As employment and labor attorneys, we see instances of workplace harassment, hostile work environments, and sexual harassment – as well as the retaliatory actions that can come with all of this offensive behavior – all too often. Still, there is a difference between workplace harassment as civil versus criminal acts in that only some acts of workplace harassment constitute actual crimes, and it is important to be aware of the difference, as we discuss in greater detail, below.
When many of us think of sexual harassment, we think of a woman being harassed or threatened by a man inappropriately in the workplace. However, it is important to note that sexual harassment applies to everyone, and everyone is protected from it in the workplace. This includes prohibited actions that involve suggestive verbal remarks and touching someone without their consent upon finding out about their sexual orientation.
Most sexual harassment actions are considered to be civil wrongs in that, in court, the victim can sue the perpetrator (or typically the employer who is either involved or fails to take action to ensure a safe work environment) for compensatory damages. When an employer knows or should have known about harassment or a hostile work environment, yet they do not take immediate or corrective action, they can be held accountable (in a civil action) in court. This conduct violates Title VII, which prohibits unlawful discrimination against someone based on their color, national origin, race, religion, or sex/sexual orientation.
There are two types of sexual harassment within Title VII:
While most sexual harassment in the workplace is not a crime, if it escalates to a certain activity (typically that which involves assault), it becomes a crime; For example, with the following:
If you or a loved one has been the victim of harassment in the workplace, it is important to take legal action. Taking a stand can not only ensure that you are protected, but it can also encourage others to speak out when abuse is present. If you have any questions, contact our workplace harassment lawyers today for a free consultation.
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