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Sexual harassment in the workplace is, unfortunately, alive and well in a number of industries. More recently, the spotlight has been on mistreatment and discrimination of women in the entertainment industry, and in the political world. It seems as though it is not at all uncommon to hear of another high profile case coming into the spotlight.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of discrimination that results when a person or group of people behaves inappropriately. This is done by making sexual remarks or crude jokes or by making unwanted sexual advances to another person. The situation can become even more troubling when an employer or a person in a position of power initiates sexual harassment.
If you experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, ensure that your interests are protected and consult with an attorney at Barett & Farahany.
If you need an employment attorney, this should be your first call. Barrett & Farahany is a first-class law firm with extraordinarily engaged, bright, passionate attorneys. Amanda Farahany is a world-class lawyer and leader. If you need an employment attorney, this should be your first call.
Contact Barrett & Farahany online or call (404) 487-0903 to request a complimentary consultation with an Atlanta sexual harassment lawyer.
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.
Identifying Sexual Harassment at the Workplace
The signs of sexual harassment can seem obvious. However, there are a number of subtleties that may be hard to identify at first. You will certainly want to discuss your options with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer in Atlanta if you believe you have been harassed in the workplace.
There are primarily two forms of sexual harassment:
- Quid Pro Quo: This type of harassment usually involves a person in power propositioning an employer. They may be asking or implying that they would like “this for that,” meaning sexual favors for some form of advancement, be it salary increases, promotions, or other perks. Quid pro quo doesn't always mean a person in power is looking to provide perks for sexual favors. They may also threaten to fire an employee if they do not submit to their demands.
- Hostile Work Environment: Is created by a person or group of people by their poor conduct towards another person in the workplace. This form of harassment can have a negative impact on a person's well-being, in addition to their ability to perform the duties of their job. This may include crude jokes, rude comments, asking someone out on a date repeatedly, or groping a person.
Chances are if you are feeling uncomfortable about an interaction, it's possible you have experienced some form of sexual harassment. Working with a lawyer may be helpful in identifying whether or not you should take legal action or file a complaint with the EEOC.
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Common Signs of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace:
- You are asked to talk about your sexual experiences.
- You are shown inappropriate videos or photos, especially those that include sexual content.
- If a person makes a comment on your appearance that is inappropriate.
- Discusses their own sexual encounters.
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. 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.
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.
Proving Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Our lawyers can help you gather the necessary information you will need to prove that you experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
This Type of Information May Help Strengthen Your Case:
- Documentation or proof that you complained of the problem to the human resources department
- Any notes, text messages or emails from the person who was harassing you
- A list of people who may have witnessed the harassment
- Proof that you informed the person harassing you wanted them to stop or found their behavior inappropriate
- Keep your own account of the harassment in writing. This will help when you need to reference it later
- Any proof of retaliation such as negative employee evaluations, being excluded from meetings, etc.
- Proof that the company was aware of the harassment and did not take action
Call a Sexual Harassment Lawyer in Atlanta - (404) 487-0903
By having an understanding of sexual harassment, and educating yourself about the subtleties, you can help prevent it in the workplace. It can be easy to fool yourself into thinking that your boss didn't actually proposition you or a co-worker didn't say something inappropriate. This is largely because it can feel surreal to experience sexual harassment. Most victims initially are in shock and disbelief that someone they work within the office has behaved inappropriately.
We are well-versed in representing people who have experienced sexual harassment. With more than 20 years of legal experience, your sexual harassment lawyer will work diligently in gathering all the necessary evidence and building a strong case against your employer.
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