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J. Stephen Mixon

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Sexual harassment, like other forms of discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, national origin, age, or disability, is barred by a federal law called Title VII. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government. Examples of sexual harassment include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. See the EEOC website for more details.

There are two basic types of sexual harassment. The first type of sexual harassment is called Hostile work environment sexual harassment. This form of harassment occurs where an employee, because of his or her gender, is subjected to an atmosphere of unwelcome conduct (this can be words or actions) that unreasonably interferes with the employee's work performance or otherwise creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

The second form of sexual harassment is called quid pro quo sexual harassment. This form of sexual harassment occurs where an employee is required to submit to unwelcome sexual conduct as a condition of his or her employment, or in order to gain some tangible job benefit. For instance, if a superior demands that you have sex with him in order to be considered for a promotion then he would be guilty of quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Generally, in order to violate the law, the sexual harassing behavior must establish certain criteria. First, the sexual harassment must be unwelcome and offensive to the complaining party/employee. Therefore, if the complaining party/employee has participated in telling the sexual jokes that she is complaining about or has engaged in a consensual sexual relationship with the co-worker she is complaining about, this evidence will be used by the employer to argue that the harassment was welcome. Second, the complaining party/employee must show that the employer knew or should have known of the sexual harassment. This does not mean that the complaining party/employee must have complained about the sexual harassment in order to recover. For example if the harassment occurred to others employees in the past or the harassment occurred in front of supervisors. etc. that may be sufficient notice to the employer. Third, the employer must establish that after the employer knew or should have known of the sexual harassment, they failed to take prompt remedial action.

Lastly, it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against a complaining party/employee for bringing a complaint or legal claim of sexual harassment, just as it is illegal for the harasser to retaliate against the employee.

If you are the victim of sexual harassment, contact Atlanta Sexual Harassment Attorney J. Stephen Mixon, at Millar and Mixon, LLC today for a free initial consultation.

Download our Sexual Harassment Questionaire Here

Courts have interpreted Title VII to cover harassment, in addition to traditional discrimination. Title VII, and other anti-discrimination laws, protect you from harassment on the basis of age, sex, race, color, national origin, disability, and religion. Sexual harassment is one of the best-known forms of employment discrimination but there is often confusion as to what constitutes sexual harassment.

To prove sexual harassment, you must show that:

You have been subjected to unwelcome conduct;
That conduct creates a hostile work environment based on your sex;
The hostile work environment is sufficiently severe and pervasive; and
The hostile work environment alters the terms and conditions of your employment.
- OR -

The harassing supervisor takes a tangible employment action against the employee, such as changing job status, benefits, duties, responsibilities, or salary of the employee.
Employers may try to defend a sexual harassment claim by saying:

The alleged harassment did not occur;
The conduct was welcomed by the employee;
The alleged harassment was neither severe or pervasive; or
The employer did not know about the sexual harassment.
The employee may rebut some of these employer defenses by showing that the employer:

Ignored earlier complaints by the same or other employees;
Made exceptions to its harassment policy for favored employees;
Made it difficult to make complaints;
Retaliated against earlier complaints; or
Adopted a harassment policy but failed to distribute it.
If you are being harassed by a coworker or supervisor:

You have an obligation to reports the harassment to someone in authority. If you do not report harassment by a co-worker, you will lose your sexual harassment claim.
If there is company policy on sexual harassment, follow it precisely.
Your employer has a duty to investigate your allegations and make a reasonable attempt to resolve the issue. The employer does not have to fire the harasser for the first offense unless it is so serious that the reasonable employer would have fired the harasser.
If you do complain and the employer does nothing, you have the right to file sexual harassment charges with the EEOC. How and When To File A Charge With the EEOC.
Guidelines for Making Harassment Complaints

You have a right not to have you private life dragged through the workplace.
Dating another employee does not allow other employees to harass you.
If the employer is involved in the harassment, you can complain about issues outside the workplace.
At work, you can complain about conduct of a third party (non-employee) such as customers.
Always object to or complain about significant matters or egregious conduct every time they occur.
You can complain to the designated official for receiving harassment complaints, HR, or any other higher level official.
Put your detailed complaint in writing whenever possible. Be sure to keep a copy.
In cases of serious physical assault, complainn to the police in addition to the company.
Make a note of your employers exact response when you do complain.
Notify your employer if their corrective measures are not working after a reasonable amount of time.
What Damages Are You Entitled To If You Prove Unlawful Harassment?

