Maldonado v. Publix Supermarkets, 939 So. 2d 290 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2006)
This case involves an employee of a grocery store who brought on a sexual harassment claim against her employer. The acts of harassment that were alleged by the plaintiff to the lawsuit occurred over the course of several years.
A Publix employee, Ms. Maldonado, began working with the company in 1989. Nearly ten years later, she transferred from her original location to a new branch in Coral Springs, Florida. At that time, Ms. Maldonado started working as a specialist in the seafood department.
At some point in 2001, Catalino Vasquez, a co-employee of Ms. Maldonado who worked in the butchery area of the Publix grocery store, made advancements towards her. The allegations made by Ms. Maldonado claimed that the first inappropriate incident involved Mr. Vasquez touching her right side in between her buttocks and right hip. At that time, Ms. Maldonado was not aware if the grope was intentional or simply an accident because Mr. Vasquez said nothing out loud.
It was not long after that event took place that Ms. Maldonado explained to her boss that the incident occurred with Mr. Vasquez. Her supervisor, Bill Thompson, was in charge of the meat department. As soon as the incident was brought to his attention, Thompson confronted Vasquez with Maldonado present. The conversation between the employees included Thompson telling Vasquez to not allow something like this to happen again. At that time, Maldonado was content with the resolution of the problem.
Over a year had passed after the one-time incident between Vasquez and Maldonado without any other occurrences. However, in 2002, Vasquez groped the buttock of Ms. Maldonado while she used a machine intended for grinding meat. Ms. Maldonado instinctively turned and punched Mr. Vasquez telling him to respect her. Vasquez seemed to not care much of that comment as he responded by stating that Ms. Maldonado ‘was going to be his’. After little was done to rectify this situation, and other ones that followed from Vasquez, Ms. Maldonado filed a lawsuit for sexual harassment against her employer, Publix.
Florida laws are in place specifying what situations give rise for a claim of sexual harassment. Because these situations depend on circumstances, case by case, it is important to recognize what can constitute sexual harassment for a lawsuit. Some of the more common actions brought up in sexual harassment claims include:
- Physical touching of another person;
- Verbal encounters which make a person, or persons, uncomfortable;
- Continued actions of unwanted behavior
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination at the workplace. There are occasions where the conduct can appear to be regular behavior throughout an office, but if there is one person who feels that the conduct is inappropriate, and is forced to feel uncomfortable, a sexual harassment claim can easily be filed. It is also important to note that Florida law holds an employer liable for hostile work places due to sexual harassment. The acts of others are not required to be directed at a person specifically for that person to feel as though they were sexually harassed.
If you feel like you are being harassed in the workplace, you should speak to an attorney that has a clear understanding of sexual harassment laws. Contact the Fort Lauderdale office of Madalon Law for your free consultation to learn about your rights.