The state of Florida is poised to lead the way in halting workplace sexual misconduct. A recently-introduced bill promises Florida workers what House Speaker Richard Corcoran called "the strongest sexual harassment protections in the nation." If passed, the new laws could deem a single unwanted sexual advance as an actionable offense.
It's no coincidence that this bill was introduced following recent sexual harassment allegations against Florida Republican Sen. Jack Latvala. The new regulations would apply to legislative members, lobbyists, state employees, and some other private third parties.
Important Provisions of House Bill 7007
Under the new laws, public officers and employees would be required to go through mandatory training. The Florida Senate Committee has already taken similar steps, approving a mandatory one-hour workplace sexual harassment training course.
Employers and supervisors who have direct knowledge of sexual harassment or observe inappropriate behavior would be required to take immediate action. If the offense falls under the category of criminal action, state law enforcement agencies would need to be notified. The bill further proposes the creation of a task force to provide additional recommendations.
A legal office would be created to aid complainants and guide them through the potentially overwhelming process. The process itself would be modified to make it less cumbersome for victims. Non-disclosure agreement requirements would be waived and complainants would be protected from employment retribution. The law would allow them to take paid leave or work remotely while the complaint is under investigation.
In a less-than-subtle nod towards current events, the law would also prohibit the use of political campaign funds to pay for legal defense costs. Failure to reimburse the U.S. Treasury within a 90-day period could result in garnishment of wages, retirement accounts, and Social Security benefits. Making sure taxpayers no longer have to foot the bill for this heinous behavior has been a long time coming.
If the other penalties weren't serious enough, the hope is that adding a level of personal financial responsibility will effectively deter inappropriate workplace behavior.
Outlook for Change
Most agree that victims of sexual misconduct deserve protection, and abusers must be stopped. The passing of this bipartisan bill would prove that both political parties are capable of working together towards encouraging respect and dignity in the workplace. The bill is currently awaiting review by the House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee. It's expected to be widely supported by state representatives and pass with ease.