Employment Discrimination Blog

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.

However, the Georgia courts recently considered a highly controversial case involving a sexual relationship between a high school athletics coach and a female student – one which highlighted a gaping loophole in the current penal code.

Beginning in 2010, a paraprofessional and wrestling coach at a Georgia high school engaged in flirtatious text messaging with an unidentified female cheerleader, who was also a student at the school. From there, the relationship turned physical, and the victim ended up switching schools to help conceal the situation.

Shortly thereafter, the paraprofessional was sentenced under Georgia’s law which prohibits such conduct, and was sentenced to 10 years of probation and 240 days behind bars. However, counsel for the defendant made an argument on appeal that the law should not apply to this particular educator, as the statute does not specifically include paraprofessionals or coaches in its language – but simply “teachers or administrators.”

After reading the statute under the guise of “plain meaning,” the Georgia Supreme Court concluded that the law simply did not apply to this defendant, and his conviction was overturned. However, in a footnote, the Court noted that “the law could be applicable to paraprofessionals in the future, such as bus drivers, cafeteria workers, janitors, etc., if the General Assembly broadened whom the law applied to.”

Contact a workplace harassment attorney today.

If you are dealing with a difficult situation at your place of employment and would like to discuss your rights, please contact our office today: 770-670-6250.

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