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Sexual Harassment

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Explained


What behavior constitutes sexual harassment in the workplace?

Sexual harassment is a form of sex or gender discrimination that is illegal in the workplace under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Sexual harassment can encompass a wide range of behaviors and is not always easy for victims to recognize.  Female and male employees alike should make themselves aware of what constitutes sexual harassment so that they can protect themselves from becoming an unwanted victim of employment discrimination in Georgia.
Read more . . .


Friday, December 30, 2016

Georgia court considers controversial workplace sexual assault laws


It goes without saying that sexual relationships in the workplace are often an idea worth rethinking – especially in the education setting. In the academic world, Georgia law expressly and unequivocally prohibits consensual sexual relationships between teachers or administrators and students, even if the student is 18. The reason behind these laws is simple: educational authorities possess an unfair, unbalanced power over students, making any sexual relationship inappropriate – and criminal – on its face.
Read more . . .


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Churches & Anti-Retaliation Protections

How do anti-retaliation laws apply in the non-profit sector?

It ought to go without saying that an employer cannot discriminate against his or her employee for merely following the law. However, anti-retaliation laws have been yet again challenged in Georgia – and this time, it is the non-profit, tax-exempt sector seeking answers on this pivotal issue.

In a recent lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the petitioner is seeking damages and restitution following an alleged retaliatory decision by Atlanta’s King’s Way Baptist Church, Inc. According to the complaint, the petitioner was fired from her position as a kindergarten teacher within the church’s Christian school after reporting ongoing sexual harassment at the hands of the church’s lead pastor, who also serves as the chief executive officer of the non-profit corporation.

Allegedly, the pastor engaged in the ongoing practice of inappropriately touching the teacher, followed by veiled threats of adverse treatment if the interactions were reported. From there, the teacher reported the incidents to the church’s governing board, which opted to terminate her position rather than investigate the matter further.

In a statement by the EEOC’s Atlanta office, “[w]hen an employer fires an employee for complaining about sexual harassment, it is only compounding its own culpability and setting itself wide open for charges of retaliation….EEOC is stepping in to defend the rights of this discrimination victim not to be victimized even further. No one should be punished for telling the truth to power if that truth is sexual harassment.”

Pursuant to the lawsuit, the EEOC (on behalf of the teacher) is seeking back pay, punitive damages, and an injunction barring the school from engaging in further retaliatory acts against current or future employees. The lawsuit was filed after attempts to negotiate and settle the matter proved futile.

If you are experiencing workplace discrimination or would like to discuss your rights under state or federal anti-retaliation laws, please contact an experienced discrimination attorney toady!


Friday, November 1, 2013

Recent Study of Georgia Employment Discrimination Reveals Inexplicably High Dismissal Rate

A recent article published by the Atlanta Journal Constitution reveals the alarming rate at which workplace discrimination and sexual harassment claims are dismissed by Georgia courts. According to research of cases filed in 2011 and 2012, close to 80 percent of cases in the Atlanta area were dismissed prior to trial, a steep increase from the already too-high nationwide dismissal rate of 70 percent. Most of these cases fail under Georgia’s summary judgment rules, which require a court to dismiss a case if the case lacks a genuine dispute of a material fact. This common problem plagues employment discrimination cases as they are notoriously difficult to prove.

Possible Reasons for Dismissal Rates in GA

There are a number of possible explanations for the high dismissal rates, namely the aforementioned issue of lack of evidence. In order to prevail in a Georgia employment discrimination case, your attorney must prove that you were terminated, demoted or otherwise treated negatively in the workplace based on one of the protected classes – which include race, national origin, sex, age, disability, pregnancy, color, religion or history of bankruptcy. As Georgia is an employment at-will state, an employer can rebut a discrimination claim by asserting the negative employment decision was made for any other non-discriminatory reason, or no reason at all. By working with an experienced discrimination attorney, you stand a better chance of gathering the evidence you need to advance your claim of discrimination, even if the claim itself proves to be an uphill battle.

