Question: My boss or coworker has been making sexual comments and touching me at work. Is that legal?
Answer: Absolutely not. Sexual harassment at work—behavior like inappropriate touching, sexual comments, and demands for sexual favors—is illegal. Employers who tolerate sexual harassment—or, worse, encourage it—can be liable under federal laws like Title VII, which prohibit sex discrimination at work. Georgia law also provides remedies when employers fail to supervise employees who harass or assault their coworkers or customers.
If you experience sexual harassment at work in Georgia, you should consult an attorney to discuss your rights. The Block Firm has successfully represented victims of sexual harassment. Please contact us if you would like more information.
Question: My teacher or coach is trying to have a sexual relationship with me. Is that legal?
Answer: No. Under Georgia law, teachers, coaches, and other officials cannot have sexual relationships with their students—even after the students reach the age of “consent” at 16. Specifically, O.C.G.A. § 16-6-5.1 specifically targets predatory sexual behavior by teachers and other “persons with supervisory or disciplinary authority” over students.
Question: I was sexually assaulted at school. Is my school liable for failing to protect me?
Answer: The school may be liable under various legal regimes. The federal statute known as Title IX requires schools that take federal funding, most schools in the country, to combat sexual harassment in the educational setting. The courts have held that schools can be liable if they are deliberately indifferent to a known risk of sexual assault or harassment. See, e.g., Doe v. School Board of Broward County, Florida, 604 F.3d 1248 (11th Cir. 2010). In addition, state law may hold schools liable for failing to protect students from known threats under some circumstances. Georgia law imposes a duty on schools to protect students from foreseeable abuse, as do the laws of most states. (In Georgia, complex sovereign immunity issues can come into play.) We have successfully represented many students who experienced sexual harassment and sexual abuse at school, including students raped by teachers and fellow students.
Question: The police can’t find, or the prosecutors won’t prosecute, my attacker. Does that mean I have no case?
Answer: No, you absolutely still have a civil case. There are many reasons, good and bad, why law enforcement doesn’t pursue criminal charges. But you still have civil claims against your attacker and, under some circumstances, against the institutions that let the attack happen. In fact, some of our most successful results have occurred after prosecutors initially declined to prosecute, and we used the civil justice to prove what happened and shared out findings with law enforcement. We have put multiple attackers behind bars in that way.
Question: What kinds of damages are available in sexual abuse cases?
Answer: In general terms, damages in sexual abuse cases come in two forms: damages for pain and suffering related to the abuse, and economic damages for impacts on your ability to earn a living and for medical care and therapy. Punitive damages, which are designed to punish the defendant, may also be available.
Question: What is the statute of limitations for sexual abuse and sexual harassment cases?
Answer: The short answer is, “It depends.” As a starting point, under Georgia law, claims involving physical touching may be subject to a two-year statute of limitations. The limitations period can be extended if certain criminal conduct is involved. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-99 generally tolls, or extends, the statute of limitations for crime victims during criminal proceedings, up to a point. Another statute, O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33.1, has a longer statute of limitations for minor victims of sexual abuse, which generally allows them to bring claims up to their twenty-third birthday. Complying with the statute of limitations is extremely important, and it is better to play it safe. If you have a potential sexual abuse claim, don’t delay in contacting counsel to understand your rights.
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