Protected Activity Even if No Discrimination

ORLANDO, FL – A school board member, Andy Ziegler, in Brevard County was accused of going to a female employee’s home, touching her back and asking for a ride in her car.

In August 2016, the alleged victim made complaints that Ziegler made her feel uncomfortable when Ziegler invited her to a party of his friend who lives in her condominium. The woman declined his invitation, yet the night of the party Ziegler showed up at her door and rang the doorbell. The alleged victim did not answer. Additionally, the alleged victim also claimed that Ziegler said he touched the small of her back on multiple occasions, he wanted her to give him a ride in her car, and he made comments in front of other employees that made her uncomfortable.

In February 2017, Brevard County started their investigation into the claims. After months of investigation,  Ziegler, school board member was eventually cleared of the alleged sexual harassment.

But nevertheless, the Brevard Public Schools Superintendent Desmond Blackburn wants to add teeth to the current anti-discrimination policy and sexual harassment training. Moreover, Blackburn was concerned that the accusation against the employee could still reflect badly on the school district. “The fact that it happened, there’s opportunity for negative light on the district, that there was an investigation… I am hoping that the negative light is dimmed by positive light that we took it seriously, that we investigated regardless of who the accused was.”

There many protections under Federal, State, and city laws that make discrimination based on one’s sex and sexual harassment illegal.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Law of 1964, sexual harassment is considered a form of gender discrimination because it is harassing conduct that occurs because of an individual’s gender.

Furthermore, Title VII prohibits punishing job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination including harassment. Asserting these federal rights is called “protected activity,” and it can take many forms.

Such examples of protected actives include:

(1) filing or being a witness in an EEO charge, complaint, investigation, or lawsuit,

(2) communicating with a supervisor or manager about employment discrimination, including harassment,

(3) answering questions during an employer investigation of alleged harassment,

(4)  refusing to follow orders that would result in discrimination,

(5) resisting sexual advances, or intervening to protect others,

(6) requesting accommodation of a disability or for religious practice,

(7) asking managers or co-workers about salary information to uncover potentially discriminatory wages.

Moreover, employers are not allowed to do anything in response to such protected activity that would discourage someone from resisting or complaining about discrimination in the future.

In the case above, the alleged victim claimed that Ziegler sexually harassed her. The investigation showed that Ziegler was innocent, but that does not discount the fact that the alleged victim’s act of complaining qualified as a “protected activity.” Her complaint was protected and should her employer discourage her from making future complaints of discrimination of retaliating against her for making a complaint, such actions are unlawful.

If you feel you have suffered discrimination or retaliation for your complaints on the job or at your college campus contact one of our  Miami sexual harassment attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC today for a free consultation.  Our attorneys have years of experience litigating claims of gender discrimination. We have recovered millions on behalf of our clients. Please give our attorneys a call at (800) 807-2209 for a free consultation.