Articles Posted in Sexual Harassment

Employers celebrating the holidays with company-wide parties are increasing in numbers. While not at 2019 levels, research shows that, in 2022, more than half are having in-person events. With office holiday parties returning, so too are the legal risks that run concurrently with them. Whether you’re an employer or an employee, it is important to acknowledge that the company holiday party can violate the law in more ways than you might have considered. For employers, a skilled Atlanta employment lawyer can help you keep your party legally compliant. For employees harmed as a result of these kinds of violations, the right legal counsel can be invaluable in protecting your legal options related to those violations.

The Chicago-based firm of Challenger, Gray & Christmas conducts an annual survey of employers regarding holiday parties. The firm’s 2022 survey revealed a massive uptick in in-person events, rising from 27% in 2021 to 57% this year. While not at 2019’s high (75%,) the 2022 number approaches where employers were in 2018 (65%.)

Holidays carry a unique set of risks for employers and employees alike. Especially in recent years, employers and employees alike have become more aware of the risks of sexual harassment at company holiday parties, especially when those events also involve the availability of alcoholic beverages.

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Victims of workplace sexual harassment face many potential harms, both professionally and personally. Too many times, they have to fear that merely speaking up and calling out the harassment they endured will harm them, through job loss or other adverse employment action. When that happens, it’s called retaliation, and it’s against the law. If that has happened to you, you should get in touch with an experienced Atlanta workplace retaliation lawyer to discuss your situation.

C.B., an administrative assistant working for DeKalb County’s Facilities Management Department, allegedly endured both that kind of sexual harassment and that sort of illegal retaliation.

The assistant’s boss, the deputy director of facilities management, liked her work and positioned her for a promotion and a raise. The deputy director also apparently was sizing the assistant up for something more than a promotion.

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Speaking out against sexual harassment is fraught with many concerns and potentially negative consequences for a lot of workers. Many justifiably fear that speaking up will negatively impact their careers, up to and possibly including the loss of their jobs. When that happens, that’s something called retaliation and it’s just as illegal under Title VII as sexual harassment is. If you’ve suffered because you spoke out, you have a right to take action. An experienced Atlanta workplace retaliation lawyer can help you to get the most out of your case.

Here’s an example of what we mean. L.A. was a woman who worked for a county sheriff’s office in suburban Atlanta for nearly two decades, eventually rising to the rank of lieutenant. In 2018, the sheriff decided to reassign the lieutenant to the county jail. In a meeting about the reassignment, the lieutenant told her supervisor — for the first time — about a problematic incident that occurred during her previous stint working at the jail.

Allegedly, a male coworker (who outranked her) called her into an empty office, whereupon he “began kissing her with his mouth open.” According to L.A., the incident happened without warning and, at the time, she told only her husband.

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Here in 2021, lots of things are making comeback. One of them is the company holiday party. Just like before, holiday parties pose a special set of challenges and risks, and one of those often is sexual harassment. If you’ve been the target of sexual harassment at work, whether that harassment occurred at your company holiday party or elsewhere, you should reach out to an experienced Atlanta sexual harassment lawyer without delay to learn more about the legal options that may exist for you.

Sexual harassment (and the increased prevalence of it) at holiday parties may happen for a variety of reasons. For one, the setting (as many company holiday parties occur outside the physical office space) may lead some people to drop their inhibitions and feel freer to engage in inappropriate behavior. For another, many company holiday parties come with a degree of (and sometimes unlimited) access to alcohol, with those beverages serving as the fuel that further lowers some people’s inhibitions that would otherwise stop them from engaging in harassing behavior.

Recently in the news is a gaming company and the allegations of sexual harassment that, for people who’ve been the victim of holiday party sexual harassment, likely sound all too familiar.

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In an Atlanta sexual harassment claim filed under Georgia state law or federal law, the defendant will likely seek to have the plaintiff’s case dismissed on summary judgment prior to trial. Summary judgment is only appropriate in cases in which there are no genuine issues of material fact. This is because factual issues are to be determined by the finder of fact – typically a jury, but sometimes a trial court judge – during the trial, not beforehand by a motion judge.

