When Could You be Charged with Sexual Harassment as a Crime?
Sexual harassment in the workplace has become an important media focus. Several high profile accounts of sexual harassment have surfaced in the last few years, especially the entertainment industry and given rise to the #MeToo movement. What exactly is sexual harassment and can it be considered a crime?
Currently, there is no such crime in Florida called ‘sexual harassment.’ That situation could change in the future as there is pressure put on state legislators as it is elsewhere in the country to make unwanted sexual advances, principally, but not always, to women, a criminal act. A bill attempting to criminalize sexual harassment at work was proposed by senators in Florida earlier in the year, but the bill was withdrawn before it got an opportunity to be debated.
Sexual harassment covers unwanted sexual attention ranging from unsolicited comments to requests for sexual favors through to verbal and physical abuse of a sexist nature. It has most legal meaning when it happens in the workplace, principally because it is regarded as a form of sex discrimination. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes a component, Title VII that prevents employers discriminating on the basis of gender. This law is a federal law, but there is a parallel state law that serves to supplement it. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ensures that Title VII is upheld. It specifically refers to “unwelcome sexual advances, including physical and verbal abuse’ as part of sex discrimination.
It is important that this legislation does not make these behaviors criminal as such, but could lead to an employer being sued for not preventing or dealing with sexual harassment at work. Except in the situations described below, then, sexual harassment at work is primarily a civil matter.
When sexual harassment becomes battery or assault
When sexual harassment takes the form of unwanted touching, e.g. touching buttocks or breasts of a female work colleague, then this might be construed as sexual battery. If an alleged victim of this sort of behavior decides to take it to the police, it could lead to a charge of misdemeanor sexual battery. Penalties would depend on the circumstances. If the person alleged to have behaved in this way had a prior charge of battery of any type, then the charge could be elevated to a felony.
Of course, rape at work is rape, regardless of the circumstances and would be considered a felony charge with harsher penalties if proven.
There is a further crime that could be regarded by some as ‘sexual harassment’ at work. This is when someone repeatedly uses verbal sexual innuendo constantly and persists even outside the workplace, such as through social media, and then this might be considered a misdemeanor offense of stalking. Florida statute Section 784.048 makes it illegal to willfully, maliciously and repeatedly’ harass or follow someone else. If some kind of physical threat is part of this sort of abuse then the charge could be elevated to a felony offense.
Defense against a crime of sexual battery or stalking
Sexual harassment may or may not be real. Although in all its forms it is often a real problem in many workplaces, there are also cases when someone has been accused of sexual harassment up to the point of potential criminality falsely. It is often hard for a plaintiff to prove that sexual harassment has taken place unless there is clear evidence that it has existed.
If you have been accused of sexual harassment at work and there is a possibility that this could lead to criminal charges against you, you should contact an experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorney right away. The sooner any kind of charge of this nature is dismissed on shaky evidence the better as far as your job and career are concerned. Miami based attorney, Albert Quirantes Esq. specializes in all manner of criminal defense cases. Call him at his Law Firm office at 305-644-1800.
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For over 30 years, Miami criminal defense attorney Albert M. Quirantes has been aggressively and zealously defending the rights of those accused of felony and misdemeanor crimesthroughout South Florida. With his dedicated team, reasonable legal fees, and a well-earned reputation for challenging prosecutors at every turn, he has protected over 8,000 clients during some of the roughest times of their lives.
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