Public Defender Identifies Sexual Harassment

On 3 May 2017, the Public Defender of Georgia, identified discrimination, namely sexual harassment and verbal sexual harassment, of an employee by the Head of LEPL National Agency of Public Registry.

According to the case materials, the applicant did not disclose information about the respondent’s degrading treatment while working at the Public Registry. In this regard, the Public Defender concluded that the fear of dismissal and the motive of avoiding tension in the family were likely the main reasons for which the applicant tolerated the employer’s attitude.

The evidence adduced by the applicant shows that the respondent had sent her a threatening and humiliating message - [...]I will look after you, I will even touch you, and you will get it when you are really beaten! You monkey!. The applicant also alleges that the respondent called her a “woman of the street and "trash; and when the applicant told him that she would sue him for those words, the respondent became more furious and started swearing, using the word “d***“. In addition, the respondent had quite unceremonious attitude to the applicant - referring to her as "squirrel and sending her heart emojis.

According to the defendant, the use of “squirrel” was conditioned by the fact that the staff bought a squirrel-shaped cake for the respondent on his birthday. The Public Defender considers that this fact cannot justify the use of such an unceremonious word in relation to the subordinate.

According to the Public Defender, despite the context, the use of the above-mentioned obscene, threatening phrases by the employer against the employee is unacceptable. The messages unequivocally confirmed the respondent’s humiliating attitude towards the applicant, which, in addition to other factors, created a degrading working environment for the applicant.

On the basis of the evidence adduced by the applicant, as well as the information obtained from the interview with the respondent and the witnesses, the Public Defender found that there was, on the one hand, gender-based harassment, namely creation of insulting and degrading working conditions for the applicant, and on the other hand, verbal form of sexual harassment, namely the use of specific unceremonious and obscene words. The above actions were of a continuing nature and created a humiliating and hostile working environment for the applicant.

It should be noted that certain materials of the case - facts/evidence, which inter alia served as the basis for making the final assessment by the Public Defender, were not used in the decision and remained confidential in the interests of the witnesses.

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