Not just “any” dispute of fact will prevent a decision granting summary judgment (and, most likely ending the plaintiff’s case). Rather, only disputes in which a reasonable jury could find in favor of the party opposing the motion for summary judgment are considered “genuine issues of material fact.” Even though the nonmoving party may ultimately bear the burden of proof at trial, it is the party who seeks summary judgment who has the burden of showing an absence of genuine factual issues that must be resolved at trial.

In attempting to meet this burden, the party seeking summary judgment may rely on the parties’ pleadings, any depositions that have been taken during the discovery phase of the litigation, the parties answers to interrogatories and requests for admissions, affidavits, and the like. Of course, the party opposing the motion may point to similar evidence in resisting the motion. Ultimately, it is up to the trial court judge to decide whether the matter will end with summary judgment or proceed toward trial.

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No one should have to put up with discriminatory treatment in the workplace. After all, it’s 2019, and laws have been on the books for decades that protect workers from racial, gender, and age discrimination. Still, unlawful discrimination happens every day, sometimes culminating in an Atlanta employment discrimination lawsuit.

Of course, those who engage in such shameful conduct are rarely, if ever, willing to admit that they have done wrong. Instead, they make every effort to see that a plaintiff’s claims are dismissed by the courts. Fortunately, judges tend to see things differently, and many ill-advised motions to dismiss are met with a denial, either in whole or in part, by the trial court.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who worked for the defendant manufacturing company from 2015 to 2018. She claimed that she was subjected to multiple instances of gender discrimination at the hands of the defendant supervisor during that time. Some of this conduct was verbal (such as calling her “stupid,” “slow,” and “ignorant”), but there were instances in which the supervisor’s actions physically harmed the plaintiff. After multiple complaints to human resources failed to remedy the situation, the plaintiff quit her job and filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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In an Atlanta employment law case asserting a claim for discrimination, harassment, or other wrongful conduct, it is important that a potential litigant consult a knowledgeable attorney who can help him or her file the appropriate paperwork within the time allowed by law. If this is not done, it is likely that the plaintiff’s case will be dismissed. Of course, simply filing a “complaint” is not, in and of itself, sufficient; it is important that the proper parties be identified and that a valid claim for relief be stated.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who filed multiple complaints against the defendant commissioner, alleging that she had been the victim of harassment and disparate treatment and that the defendant had failed to make appropriate accommodations for her under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The plaintiff’s first two complaints were dismissed as frivolous, after which the plaintiff filed a motion to reconsider in the first action. However, the plaintiff filed a notice of appeal before her motion was heard.

The plaintiff then filed a third case, asserting the same claims that she had asserted in her first two lawsuits. In the third suit, however, the plaintiff identified her former employer, rather than an employee, as a defendant, thus correcting the deficiency that had caused her first two cases to be dismissed.

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While the most common version of workplace sexual harassment that most people visualize may be a male harassing a subordinate female, that is not the only form of sexual harassment that Title VII recognizes as actionable. Sexual harassment can be male-on-female, female-on-male, or same-sex. Additionally, the employees’ sexual orientation is not necessarily the key issue, either. In other words, a male can sexually harass another male worker, even if one or both men are heterosexual. All that the law requires in this regard is that the harassment is “based on sex.” An experienced Tennessee sexual harassment attorney can help you determine how to present your case. Continue reading ›

Publicly available employment law court rulings can often be very helpful, both to employers and to employees. Unfortunately, many court case decisions are instructive in a “what not to do” sense, for one side or the other. Working with experienced Tennessee employment law attorneys is one way to make sure you don’t fall into the “what not to do” traps that often ensnare real-life litigants. In a recent Tennessee sexual harassment case, it was the employee’s evidence related to the employer’s allegedly woefully inadequate response to sexual harassment that allowed her to take her case to trial. Continue reading ›

Almost 23 years ago, two Hollywood A-list actors, Michael Douglas and Demi Moore, starred in a dramatic film called “Disclosure.” The issue of workplace sexual harassment –- specifically, quid pro quo harassment –- was a key plot point in the film. In the movie, the female boss (Moore’s character) engaged in quid pro quo harassment of her male subordinate employee (Douglas’ character).

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