While many proponents of anti-discrimination in the workplace criticize the Atlanta court system for its seemingly apathetic approach to discrimination lawsuits, attorneys familiar with employer defense herald the statistics as an appropriate measure of the sheer volume of frivolous lawsuits passing through the federal and state systems. However, it is difficult to conceive how a case can be truly deemed meritless prior to its being heard before a judge a jury.

Contact a reputable and experienced Georgia employment discrimination attorney today

We are dedicated to helping our clients seek justice against their discriminatory employers. We urge you not to be dissuaded by these statistics and encourage you to speak to one of our lawyers today. 


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Overview of Workplace Discrimination Law in Georgia

As an employee in the Georgia workforce, you are protected by certain state and federal laws prohibiting discrimination, harassment and wrongful termination. If you believe you are being subjected to unfair and unlawful treatment at your job, you have a number of legal options against your employer – all of which offer you additional protection against retaliation by your boss. If you decide to pursue a complaint, you will in most cases launch your initial complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. From there, you can pursue a private lawsuit under Georgia and federal law with the help of an employment discrimination attorney.

Georgia’s Prohibitions Against Workplace Discrimination

To prevail in a discrimination action, you must belong to a protected category of people. The following lists the protected categories under Georgia law, which borrows many of its protections from federal laws. An employment discrimination suit may be based on any of the following:

  • Age: It is unlawful to discriminate against any worker aged 40 years or older. Georgia laws impose possible misdemeanor criminal charges against any employer discriminating against workers between ages 40 and 70.

 

  • Bankruptcy: An employer may not make a detrimental employment decision against any worker based on that worker’s decision to file bankruptcy.

 

  • Disability: Disability laws are covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Georgia Equal Employment for People with Disabilities Code. An employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation for a disabled individual, unless the proposed accommodation would cause the employer extreme expense or difficulty.

 

  • Equal Pay: An employer must pay men and women equally who are performing the same job.

 

  • Pregnancy: Employers are forbidden from discriminating against a woman based on childbirth, pregnancy and related medical conditions.

 

  • Race, Color, Religion, Sex or National Origin: Federal law has long-held it unlawful to discriminate against any worker based on these factors. These laws are based on the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

 

Harassment in the Workplace in Georgia

Harassment in the workplace is an intolerable violation of your rights as an employee. Federal and Georgia laws prohibit any unwelcome conduct “based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.” The conduct must be continuous in nature and severe enough to cause a reasonable person distress and discomfort. This type of conduct could include offensive jokes, emails, name calling, assaults, threats of violence, intimidation, ridicule or offensive objects and pictures.

 

Wrongful Termination in Georgia

If you find yourself out of a job and believe it is based on any of the above-listed characteristics, you may have a cause of action for wrongful termination. Keep in mind, however, that Georgia is an employment-at-will state. This means that an employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at all – provided the reason is not discriminatory in nature.

If you are experiencing wrongful conduct at your workplace, or were recently fired for possible discriminatory reasons, contact a GA employment discrimination attorney for consultation today.


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

EEOC Announces Its Enforcement Priorities for 2013-2016

Every four years, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission approves a Strategic Plan, which in part directs itself to develop a Strategic Enforcement Plan.  On December 17, 2012, the Commission approved the 2013-2016 Strategic Enforcement Plan with bipartisan support and a vote of 3 to 1.

Much of the Strategic Enforcement Plan, frankly, is filled with the kinds of sweeping promises and legal jargon that one might expect from a government planning document.  However, one interesting area of the Strategic Enforcement Plan is the section on “national priorities.”  In this section, the EEOC identifies a handful of legal issues relating to illegal employment discrimination that it is better able to manage and address because the groups of affected individuals are so large or because the legal issues are so unsettled.  

