The #MeToo movement has succeeded at many levels, including at the state level for government employees of Florida. Recently, a Florida Senate committee unanimously passed Senate Bill 1628, which would make sexual harassment that occurs in government offices a crime if it becomes law, as reported by the Tampa Bay Times. The bill is sponsored by Senator Lauren Book, D-Plantation, who told the Senate committee that, “The overwhelming majority of people in this process conduct themselves with decorum and show genuine care for others, but we know, and have clearly seen, that where there is power, there is potential for abuse.” Another similar bill (House Bill 7007) that was recently revised, sponsored by Representative Kristin Jacobs, D-Coconut Creek, was released just an hour before SB 1628 passed through the Senate committee.
What Would Constitute Sexual Harassment?
Under the bill, sexual harassment is defined as any unwanted sexual advances initiated by candidates for public office, legislatures, lobbyists, and agency employees. A sexual advance Under 60L-36.004 (1) of the Florida Administrative Code describes sexual harassment in the workplace as “any 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 when” any of the following are true:
- The employee must submit to the sexual act because doing so is an explicit or implied condition of their employment;
- An employment decision will be made based on whether the employee submits to or rejects the unwanted advance; or
- The sexual misconduct unreasonably interferes with the employee’s work performance, or it creates a hostile work environment.
Penalties for Lobbyists, Lawmakers, and Others
The bill would create penalties for violators while adding victims advocates in each agency. Additionally, it would prohibit the hiring of “closers.” A closer is a young man or woman hired by a lobbying firm in order to give in to sexual advances by lawmakers during the final or closing days of a legislative session. A victim’s compensation trust fund will be created, which violators will be responsible for paying $5,000 per act and $20,000 for an enhanced violation. When a lobbyist violates this law, they may have their lobbying registration either suspended or revoked. In addition, they will be responsible for paying the victim’s attorney and/or advocate. Anyone with knowledge of sexual harassment must report it to the Ethics Commission within 10 business days.
A Sexual Harassment Attorney is Here to Help
Currently, sexual harassment at the workplace is not a criminal offense, though it may call for civil penalties and the loss of a job and potential career. However, sexual assault is a serious offense and spans a wide number of acts, including unwanted sexual touching or groping. If you have been accused of any sex crime, you need to call the West Palm Beach lawyers of the Skier Law Firm today.