Criminal Sexual Conduct
Sexual harassment in the workplace often leaves the targeted person traumatized. It can cause mental health issues and impact a person’s productivity at work. However, there are instances in which sexual harassment crosses a line into criminal territory, which is referred to as criminal sexual conduct. This rises to a more serious level of sexual harassment, and a person may also file criminal charges with the police department in addition to reporting the harassment to Human Resources (HR) or their supervisor.
Criminal sexual conduct is a serious situation and will require significant legal maneuvering. It is a good idea to get in contact with an experienced sexual harassment lawyer who can guide the person. A skilled lawyer can help represent their client’s interest if there is a criminal investigation or a civil lawsuit.
When Does Sexual Harassment Turn Criminal?
When harassment rises to the level of sexual assault, then it becomes a crime subject to criminal prosecution. While penalties for sexual assault differ in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, each state considers the matter extremely serious. Some examples of criminal sexual conduct include:
- Assault: This takes place when one person forcefully touches another person against their will. The touching does not necessarily need to be sexual in nature, but it does have to be unsolicited. Assault can include hitting, pushing, or other forms of physical contact.
- Non-Consensual Sexual Contact: This can also be referred to as forcible touching and occurs when a person touches another person’s intimate body parts without permission. This also includes removing a person’s clothes without their consent, touching a person with their own private parts without consent, forcing someone to touch another’s privates without consent, and any other intentional sexual touching with an object without consent.
- False Imprisonment: This is defined as when one person restricts the movements of another. In a workplace environment, this could mean that a coworker holds another in an office and requires sexual favors to garner that person’s release.
- Stalking: Workplace stalking can occur when a coworker or someone affiliated with a company takes an unhealthy interest in someone who works there. A stalker will use a variety of contact methods to remain in contact with their interest, including text messages, phone calls, in-person visits, and others.
- Sexual Exploitation: This is when a person takes non-consensual or abusive sexual advantage of another that will benefit the one not being exploited. Examples of this include voyeurism or someone publishing pornographic or other sexually inappropriate images or video of an unsuspecting person.
- Rape: This is unwanted sexual penetration on a person and is illegal under New Jersey and Pennsylvania law. In most instances, this is a separate and more serious crime from sexual assault.
Regardless of the sexual conduct that takes place, all employees should be able to work in a safe environment and not feel scared for their safety. It is up to the employer to guarantee a safe work environment and address these incidents immediately, so they do not breed a culture of this type of behavior.
What can I Do When Confronted With Sexual Conduct?
When someone has been faced with criminal sexual conduct in the workplace, there are several steps they should take immediately to ensure their own health and safety, as well as to prevent another incident from taking place, including:
- Seek medical help. If an assault has taken place, the person assaulted should seek medical attention as soon as possible. This helps to prevent any long-term medical impacts from the incident. It can also be an opportunity to document what took place and produce medical evidence.
- Complain to a supervisor. The person should then report the matter to a supervisor and explain what happened and what type of resolution they are seeking. If the supervisor was the one who engaged in the act, then the victim should go to that person’s supervisor or report it to the company’s human resources department (HR).
- File a formal complaint. If speaking with a supervisor failed to produce any results or made the situation worse, then the person should file a formal complaint with HR. The person should come prepared with detailed notes on the incident and a proposed resolution.
- Seek outside help. If the company is not responding or trying to discourage a person from speaking out, it might become necessary for them to seek satisfaction outside of their employer. There are a few federal and state agencies that will investigate and fight criminal sexual conduct in the workplace. At the federal level, one can file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). At the state level, the agencies are the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) and the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights within the Office of the Attorney General.
When filing a complaint with the EEOC, a person should understand that they have 180 days to file a complaint. The statute of limitations for the PHRC is 300 days and two years for New Jersey.
What Legal Options are Available to Me?
For those who have suffered through a criminal sexual conduct incident at work, they should know that they have a variety of legal options before them, even if their company responds favorably to the complaint. A sexual harassment lawyer can best advise one on the proper options available and how to effectively manage them. The two main options include:
Civil Lawsuit: A person can file a civil lawsuit in response to the incident that took place. The employee can include the employer along with the building management in the lawsuit arguing that both are supposed to keep employees safe, and they failed to do that. They could have also failed to address the matter sufficiently. A civil lawsuit can still be filed, even if the perpetrator has not been found guilty of the crime or if criminal charges are not filed against the perpetrator.
Criminal Charges: A person who has endured criminal sexual conduct has a right to press criminal charges against the perpetrator. Filing criminal charges is not a prerequisite to filing a civil lawsuit, although it will help in protecting others from that person.
It is up to each individual as to how they wish to proceed. They should consult with a sexual harassment lawyer who can help decide the best course of action.
Can I Receive Compensation for Being Targeted by Criminal Sexual Conduct?
When a person is targeted with criminal sexual conduct at work, they have the right to file a lawsuit against the perpetrator, the company, and the management of the building. There are several financial damages that a lawsuit can demand including but not limited to:
- Lost Wages: An incident may be so traumatic that it forces an employee to take time off work or quit their job altogether. A lawsuit can help recoup those lost wages.
- Medical Expenses: Since sexual conduct can include assault or another type of physical attack, a person might suffer severe injuries as a result and could require medical care and treatment. These are expenses the person should not be solely responsible for.
- Emotional Distress: The trauma of such an incident taking place can have a long-standing emotional impact on an individual. They could feel vulnerable, exposed, and helpless. They can receive compensation for having these disturbing feelings.
- Pain and Suffering: Similar to the mental trauma associated with an incident, a person may be left with pain and suffering as well. This too entitles them to compensation.
- Reinstatement: A person who endured criminal sexual conduct at work may face retaliation for reporting the incident in the form of a demotion, loss in responsibility, or even termination. As part of a lawsuit, a plaintiff can seek to have their position and responsibilities reinstated.
- Non-Monetary Requests: Criminal charges might address the person directly responsible for the incident but will not deal with the conditions that allowed them to perform the criminal act. A lawsuit can seek changes at the company to prevent a similar incident from taking place.
Philadelphia Sexual Harassment Lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. Work With Clients Who Endured Criminal Sexual Conduct at Work
When sexual harassment rises to the level of criminal activity, there is a new array of legal remedies. It can be confusing and an overwhelming experience. The Philadelphia sexual harassment lawyers at Sidney L. Gold & Associates, P.C. will help you throughout the process, and we can guide you through the criminal and civil procedures. Contact us online or call us at 215-569-1999 today to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia and Pennsauken, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout South Jersey and southeastern Pennsylvania, including Wilkes-Barre, Scranton, northeast Philadelphia, Bucks County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Montgomery County, as well as New York.