Eliminating Barriers in Recruitment and Hiring 
The EEOC plans to target recruiting and hiring policies that are either intentionally discriminatory or that appear to be neutral but have a greater adverse impact on protected groups of workers.  The EEOC named the following types of recruiting and hiring practices that it will examine: steering applicants into specific jobs based on race, sex, age, disability, etc.; restrictive application processes; and the use of screening tools like pre-employment tests, background checks, and date-of-birth inquiries.

Protecting the Rights of Immigrant and Migrant Workers
The EEOC stated a commitment to focus enforcement efforts on claims brought by immigrant and migrant workers, who – because of language and cultural barriers – are often unaware of their legal rights or reluctant to exercise their employment rights.

Emerging and Developing Issues
This is the most commented-on section of the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan.  The EEOC identified three emerging employment discrimination issues that it will keep a close eye on over the next four years:

  • Enforcement of the Americans With Disabilities Act, especially issues relating to who is covered, how a worker qualifies for a reasonable accommodation, how a business demonstrates that an accommodation is an undue hardship, and the definition of “direct threat”
  • Whether and how employers are required to respond to pregnancy-related requests for reasonable accommodations
  • Whether and how Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination may apply in certain cases to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered workers

 

Equal Pay for Women in the Workforce
Congress passed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, but the EEOC still considers enforcement of equal pay for equal work laws a high priority, especially in the form of compensation systems that appear neutral but have a greatly adverse impact on women.

Enforcing Anti-Retaliation Provisions
The EEOC is always on the lookout for employment policies and practices that discourage or prevent workers from exercising their employment rights.  The EEOC named the following policies as examples of illegal retaliation or obstruction: retaliatory actions against employees, overly broad waivers, settlement provisions that prohibit filing EEOC charges or assisting with an EEOC investigation, and failure to retain records required by EEOC regulations.

Preventing Harassment
According to the Strategic Enforcement Plan, sexual harassment in the workplace has been overtaken by other types of illegal harassment.  “Harassment claims based on race, ethnicity, religion, age and disability combined significantly outnumber even sexual harassment claims in the private and public sectors,” the plan stated.

 
 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Beleaguered Murray County Judge Faces Hostile Work Environment and Other Charges

On September 10, the clerk and employees of the Magistrate Court of Murray County filed charges against the former Chief Magistrate Judge.  The charges, filed with the Atlanta Division of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) allege that the employees were forced to work in a hostile work environment.  The employees separately claim that they suffered under improper employment practices and suppression of their free speech rights.

The former Chief Magistrate Judge, Bryant Cochran, had only recently resigned his post during an inquiry into whether he pre-signed arrest warrants and asked a woman for sexual favors in return for a positive outcome on her case.

Few details are available about the employees’ allegations.  What is known, however, is that the three women who signed the EEOC charges comprise the third, fourth and fifth woman to step forward recently to complain about the former judge’s inappropriate behavior.  By filing the EEOC claim, the women have secured protected status for any other county employees who have information to support the claims of a hostile work environment.

"Any employee who has witnessed or knows of these matters personally should come forward and be protected under the law," said McCracken Poston, a Ringgold, Georgia, attorney hired to represent the women.

 “The employees of the clerk’s office …  have suffered from the improper and abhorrent actions of former Judge Cochran,” added Stuart James, a Chattanooga, Tennessee, attorney also representing the female complainants.

An employer may be guilty of allowing a hostile work environment if the employees can show evidence that they were exposed to a pattern of unwanted sexual behavior, comments, or visual displays – such that they feared going to work.  The employees must also present evidence that no management action was taken in response to their internal complaints.

 


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The attorneys of Pankey & Horlock, LLC serve the entire state of Georgia, including Atlanta, Alpharetta, Auburn, Decatur, Doraville, Douglasville, Duluth, Kennesaw, Lawrenceville, Marietta, Stone Mountain, Dekalb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, and Cobb County, GA.



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