Sexual harassment by an employer isn’t anything new and victims include both men and women in the workplace. Recent social media campaigns, including Time’s Up and #metoo, have given women in particular, the courage to fight back and stand up for themselves. However, some questions have been raised about what rights employees have in terms of legal action against sexual harassment.
You may be entitled to compensation if you have been sexually harassed in the workplace. If you have been subjected to offensive remarks regarding your gender, actions, comments of a sexual nature, or unwelcome sexual advances, you may have a claim for sexual harassment.
Workplace Sexual Harassment in Georgia
A form of sexual discrimination or workplace sexual harassment is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. On January 14, 2019, Governor Brian P. Kemp signed an Executive Order to prevent workplace sexual harassment, furthering Georgia’s commitment to providing a harassment-free environment for employees and citizens who interact with the state government. The Executive Order requires a sexual harassment prevention policy for Georgia and applies to Executive Branch agencies, authorities, boards, and commissions. The goal of the Policy is to ensure consistency in reporting and responding to complaints of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment, as defined by the EEOC, includes physical or verbal contact of a sexual nature, requests for sexual favors, and unwelcome sexual advances. Examples include:
- Submitting to this type of conduct as a condition or a term of a person’s employment. The requirement may be implied, implicit, or may be stated outright.
- Employment decisions based on submitting to or rejecting the conduct.
- Sexual conduct that has the effect or purpose of interfering unreasonably with a person’s work performance.
- Sexual conduct that creates an offensive, hostile, or intimidating work environment.
The keyword in these circumstances is unwelcome because it means unwanted. Whenever a person is subjected to sexual harassment against their will, it is always unwelcome. Males and females can be victims of sexual harassment. The harasser and the victim can be either a man or a woman, or they can even be the same sex. A woman could harass another woman, or a man could harass another man.
Protecting Your Rights as a Georgia Employee
If you were subjected to harassment in your place of employment, there are certain steps that must be taken in order to protect your rights. In order to hold the employer accountable for the harassment, you may be required by your employer, and possibly the law, to report possible sexual harassment to a manager or your company’s human resources department. The law doesn’t require you to report sexual harassment if the harasser is a manager. An experienced Georgia sexual harassment lawyer will help you determine the correct HR department or employee to contact to report possible harassment. A lawyer can also help you outline the description of what happened so that if you become nervous when speaking with a manager or HR regarding the conduct, you’ll be able to confidently provide all of the relevant information calmly and clearly. It is important to speak with a Georgia workplace sexual harassment lawyer to get a better understanding of your case and what laws are involved.
Some businesses have detailed procedures in place to deal with sexual harassment claims. If such a procedure exists in your company, it should be followed strictly to the letter. If there are any time limits in the policy, make sure you take note of this. Some employer policies will provide the name of someone you would report the harassment to, so if your company has designated a person or a group of people to receive sexual harassment claims, you should start there first.
If there is no set procedure in place for reporting sexual harassment at your workplace, your complaint should be brought to the attention of your immediate supervisor. If your supervisor is responsible for the harassment in question, your supervisor’s immediate superior should be notified immediately. It’s extremely important to ensure that your company’s management is aware of the harassment, especially in hostile environment cases.
Keep records of your complaints, any harassment episodes, or other incidents that are related to the harassment, including what was said, persons involved, times, and dates.
Retaliation From the Perpetrator
By law, employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who report sexual harassment. Retaliation takes many forms and isn’t limited to termination or disciplinary write-ups, while those actions are certainly retaliatory. For instance, if a manager excludes you from social outings, events, or meetings, or removes you from desirable projects, a sexual harassment lawyer can evaluate these actions to see if they might be retaliatory.
Filing an Administrative Charge Against the Perpetrator
To challenge sexual harassment, a workplace sexual harassment lawyer will discuss some of the formal measures you can take, including filing discrimination charges against your employer through the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or your state’s anti-discrimination agency. The lawyer can also discuss the disadvantages or advantages of doing so, along with the pros and cons of filing a sexual harassment lawsuit against your employer if the response to your claim is unsatisfactory.
If your harassment complaint cannot be resolved by using the internal procedures put in place by your employer, you will need to go through the appropriate governmental agency to file an administrative charge if you want to pursue the issue. The claim will be investigated by the agency, and they will negotiate it with your employer in an attempt to resolve the matter.
If the agency determines that your claim is valid, a “right to sue” letter will be issued if it is unable to resolve your complaint. The letter means that you can contact a Georgia workplace sexual harassment lawyer and file your case in a court of law.
Filing a Workplace Sexual Harassment Lawsuit in Georgia
If a “right to sue” letter is issued through the appropriate governmental agency, a civil lawsuit can be brought against the employer for any injuries that were sustained as a result of the sexual harassment. You do not need to provide evidence of your physical injuries. The most common injuries in sexual harassment cases are usually emotional in nature.
The following damages could be awarded to you if your sexual harassment lawsuit is successful:
- Court costs and lawyer fees
- A requirement that your employer initiate training or policies to prevent harassment
- Damages for emotional distress
- Lost fringe benefits
- Back pay (multiplied by three) for any lost money or raises
- Reinstatement if you were fired from your job
Be sure to file your lawsuit within the statute of limitations for sexual harassment.
Contact Our Georgia Workplace Sexual Harassment Lawyers
If you were a victim of workplace sexual harassment, there are several steps you can take to protect your legal rights and to stop the problem. These are complex cases, and your employer will have their own team of lawyers representing them. The experienced legal team at The Eichholz Law Firm will ensure that your legal rights are protected, and analyze the details of your sexual harassment lawsuit.
- EEOC. “Sexual Harassment”, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, https://www.eeoc.gov/sexual-harassment. Accessed July 1, 2020.
- Equal Rights Advocates. “Know Your Rights at Work Sexual Harassment”, Equal Rights Advocates, https://www.equalrights.org/issue/economic-workplace-equality/sexual-harassment/. Accessed July 1, 2020.
- NCSL. “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace”, National Conference of State Legislatures, https://www.ncsl.org/research/labor-and-employment/sexual-harassment-in-the-workplace.aspx. Accessed July 1, 2020.