When Does Sexual Harassment at Work Become a Crime?

When Does Sexual Harassment at Work Become a Crime

Victims of workplace sexual harassment can be greatly impacted. They might have trouble performing the tasks of their jobs. They may also be prevented from getting promotions and might also lose their jobs. While workers are able to seek relief through the civil process for workplace sexual harassment, the civil laws do not make the conduct criminal.

In some cases, however, sexual harassment may cross the line into criminality. If the conduct that has been directed at you is also criminal in nature, it is important for you to recognize it and to understand what to do. The experienced lawyers at Swartz Swidler might help you with the civil process while also advising you about how to report the conduct to the authorities.

Understanding sexual harassment

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, workplace sexual harassment is a prohibited form of sex discrimination. It consists of sexual conduct that is unwelcome and that is either used as a basis for making employment decisions or that creates a workplace environment that is hostile.

Sexual harassment may include physical and verbal actions such as repeated comments, requests for sexual acts, unwanted touching, unwanted advances and sexual acts. In some cases, prohibited sexual harassment may also be criminal.

When does sexual harassment rise to the level of a crime?

Some forms of sexual harassment are obviously criminal in nature such as a sexual assault at work. Others are not as clear such as verbal sexual harassment. The local criminal laws in your jurisdiction will control whether such conduct is also a crime. Here are several examples of state law that might make workplace sexual harassment criminal in nature.

Rape, unwanted touching and sexual abuse

Rape is illegal under the laws of Pennsylvania and New Jersey and includes penetration without consent. In addition, criminal sexual contact may include unwanted touching of a victim’s sex organs or forced touching of the perpetrator’s sex organs. The unwanted touching can be over clothing and still be criminal if it is done without consent.

  • Assault

In some cases, a person may be physically assaulted by a harasser. Even if the assault is not a sexual assault, the physical contact may be a crime. Examples of criminal assaults that might be done for purposes of intimidation may include such things as hitting, pushing or other physical contacts. If you are assaulted at work by your harasser, you may press criminal charges in addition to filing discrimination complaints. Your attorneys at Swartz Swidler can help to guide you through the process.

  • Menacing

Under the laws of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, menacing can constitute a simple assault. Menacing occurs when the harassers make physical threats against the victims in an effort to place them in imminent fear of injury or death through threats. Menacing is a crime in both states.

  • Stalking

Commonly, sexual harassers at work engage in a pattern of ongoing behavior. If the conduct is repeated, it may fall under the definition of stalking. The harassers may be guilty of criminal stalking when they engage in repeated acts that cause the victims to feel reasonably fearful for their own safety or that of others. An example of this type of conduct could include repeated phone calls or text messages from a coworker or supervisor or being repeatedly followed.

  • Unlawful imprisonment

If your movement at work is restricted by another person at your job, it might rise to the level of criminal unlawful imprisonment. Unlawful imprisonment occurs when your movement is restricted in such a way that your liberty is substantially limited. In the context of workplace sexual harassment, you may be unlawfully imprisoned if your supervisor or a co-worker demands sexual favors or makes unwelcome sexual advances in an office and prevents you from leaving.

What to do if you have been the victim of criminal conduct and sexual harassment

If you have been the victim of sexual harassment that rises to the level of a crime at your job, you should report what happened to the police. Law enforcement authorities can help you with filing your criminal complaint. You should also contact the employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler for advice about your corresponding civil claim. You may be able to receive redress through both the criminal and civil justice systems.

Contact Swartz Swidler today to learn more about how to handle your case.