Any sexual harassment lawyer will tell you that there can be a fine line between an uncomfortable office environment that can be cured by human resources and one that requires EEOC involvement. As sad as it may seem, we spend more waking hours with the people we work with than we do with our own families. Because we all want to earn money, take care of ourselves and our families, we put in as many hours as it takes to keep our jobs, and possibly even get promoted. Jobs have changed even in the last 10 years from simple 9-5 professional relationships to people working together day in and day out – – trying to earn some money, working hard to maybe advance within the company, and trying to form friendships and bonds in the process.
The other day, I heard from a friend that, within her company, there were many deeper-than-professional relationships amongst the employees, and even between employees and their supervisors. And her particular supervisor was a touchy-feely guy. A guy who gave hugs- and kisses on the cheek – gave lots of compliments on how she looked. He made comments on what she was wearing and asked questions about whom she was dating. She asked me, “what if my boss touches me, is the that sexual harassment?”
In Georgia, what is sexual harassment? The answer is that, in Georgia, as well as most other states, it depends. There is no clear cut answer. Some examples:
1) If your boss is a touchey-feelly guy who likes to give hugs, and you don’t like it, and you make the fact that you don’t like it known to your boss, or a person within management, it should stop. If it doesn’t stop, that might be sexual harassment. Or if you say something about it and then you suddenly feel like they are out to get you, it might be sexual harassment AND unlawful retaliation – – both of which should lead you to consult a lawyer.
2) Same scenario, but assume after you talk to someone about it, it does stop, without any retaliation or negative consequence to you. This is good. There is no sexual harassment and life goes on.
3) If your workplace seems to be charged with conversation, pictures, flirtations, and other things on a sexual level, and you don’t like it, it may be that you are being sexually harassed. If you report it and nothing changes – or if you report it and feel like they are retaliating against you – there is a good chance your employer is violating the law. Consult a Georgia sexual harassment lawyer.
4) Same scenario, but someone addresses your concerns – – again, this is good.
The problem is that when you depend on your job – especially in these crazy times – you don’t want to rock the boat. I’ve had many people talk to me about Georgia sexual harassment. When I say, “Why don’t you tell HR that you’re uncomfortable with this guy and they way he looks at you/talks to you/touches you?” they say, “because I need this job.” Or “Because if I do, I know I’ll get fired.” Or “Because if I do, I won’t get that promotion or salary raise I deserve.”
If this sounds familiar to you, talk to a Georgia sexual harassment lawyer. Between employers and employees, the employers hold all the cards. They’re the ones with the power. And the law recognizes that and protects people whose workplaces include people and attitudes that make things uncomfortable and less than professional.
So the answer to my friend’s question – – “Is any of that sexual harassment?” – – depends on lots of things. Her frame of mind, her boss’ frame of mind, whether she let anyone know that she was uncomfortable, whether she couldn’t let anyone know she was uncomfortable because she knew she’d be fired or treated worse because of her complaint, whether her boss’ sexual escapades led to favoritism for the women who he gave in to his advances – – those kinds of things.
But if any of these scenarios ring a bell with you – if you are uncomfortable at work or feel like your boss or a co-worker has “crossed the line” and treated you unfairly – you should speak with and Atlanta sexual harassment attorney. You may have a good case.