommon among costumed characters in the park. Sometimes the perpetrator is identified and banned from the park and its hotels—but these random public acts continue to happen. This type of harassment often involves one incident, but there may be several harassers throughout the park.

Sometimes the harassment occurs in one of the many businesses inside of the park, such as restaurants and souvenir shops. In 2020, a restaurant chef who filed a complaint of sexual harassment against her supervisor was retaliated against and lost her job, according to an Orlando news source. When you are going up against a large corporation to prove your case, it pays to be ready. It can be especially costly, confusing, and overwhelming without guidance.

What Is Harassment

Harassment can be described as unwelcome behavior that is based on your gender, race, color, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. If the behavior serves no purpose and causes you substantial distress, it is harassment.

Florida’s state government has developed sexual harassment training for workplaces. It defines harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature from any person directed towards or in the presence of an employee or applicant…”. The training defines two types of sexual harassment: 

  • Quid pro quo. This is when the harasser is in a position of power and uses it to “seek sexual favors for job conditions or benefits, such as hiring, promotion, favorable performance evaluations, no discipline, pay raises or other privileges.” The request for sexual favors may be spoken or implied.
  • A hostile working environment. This is when the harasser behaves in a way that interferes with the victim’s work performance or creates a hostile and/or offensive environment. To be considered sexual harassment, the behavior must be severe enough that it negatively affects the victim’s job. The harasser may or may not be in a position of power. A coworker, customer, or manager may be the harasser.

Florida Civil Rights Act

Sexual harassment is against the law and is considered a form of employment discrimination.

The Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 prohibits employment discrimination. This means all public and private employers with 15 or more employees must protect their workers from discrimination based on gender, pregnancy, or marital status. (Pregnancy discrimination is considered gender-based employment discrimination.) 

Getting Help

The Florida Commission on Human Relations handles complaints of sexual harassment that are based on the Florida Civil Rights Act. If the commission doesn’t respond within 180 days of a complaint, you have one year to file a sexual harassment lawsuit. For this, you are likely to need a lawyer.

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