What is the Difference Between Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault in the Workplace?

Sexual harassment in the workplace describes unwelcome sexual behavior that negatively impacts an employee’s ability to do their job or otherwise creates a hostile work environment. Similarly, but distinctly, sexual assault occurs when one is subjected to unwelcome touching of a sexual nature. Both forms of sexual misconduct are prohibited acts that constitute sex discrimination under federal employment laws.

Unlike other types of sexual harassment, sexual assault is specifically defined by the criminal codes of each state and can be reported to the police. Sexual assault includes sexual penetration of the body, as well as actions like groping or kissing, when done without consent. When a sexual assault occurs in the workplace, the individual who was sexually assaulted can pursue a criminal and a civil case against their perpetrator in addition to a civil lawsuit against their employer for money damages.

There is No Room for Sexual Conduct in the Workplace

Workplace sexual harassment and sexual assault are traumatic experiences that often create feelings of powerlessness in those who experience them. They often occur when there’s an imbalance of power between the perpetrator and the individual they harass or assault. At The Noble Law, we will support you and advocate for you in the face of sexual misconduct in the workplace.

The Noble Law, with offices in North Carolina and South Carolina, emphasizes integrity, empathy for our clients, and innovative ways to achieve your goals. If you have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, we understand your pain and frustration. We encourage you to seek the medical and mental health support you need while we zealously advocate for you.

How to Identify Sexual Misconduct at Work

Some forms of sexual misconduct and surrounding circumstances have been given specific names under the law, such as “Quid Pro Quo” misconduct and “Hostile Work Environment.”

“Quid pro Quo” misconduct takes place when the harasser makes an employee’s hiring, firing, or promotion contingent upon submitting to the harasser’s sexual advances. For example, “quid pro quo” sexual misconduct would occur if a supervisor tells their subordinate that they will not be promoted unless they agree to sexual activity with the supervisor.

A “Hostile Work Environment” occurs when an employee’s co-workers or supervisors engage in behavior that is sexually charged and/or directed at an employee because of their sex. This behavior arises to the level of a hostile work environment when it is so severe or pervasive that it negatively affects the employee’s ability to do their work, or otherwise creates an environment that is intimidating or offensive.

Some examples of workplace sexual conduct include:

  • Lewd gestures
  • Crude language or jokes about sex, gender, or sexual orientation
  • Display of lewd images or material
  • Repeated or offensive comments about one’s body or appearance
  • Requests for sexual favors
  • Leering
  • Unwelcome sexual advances
  • Repeated unwelcome requests for social engagement (e.g., dates)
  • Unwelcome touching

The Noble Law Helps Victims of Workplace Discrimination

The Noble Law Firm exists to help employees who have been subjected to harassment, retaliation, and/or discrimination in the workplace. We understand the severe negative impact that experiencing workplace sexual harassment and assault can have on one’s life and livelihood. We also know that making an accusation or complaint of sexual misconduct at work is important, but can pose many difficulties and create complex situations and dynamics. It is of paramount importance to receive the best legal representation possible.

If you have experienced sexual harassment or assault at work, been retaliated against for making a complaint about sexual misconduct, or are ready to hold your employer accountable for the individuals mistreating you at work, call our offices in South Carolina or North Carolina. We can help you get your power back—starting now.

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