Annual Discrimination and Harassment Seminar discusses harassment rights at New College

The United States Supreme Court recommends, but does not require,that employers provide discrimination and harassment training sessions at least every two years. Although the federal government does not require training, the state of Florida mandates that all executives and employees in supervisory positions attend a discrimination and harassment training seminar every two years. The office of Human Resources at New College offers training sessions once per year in order to decrease the likelihood of legal issues pertaining to discrimination and harassment arising at New College. The seminars — which are open to faculty, staff and students — for the 2011-2012 academic year occurred on Apr. 17, and Apr. 18 with over 70 people registered to attend.

Following the February teach-in, it became widely apparent that members of the New College community are looking for more accountability from everyone. Human Resources director Mark Levenson admitted during the seminar that although the New College community is viewed by many as a very open and liberal microcosm, “Maybe [the New College community is] not as tuned into diversity as we should be.” States have the power to define their own laws on discrimination and to define “protected characteristics.” According to the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 — the discrimination law currently in place — “The general purposes of the Florida Civil Rights Act of 1992 are to secure for all individuals within the state freedom from discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, handicap or marital status…” These laws do cover employment, and if one is refused a position for employment, terminated from a position or given unequal or unfair compensation for their work based on any of the above characteristics, they are eligible to make a case to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Sexual orientation is not a protected characteristic under Florida law.

Also according to the law, harassment must be “ongoing and pervasive” in order to be a punishable offense. During the seminar several questions and concerns were voiced regarding what is considered ongoing and pervasive and how that is judged. Sexual harassment quid pro quo cases are considered ongoing whether there have been multiple victims each harassed one time, or one victim harassed several times. “During the [six years] that I have been here, I have seen five cases of reported harassment,” Levenson explained. “Only one of those has gone to the EEOC, but we are very sensitive to those reports to New College. We address them immediately and consider those offenses very serious.”

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