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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Call (404) 471-3725 for a Trusted Atlanta Sexual Harassment Attorney

Almost 50 years ago, the U.S. Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal law that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of "race, color, religion, sex, or national origin." The courts have interpreted this to cover not just discrimination--such as when your employer disciplines or discharges you because of your race or sex--but also harassment. If you are experiencing sexual harassment by an employer or colleague, talk to our Atlanta sexual harassment lawyers at Buckley Beal.

Tell our lawyers about your employment law case today.

Defining Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is probably the most well-known form of employment discrimination. What is not as well-known is just what sexual harassment is. It is not a single instance of name calling, a request for a date, or a leering look. Rather, in order to prove sexual harassment, you must show that you have been subjected to unwelcome conduct that creates a hostile environment based on your sex that is sufficiently severe and pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of your employment.

What does that mean? That's a good question. The courts are constantly struggling to define what sexual harassment is and what it is not, and sometimes the results can be quite confusing--the devil is in the details. What is clear, though, is that, whether you're a man or a woman, if you are subjected to a steady stream of unwelcome and offensive conduct that is based on your sex, you complain about the harassment to your employer, but your employer does nothing about it, you probably have a strong claim of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment can either be by a supervisor or one of your co-workers. This distinction is a critical one because the identity of the harasser can determine your legal rights and remedies.

What Can I Do If I'm Being Sexually Harassed?

Here's what you can do if you are the victim of sexual harassment:

  • Generally, if one of your co-workers is harassing you, you have an obligation to report the harassment to someone in authority, typically a manager or someone in your company's human resources department. In many companies, there are personnel policies that spell out what you must do if you feel you have been sexually harassed. If your company has a policy, follow it to the letter. If your company does not have a policy, find someone in authority and tell them about it. If you don't tell someone in authority, you'll lose the right to file a claim, no matter how serious the sexual harassment is.
  • If the harasser is your supervisor or some other managerial employer, then your case may be somewhat easier. If the harassment by the employer leads to what is called a tangible employment action (in other words, you refuse your supervisor's sexual advances and you are demoted as a result), then you don't necessarily have to complain or follow the company's policy in order to have a case, although complaining is always a good idea.
  • If you do complain, and the company does nothing about it, then you have the right to file a sexual harassment charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency which investigates all claims of employment discrimination. Once you file a charge with the EEOC, the EEOC will investigate your charge, require your employer to respond to it, and, in some, cases, it will bring the parties together for a voluntary mediation session to try to settle your case. If your case cannot be settled, the EEOC will, in most cases, close the investigation of your case and give you a right to sue letter. This is what gives you the right to file a federal sexual harassment lawsuit and have a jury trial on your claims.

Of course, sexual harassment is not the only type of illegal harassment. The employment discrimination laws protect you from harassment on the basis of your age, your race, your color, your religion, your national origin, or your disability.

Filing a Complaint with the EEOC

Whatever type of harassment you may be experiencing, it is a very serious problem, and you must be proactive if you suspect that you are the victim of it. If you believe you are the victim of sexual harassment, don't simply suffer in silence. As we noted above, you have to complain to your company and then to the EEOC. And, unfortunately, you don't have a lot of time to take action. In Georgia, you only have 180 days from the last act of harassment to file your claim with the EEOC. This is a very strict time limit--if you miss it by even one day, you will lose your right to sue.

Once you file with the EEOC, the EEOC will help you--up to a point. But the EEOC is not your lawyer, and they aren't necessarily looking out for your best interests. If you want to maximize your chance of succeeding with your claims, you should have an experienced sexual harassment attorney at your side to guide you through what can be a lengthy and confusing process.

We can get involved in your case from the moment you suspect you're being harassed in order to stop the harassment from getting out of control and to put your employer on notice that if they mess up, they will suffer the consequences. If we can get involved early enough, in many cases we can straighten out the situation without litigation, and keep you in your job.

Once the case gets to the EEOC, we can help you by working closely with the EEOC. As a result of our more than two decades of practice in this area, we have developed a good relationship with the EEOC. We can help move the process along faster, obtain documents and other information from the employer, and, if appropriate, push the employer to participate in a mediation or conciliation conference in order to help you obtain a settlement without time-consuming and costly court proceedings.

If the case cannot be settled and goes to trial, we are more than ready. We are experienced trial lawyers, and we have taken on and beaten some of the country's largest corporations in sexual harassment cases, obtaining millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for our clients.

Employer Retaliation Is Prohibited

Many people are hesitant to complain about sexual harassment for fear of an adverse job action. Although this is certainly a legitimate fear, the law does protect you. If you do complain to your employer, or the EEOC, about sexual harassment, and your employer than takes an adverse action against you, then, in addition to your sexual harassment claim, you may have a claim for retaliation against your employer.

Employer retaliatory actions include:

  • Discharging you
  • Cutting your pay
  • Transferring you to a different location further from your home
  • Putting you on a less desirable shift

Learn Your Options by Calling (404) 471-3725

If you have been victimized by sexual harassment or any other form of harassment, you need to get help fast or you may lose your right to file a claim. We can give you that help right away. Don't delay--your financial and mental health may be riding on it.

Call us at (404) 471-3725 or request a consultation using our online form.