Civil Rights
Workplace Rights

Harassment

Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, (ADEA), and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, (ADA).

Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Anti-discrimination laws also prohibit harassment against individuals in retaliation for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or lawsuit under these laws; or opposing employment practices that they reasonably believe discriminate against individuals, in violation of these laws.

Petty slights, annoyances, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not rise to the level of illegality. To be unlawful, the conduct must create a work environment that would be intimidating, hostile, or offensive to reasonable people.

Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. Harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, an agent of the employer, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but can be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful harassment may occur without economic injury to, or discharge of, the victim.

Prevention is the best tool to eliminate harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take appropriate steps to prevent and correct unlawful harassment. They should clearly communicate to employees that unwelcome harassing conduct will not be tolerated. They can do this by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process, providing anti-harassment training to their managers and employees, and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains. Employers should strive to create an environment in which employees feel free to raise concerns and are confident that those concerns will be addressed.

Employees are encouraged to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. Employees should also report harassment to management at an early stage to prevent its escalation.

Employer Liability for Harassment

The employer is automatically liable for harassment by a supervisor that results in a negative employment action such as termination, failure to promote or hire, and loss of wages. If the supervisor's harassment results in a hostile work environment, the employer can avoid liability only if it can prove that: 1) it reasonably tried to prevent and promptly correct the harassing behavior; and 2) the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer.

The employer will be liable for harassment by non-supervisory employees or non-employees over whom it has control (e.g., independent contractors or customers on the premises), if it knew, or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.

When investigating allegations of harassment, the EEOC looks at the entire record: including the nature of the conduct, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination of whether harassment is severe or pervasive enough to be illegal is made on a case-by-case basis.

If you believe that the harassment you are experiencing or witnessing is of a specifically sexual nature, you may want to see EEOC's information on sexual harassment.

The American Civil Liberties Union works every day—in the courts, legislatures, and in the streets—to preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to everyone in this country. The U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Georgia Constitution spell out our hopes for the kind of society that we want to be, and protect our rights, including:

  • Right to equal protection, that is, the right to be treated equally, regardless of race, national origin, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.
  • Right to due process, that is, the right to be treated fairly by the government whenever the loss of liberty (being arrested, detained, or questioned) or property (being searched) is at stake.
  • Right to privacy, that is, the right to be free from unwarranted government intrusion into your personal and private business.
  • Right to free speech, association, and assembly, that is, the right to speak your mind, to meet up with whomever you choose, and to call on your government officials, publicly if you like, to make changes if you have any concerns.

Below are easy-to-use resources created by the ACLU so you can have your rights at your fingertips.

If you believe your rights have been violated and want to contact the ACLU of Georgia, please FILE A COMPLAINT

Your Right to Take Photographs

  • Generally, you have the right to take photographs and videos of anything visible in public spaces. This includes your right to record law enforcement officials carrying out their duties in public.
  • If you are in a private space, such as someone's home, all people present must give you consent to record. Do not share video recordings made in private without you consent of everyone present in the recording.
  • Police officers may not legally demand that you stop taking photographs and video recordings in public. And you are not obligated to delete such photographs or videos.
  • Police officers can, however, order you to stop recording if your activity interferes with duties of law enforcement personnel. In general, a court will trust an officer's judgment about what is "interfering" more than yours. So, if an officer orders you to stand back, do so.
  • If the officer says he/ she will arrest you if you continue to use your camera, in most circumstances it is better to put the camera away and call the ACLU for help, rather than risk arrest.
  • In most cases, police officers cannot search, confiscate, or demand to view the contents on your recording device, such as a cell phone, without a warrant. If police have a reasonable belief that the content of your recording device contains evidence of a crime, a court or judge may allow the police to seize that device.