Reinstatement (ordering your employer to reinstate your job)
Compensatory Damages (amount necessary to make you whole for losses sustained)
Punitive Damages (amount necessary to punish and deter intentional misconduct)
Front Pay (total wages you would have earned had you not been terminated)
Back Pay (amount of lost wages caused by termination)
Injunctive Relief (the court halts the discriminatory practices or orders new practices)
Attorneys' Fees and expenses (if you win, you may receive the amount of attorneys' fees and expenses incurred)
Are There Limits On How Much Money You Can Get for Compensatory Damages?

$50,000 limit (Employers with 15-100 employees)
$100,000 limit (Employers with 101-200 employees)
$200,000 limit (Employers with 201-500 employees)
$300,000 limit (Employers with more than 500 employees)
*These limits do not apply to the other damages available to you.

If you think you have been sexually harassed, take immediate action as you only have 180 days to file from the last date of discrimination. Contact Our Employment Lawyers now at 770-955-0100.
This information included is not intended to serve as a substitute for consultation with an attorney. Specific legal issues, concerns and conditions always require the advice of appropriate legal professionals.
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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Lawyers commenting on a $50,700 verdict against Sangria’s Mexican Café in Tucker, Georgia indicate that owners of the restaurant made damaging comments during a 2009 investigation – comments including an admission from the owner fired employees because he feared that they would make false allegations to government agencies. Lawyers for the EEOC said in response “you can’t fire someone because you fear they will go to a government agency.”

The EEOC suit against Sangria’s claimed that the restaurant fired a waitress after she complained she had been subjected to sexually hostile working environment by a male coworker and the owner of the restaurant failed to take action to stop the offensive sexual harassment. The lawsuit also alleged that the victim’s family members (they also worked there) were prevented from doing tasks on her behalf that would have prevented contact between the victim and the aggressor. The victim’s mother was also accused of abandoning her shift even though she had received permission from a shift manager to leave early after a family medical emergency occurred. When the victim and her mother subsequently complained to the EEOC, they and their family members were fired. The owner also fought to keep them from claiming unemployment benefits.

A trial in the United States District Court in front of an eight member jury resulted in a verdict for the victims finding that they had been fired in retaliation for the victim’s harassment complaint. The jury also found that they were entitled to a total of $4,000.00 in back pay, $31,000.00 in compensatory damages and $15,700.00 in punitive damages. A district director for the Atlanta EEOC office stated that the verdict was “significant” and that “it indicates to employers that regardless of their size, they must afford their employees the statutorily protected right to oppose unlawful discrimination without the fear of retaliation.” If you are interested in reading more about the case it is captioned as EEOC v. Sangria’s, No. 1:09-cv-2566.

Have you been discriminated against by your employer because of your race or gender? Is someone at your job sexually harassing you? Have you been fired because you have complained about a hostile work environment? As an employee you should be aware of your rights and be prepared to take action if they are violated. Federal laws are in place to protect your rights and many employment laws include for the payment of compensation to you and your legal counsel when those rights are found to have been violated by an employer. Call Atlanta Employment Attorney J. Stephen Mixon at 770-955-0100 or use our website contact form to schedule a free consultation to discuss the facts of your employment case.

Posted by J. Stephen Mixon. Mr. Mixon is an Atlanta, Georgia employment lawyer. He has been fighting to protect the rights of Georgia’s workers since 1992. Mr. Mixon’s practice is focused on Labor & Employment law and he has many years of experience in handling sexual harassment cases, complaints related to employment discrimination and many other complex legal issues related to business litigation such as contract disputes, business fraud, interference with contractual relations and copyright infringement. Mr. Mixon can be reached at 770-955-0100.

Call Mr. Mixon’s office today to speak to him about your labor and employment law related issues!
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