Barrett & Farahany is one of the most trusted Atlanta GA sexual harassment attorney firms, and we want to make certain that you understand what sexual harassment is and what steps you should take to protect yourself if you ever experience sexual harassment at work.
As we’ve all seen in recent news, sexual harassment continues to be a pervasive problem in the workplace. Hopefully, the increasing intolerance for this kind of behavior and the societal support we are seeing for victims who have come forward are signs of changing times! While this is fantastic news, it’s highly unlikely that we have seen the last of sexual harassment in the workplace – ingrained bad behavior is not easily changed, even where public opinion is strongly against it. If you have been sexually harassed at work, please contact an Atlanta GA sexual harassment attorney at Barrett & Farahany so that we can help educate you about the law and the steps you need to take to help protect your job.
What Constitutes Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, unwelcome sexual advances and requests for sexual favors. Sexual harassment may be verbal, physical, or both. Although the law generally does not prohibit horseplay or mild flirtation, if either of these is of a sexually offensive nature, it can be the basis of a good faith complaint to an employer that is legally protected from retaliation.
Do I have an Actionable Sexual Harassment Claim?
Generally, to be actionable, courts have established five elements of a sexual harassment claim.
1. The harassment must be severe or pervasive.
While not all physical touching is considered “severe,” severe sexual harassment frequently involves physical touching. If sexual assault or rape is involved, even a single occurrence is likely to meet the “severe” standard.
While certain forms of sexual harassment may not meet the “severe standard,” less severe harassment may still meet the “pervasive” standard if it occurs frequently enough. This is the case even if there is only verbal harassment with no touching at all.
An Atlanta GA sexual harassment attorney at Barrett & Farahany can talk through the specifics of your situation with you, but it’s important for you to know that while harassment may be both severe and pervasive, the law only requires that one of these elements must be present for a successful sexual harassment claim.
2. The harassment must be unwelcome.
Though there are exceptions, a fully consensual and welcome relationship with someone at work is not necessarily considered sexual harassment. Sexual harassment may come into play, however, if one person seeks to end a consensual relationship and the person they no longer want to be involved with continues to pursue them sexually or takes a negative employment action against them.
3. The harassment must create a hostile or abusive workplace.
To be illegal, a hostile work environment must be connected to a protected characteristic that has been targeted, such as sex in the case of sexual harassment. In judging whether a workplace is illegally hostile, courts typically apply a “reasonable person” standard. The Atlanta GA sexual harassment attorney you speak with at Barrett & Farahany can help explain this further in light of your particular situation at work.
4. The harassment must be because of the victim’s sex.
This isn’t a particularly difficult element to establish in a sexual harassment claim. Sexual harassment may be about attraction (whether to a same-sex victim or a victim of the opposite sex), or it may be about power, but it is nearly always an abuse that is based on the sex of the victim.
5. The harassment must be such that the employer can be held liable.
This element of a sexual harassment claim depends on a number of factors, including how much power or influence the harasser had over the victim, whether the employer knew or should have known about the harassment, and whether the employer exercised reasonable care to address and put a stop to the harassment.
As the news of late has shown, sexual harassment can be a tangled web for the victim, especially if the right steps are not taken to lay the groundwork for a sexual harassment claim. If you are experiencing sexual harassment at work, please reach out to an Atlanta GA sexual harassment attorney at Barrett & Farahany and let us help you navigate this very difficult situation. We can be reached at 404-487-0903, and our complimentary consultations are completely confidential.