Using a Video Recorder (Including Cell Phones) With Audio Capacity

  • You have the right to videotape and audiotape police officers performing official duties in public.
  • The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2000 that citizens have the right to record what public officials do on public property. That means you can record an officer during a traffic stop, during an interrogation, or while he or she is making an arrest.
  • You can record people protesting or giving speeches in public.
  • Georgia's Wiretap Law, however, makes it illegal to record private conversations without the consent of at least one person in the conversation. It is important to be aware that private conversations can occur in public places.
  • The Georgia Wiretap Law makes it illegal to record any electronically transmitted conversation unless one person in the conversation has given consent. Never record a telephone conversation without the permission of at least one person in the conversation.

If You Are Stopped or Detained for Taking Photographs or Videos

  • Always remain polite and never physically resist a police officer.
  • If stopped for photography, ask if you are free to go. If the officer says no, then you are being detained, something an officer cannot do without reasonable suspicion that you have committed or are about to commit a crime. Your stop is considered voluntary and is legal.
  • If you are detained, politely state that you believe you have the right to take pictures or video and that you do not consent to the officer looking through or deleting anything on your camera. But if the officer reaches for your camera or phone, do not resist. Simply repeat that you do not consent to any search or seizure. You don't want to invite a charge for "resisting arrest."

What you say to the police is important. What you say can be used against you and can give the police an excuse to arrest you, especially if you speak disrespectfully to an officer.

You do not have to answer a police officer's questions, but you must show your drivers license, registration, and proof of insurance when stopped while driving a car. You cannot be legally arrested for refusing to identity yourself to a police officer unless you are charged with loitering or prowling.

You do not have to give your consent to any search of yourself, your car, or your home. If you do consent to a search, it can affect your rights later in court. If the police say they have a warrant, ask to see it.

Do not interfere with, or obstruct the police even if they begin an illegal search-you can be arrested for it. You can ask for the officer's name and badge number. If your request for information is refused, note the information you can see such as the badge number, nametag, car number or vehicle license plate number. File a complaint later if you feel your rights have been violated.

If you are stopped by the police

You may remain silent. You do not have to answer any questions, including your name, age, and address, or show any ID unless you are operating a car, or unless the officer has probable cause to believe you have violated the law. However, it is advisable to provide basic information only, such as name, age, and address.

Ask if you are under arrest. If so, ask why. If you are not under arrest, you should be free to leave. (Never run from a police officer).

Do not physically resist. The police may frisk you for weapons by patting the outside of your clothing, but nothing more. Make it clear that you do not agree to any search. However, if searched, do not resist. File a complaint later.

If you are stopped in your car

Show your driver's license, registration, and proof of insurance upon request. Your car can be searched without a warrant as long as the police have probable cause. To protect yourself later, make it clear that you do not consent to a search.

If you are given a ticket, you should sign it. If you do not, you can be arrested. Your driver's license can be taken from you, but it should be returned to you when you pay the fine. Of course, you can always fight the case in court later.

If you are suspected of drunk driving and refuse a breath or blood test, your license can be suspended.

If you are arrested

Whether or not you are guilty, go with the officer. You can make your defense in court.

You have the right to remain silent; use it. Tell the police nothing except your name, age, and address. Don't give explanations or stories or try to excuse the conduct.

Ask to speak with an attorney at once. You can do so by phone right after being taken into custody. If you are arrested and face jail time but can't afford a lawyer, you may request that a public defender be appointed to represent you. Don't talk to the police until your lawyer is present.

If the police say they have a warrant, ask to see it. Whether or not the police have a warrant to search you or your property, you can protect your rights by making it clear that you do not agree to any search. Do not physically resist if the police continue their search.

The police must give you a receipt for everything taken from you, including your wallet and its contents, clothing, jewelry, and any packages you were carrying when you were arrested. Check your receipt when you are arrested to make certain it correctly lists all of the property taken from you by jail personnel.

You may be released with or without bail following booking. If not, you have the right to go into court and see a judge the next day after arrest. Demand this right. When you appear before the judge, ask for an attorney.

Don't make any decisions in your case until you have talked to an attorney.

This is not complete advice.

Be sure to consult a lawyer.

ACLU

American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia
142 Mitchell Street, S.W. Suite 301
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
(404) 523-5398

Gerald R. Weber, Jr.
ALCU of GA

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