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I am the owner of a small business. It is a yoga studio LLC.

Hi, I am the...

Hi, I am the owner of a small business. It is a yoga studio LLC. I have a situation that may be harrasement from both sides. One involved party is a teacher and the other is a team member/ student. They tried to work out their relationship break up outside of the studio, but they have not been successful. At this point they have both reached out to me to manage the situation. A few keywords that have popped up are red flags for me: harassment from one party and bullying from the other party. Is this something that you all could advise me on? I am trying to come to resolution today. But I need to understand legal boundaries and requirements from my end before I write this up and set forth actions.

Lawyer's Assistant: Can you tell me what state the LLC is registered in?

Florida

Lawyer's Assistant: Has anything been officially filed? If so, what?

I have an email from her asking for us to help her. And she used harassment in her email. I spoke with her on the phone and asked her to send me supporting documents of any documented harassment. She sent me screen shots.

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

He also set up a meeting with me this morning asking me to support him.

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Answered in 11 minutes by:
3/27/2018
Attorney Wendy
Attorney Wendy, Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 525
Experience: Member at Keefer & Keefer LLC
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Hello. My name is ***** ***** I am an attorney. I am working on a response for you and should have it to you shortly.

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Breakups among co-workers or, in this case, yoga instructor and student/team member, can be tricky for employers and business owners. There are several things to keep in mind as you decide how to handle this situation. The first is whether you have any anti-harassment policies in place. If you do, be sure to follow what you set out in those policies. If you do not, after you deal with this issue, you will want to consider implementing one as it can provide protection to you, set expectations, and also provide guidance for how to deal with any future incidents.

Next, you should conduct as complete an investigation as possible and as quickly as possible. This should include meeting with each of them individually and meeting with anyone who may have witnessed the alleged conduct. Keep notes and a file on how you handled the investigation so that should anything further develop you have real time notes and proof that you did not ignore the situation.

Should you determine that either of them acted inappropriately, that should be noted in your file, and you will need to decide whether to take any disciplinary action. I assume from the student/team member designation that though this person is not currently a yoga instructor, this person does work for you as well. If so, then any discipline would be as employer-employee or contractor-independent contractor.

Harassment, in legal terms, is unwanted conduct based on one person's race, gender, age, religion and the like that is offensive to the reasonable person. Personal attacks based on a bad breakup do not typically qualify unless the harassment becomes so severe and pervasive that the victim's workplace environment is intolerable. If what is really happening is just a bitter breakup, one course of action is to make it clear that no personal feelings are to be brought into the studio.

In Florida, employment is generally at-will unless you entered a written contract to employ a person for a specified period of time. Thus, you can end the employment relationship (as can your employees) at any time for any reason or for no reason, as long as the reason is not illegal (e.g., discrimination). Here, if you review the information and believe one of these individuals - or both- acted in a way that you cannot tolerate in your studio, you can terminate the employment. Just be sure if you decide to do that only as to one of them that you have clear reasons and evidence to support treating them differently. Also, be aware that there are laws that prohibit retaliation against an employee for making a complaint of discrimination or harassment, but if you do have provable facts separate from any complaint (that the employee is actually harassing the other) that would be legitimate; you just can't let the fact that either of them complained form any basis for your decision.

You are completely correct to be taking this seriously, particularly with the harassment allegation. At this point, do whatever fact collecting you can and then take whatever actions you can support that are best for your business.

I hope this is helpful; I know you are ready to bring some peace and serenity back to the yoga studio and you should stress to both of these individuals that they need to do the same. If you need further assistance, please reply to this email. If I answered your question and provided excellent service, I would greatly appreciate your 5 star rating at this time.

Please note: This information is ​for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. No course of action is being proposed and no attorney-client relationship or privilege has been formed as a result of this conversation.

Attorney Wendy
Attorney Wendy, Attorney
Category: Business Law
Satisfied Customers: 525
Experience: Member at Keefer & Keefer LLC
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DISCLAIMER: Answers from Experts on JustAnswer are not substitutes for the advice of an attorney. JustAnswer is a public forum and questions and responses are not private or confidential or protected by the attorney-client privilege. The Expert above is not your attorney, and the response above is not legal advice. You should not read this response to propose specific action or address specific circumstances, but only to give you a sense of general principles of law that might affect the situation you describe. Application of these general principles to particular circumstances must be done by a lawyer who has spoken with you in confidence, learned all relevant information, and explored various options. Before acting on these general principles, you should hire a lawyer licensed to practice law in the jurisdiction to which your question pertains.

The responses above are from individual Experts, not JustAnswer. The site and services are provided “as is”. To view the verified credential of an Expert, click on the “Verified” symbol in the Expert’s profile. This site is not for emergency questions which should be directed immediately by telephone or in-person to qualified professionals. Please carefully read the Terms of Service (last updated February 8, 2012).

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