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In Florida, an employee has a right to be free from harassment that is based on being a member of a "protected class," that is, based on the employee's sex, age, race, handicap/disability, national origin, and religion. For example, if an employer treats an employee unfairly because she is a woman, or because he is a Native American, or because she is a Methodist, that could be harassment based on being a member of a protected class. General, random harassment by an employer is not the basis for a legal action.
Harassment created by a hostile environment is more common. Both federal and Florida state laws make it unlawful for an employer to subject an employee to a hostile environment based on the protected classes previously described, for example, where an employer repeatedly subjects a female employee to inappropriate jokes, constant talk about sex, asking her out on dates, etc. To constitute a legal claim based on a hostile environment, the conduct must be either severe or pervasive. So, if an employer tells a woman one dirty joke on one occasion, that would likely not constitute a hostile environment.
And, if there was no unwanted physical contact between the employer and employee (for instance, a male employer who gives a female employee a backrub), the employee must show that inappropriate comments or other verbal behavior by the employer was constant, even occurring on a daily basis, in order to prove a claim based on a hostile environment.
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You asked about the laws concerning harassment and a hostile work environment. I only used sexual harassment for explanation purposes.
As I stated in my previous post, in order to have a valid claim for workplace harassment, the harassment must be based on your sex, your age, your race, your religion, your national origin, or the fact that you have a handicap/disability -- that is, a protected class. The hostile environment that is allegedly created by the employer must be based on one of these protected classes.
Yes, it would be possible for an employer to use other employees to create a hostile work environment. I'm going to use another example here, and again, I'm not saying this specifically applies to you -- I'm only using it to illustrate what I'm explaining. For instance, an employer could tell an employee's co-workers not to sit with him at lunch because the employee is black, or the employer could tell incite the co-workers to make jokes about the employee because she is a female, or things of that nature.
So, to answer your specific question, yes, it is possible for an employer to harass an employee through his/her co-workers.
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