The Me Too Movement is prompting more victims of sexual harassment to come forward. Channel 2 Action News investigated how common the problem is in local county government. Investigative reporter Nicole Carr learned many alleged victims in Georgia are never allowed to have their cases heard by a jury.
According to a study, more judges are tossing out sexual harassment cases in Georgia than any other court in the nation. We requested sexual harassment lawsuits and complaints from DeKalb and Fulton counties in 2016 and 2017.
In those files was a lawsuit filed by recently retired DeKalb County firefighter Janaya Davis.
“It was always my passion to help people, save lives,” Davis said.
Her two great passions in life were her job as a paramedic and firefighter and boxing. She’s a fighter, but she said she faced the battle of her life one night in January 2013 when she got a rude awakening while working at a fire station in Chamblee.
“I was just asleep and I just remember being awakened by movement, my covers were moving,” Davis said.
“When you felt your covers moving, was someone touching you?” Carr asked.
“Yes, uh huh,” Davis said.
According to a police report, a co-worker put his hand on Davis’ buttocks and shoulder. “Then I opened my eyes and he was standing over me with his underwear on, no shirt, nothing else,” Davis said.
She said she reported the incident to her superior, but she wasn’t happy about the way it was handled.
“They still continued to make me work with someone who had just assaulted me,” Davis said.
She said no criminal charges were filed against her alleged attacker after he changed his mind about taking a lie detector test. Davis said DeKalb County “… allowed him to resign so he could go work somewhere else.”
We made an open records request and found DeKalb County faced three sexual harassment lawsuits in 2016 and 2017. Two, including Davis’, are pending.
During that same period, Fulton County faced two lawsuits. One was settled for $82,000.
DeKalb County had five sexual harassment complaints in 2016 and 2017. Two were valid and two are pending.
Fulton County had 21 complaints in that same period. Six were valid.
“I think it’s critical that they do report it,” said Benita Ransom, DeKalb County’s human resources director.
DeKalb County’s policy prohibits sexual harassment.
“We strive to create a workforce that provides an environment where employees are treated with dignity and respect,” Ransom said.
Fulton County gave us a statement that reads, in part: “Since 1991, Fulton County Government policy has strictly prohibited unlawful discrimination and harassment (including sexual harassment) in the workplace.”
But sexual harassment lawsuits like Davis’ face an uphill battle in court.
“It’s very difficult for victims to get justice,” said Amanda Farahany, an employment attorney.
She published a study that found in 2011 and 2012 judges in the U.S. District Court of Northern Georgia threw out more employment harassment cases, which includes sexual harassment, than any other court in the United States.
“Of all the cases we looked at for sexual harassment, (in) only one case was the plaintiff allowed to go forward and have her case heard by a jury,” Farahany said.
The U.S. District Court of Northern Georgia had no comment on the study.
Victims also can face intense scrutiny of their private lives from employers.
“They’re requiring things to be turned over, like their diary. They’re looking at their Facebook pages or getting into their medical records, even gynecological records, things that have nothing to do with the case,” Farahany said.
Davis told Carr that she is speaking out to help others.
“I survived it, you know? And I wanted people to be able to relate a face to my story and be empowered and encouraged or inspired,” she said.
Davis retired from DeKalb County in the fall of 2017.
DeKalb County had no comment on her lawsuit, but did file a motion to dismiss it. The lawsuit is pending.
A spokesperson says that on Davis’ alleged attacker’s resignation letter there is a statement that he is not eligible to be rehired.
Farahany said victims of sexual harassment should document the incident by writing down details. She recommends telling a friend or other people about the incident.
Farahany said, if possible, to get a recording of the harassment taking place. Georgia is a one-party consent state for recordings, so doing that is legal here. She said victims should tell the company what happened and call a lawyer.
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