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Florida Labor & Employment Lawyer > Blog > Employment Law > What Should an Employer in Florida Do If an Employee Complains About Sexual Harassment?

What Should an Employer in Florida Do If an Employee Complains About Sexual Harassment?


Sexual harassment in the workplace remains a significant issue. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) explains that “the harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.” In other words, employers have a proactive duty to protect an employee from and to address allegations of sexual harassment no matter who is responsible. In this article, you will find an overview of the initial steps that an employer in Florida should take if a worker reports sexual harassment.

Step #1: Accept the Complaint and Take the Matter Seriously 

After receiving a complaint of sexual harassment—whether formal or informal—it is imperative that an employer in Florida accepts the complaint and communicates to the worker that the matter will be taken seriously. The initial response should assure the employee of the company’s commitment to a safe and respectful work environment. Employers should document the complaint in detail and maintain confidentiality to the greatest extent possible.

 Step #2: Avoid Retaliation and Any Appearance of Retaliatory Action 

State and federal regulations provide some protections to workers against sexual harassment. It is crucial for employers to ensure that the complainant does not face retaliation for coming forward. Retaliation can take many forms—including demotion, dismissal, or any other type of adverse change in work conditions. Employers should not only avoid retaliation, but also avoid any appearance of retaliatory action.

 Step #3: Follow Any Existing Internal Procedures for Sexual Harassment 

Businesses and organizations can benefit from having established internal procedures in place for handling sexual harassment complaints. These procedures may include steps for reporting, investigating, and resolving complaints. Assuming a company has guidelines, an employer should be sure that these procedures are followed.

 Step #4: Prepare a Prompt, Thorough Investigation 

All allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace require a prompt, thorough investigation. The investigation should begin without undue delay and it should be conducted by an individual or team experienced in handling such matters. Investigation should be confidential and impartial. Depending on the circumstances, an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace may involve gathering relevant information, interviewing the complainant, interviewing the accused, and talking to any witnesses.

 Step #5: Consult With an Attorney and Determine a Response

 Employers do not have to resolve a sexual harassment complaint on their own. It is wise for employers to consult with an attorney experienced in sexual harassment law. Doing so helps to ensure that the  response complies with all legal requirements and minimizes the risk of potential litigation. An attorney can provide guidance on the appropriate corrective action.

 Get Help From an Employment Lawyer in Florida

Workplace sexual harassment cases are complicated. If you have any specific questions about the steps that an employer should take when an employee reports sexual harassment, please do not hesitate to contact a Florida employment attorney for guidance and support.

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