A Belleair Bluffs financial services firm is facing a lawsuit claiming wrongful termination on the basis of gender, disability and religious affiliation as well as allegations of sexual harassment.
The harassment claims target former Tampa Bay Lighting President Ron Campbell.
A former executive administrative assistant for Seminole Financial Services is suing the firm for back pay, front pay and compensatory damages in a lawsuit filed in Pinellas County Court Feb. 6.
The allegations in the suit have not been tried and have not yet been proven.
The woman began working for Seminole Financial in 2001, but took a three year leave of absence to battle breast cancer from 2014-2017. She returned to the firm in 2017. After her return, she claims Campbell consistently made sexual innuendos in conversation.
Among those, she claims, Campbell frequently discussed his use of erectile dysfunction medication and, at one point, insinuated the woman take a hot shower with him.
When the woman brought the offending statements up with another female, she was allegedly told, “get used to it, Mr. Campbell is the type of guy that will smack you on your a** and go on with his day.”
In another instance, the woman said a female employee asked her if she kept rosary beads at her desk as “all good Catholic girls” do. The woman explained that she was not Catholic and then was told she had fallen out of “the flock.”
Eventually, the woman said she complained about the harassment, but her complaint was ignored. She then went to the another company executive and had a closed-door meeting to discuss her complaints, but was similarly dismissed with little recourse for her concerns.
When the woman learned she required another surgery to treat her cancer, the company informed her that they were removing her from the company’s insurance plan because she was costing them too much money.
The woman was subsequently terminated, she claims because of her medical disability, religious affiliation and in retribution for her complaints about harassment. The complaint argues that her termination violated the Florida Civil Rights Act.
Under the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 (FCRA), Florida employers are prohibited from discrimination against employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status. When a Florida employee believes that they have been discriminated against at work, it may be possible to file an employment discrimination lawsuit.
What Are the Differences Between The Florida Civil Rights Act & Federal Laws?
- Company Size: Under federal law, an employer is defined as employing 20 or more people during any given year. In Florida, a company only needs to have 15 employees in order to be held to the strictest of employment laws.
- Individual Liability: Due to the necessary company size under federal law, some Florida employers may not be individually responsible for certain statutes. The FCRA requires ALL employers to be liable for discrimination against persons seeking licenses, certificates, credentials, to pass an examination, or to become a member of a club, where those accomplishments are required in order to engage in a profession, occupation or trade.
- The FCRA does not define disability or handicap.
- The FCRA does address pregnancy.
- Unlike federal laws, the FCRA discriminates against marital status.
Florida is an “at-will” employer, meaning an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or for no reason without incurring legal liability. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences. All Florida employees need to understand what protections civil rights laws afford them. If you need help, our Florida Employment Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are here to assist you. We have the knowledge and experience to deal with all types of civil rights issues.
Employers can break the law in numerous ways. We can help you better understand the differences between what is unfair and what is illegal.