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Is Workplace Sexual Harassment the Same Thing as “Stalking”?

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If someone feels threatened by you, they may ask a judge to issue an injunction “for protection against stalking.” In this context, “stalking” means that a person “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks” another person. If the court determines that stalking has occurred within these parameters, the judge can issue a temporary injunction without even affording the respondent a chance to defend themselves in court.

But it is important to understand that not all conduct that someone finds distasteful or unpleasant qualifies as stalking. For instance, the Florida First District Court of Appeal recently overturned a Columbia County judge’s decision to issue a stalking injunction after determining the respondent’s alleged conduct did not rise to the level of “stalking.”

The petitioner in this case, Klenk v. Ransom, was a co-worker of the respondent. The petitioner alleged the respondent sexually harassed her at work. More precisely, she said the respondent “frequently made sexually-oriented comments about her body and clothing; and asked her to help him with errands outside of work, provide him with transportation, or meet for lunch.”

The respondent denied ever sexually harassing the petitioner. Nevertheless, the petitioner filed complaints against the respondent with their employer’s management. Ultimately, the employer fired the respondent. The petitioner then asked for the stalking injunction.

Although the trial court granted the injunction, the First District said that the “alleged incidents rise to the level of justifying an injunction against stalking.” It was not that the appeals court did not believe the petitioner’s story; it did. But sexual harassment of this type was not the same thing as “harassment” as defined by the anti-stalking laws. The latter refers to engaged in a “course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.”

Get Help From a Miami Criminal Defense Attorney

The First District’s opinion is important because it establishes a clear line between the kind of harassment that may get a person fired from their job and the harassment that justifies taking out a stalking injunction.

This case also emphasizes the importance of working with an experienced Miami criminal defense attorney when someone seeks an injunction against you. Indeed, the respondent in this case was represented by counsel before the appeals court; the petitioner represented herself. While having an attorney is never a guarantee of a favorable outcome in any contested litigation, working with counsel can put you in a much better position to succeed.

Finally, the lesson from this case is not that sexual harassment is acceptable workplace conduct. As the First District noted, the respondent’s alleged actions were “valid grounds for employment action,” i.e., his termination. But conduct that gets someone fired does not equate to “stalking.”

If you have been accused of stalking or related conduct, such as domestic violence, and need to speak with a Miami criminal attorney, contact the Law Office of Julia Kefalinos at 305.676.9545 today to schedule an initial consultation.

Sources:

flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2018/784.0485

scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=8071335320462470378

https://www.kefalinoslaw.com/when-does-double-jeopardy-bar-multiple-convictions-for-the-same-actions/

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