Can Sexual Abuse or Sexual Assault result in a Hostile Work Environment?

Sexual Abuse and Sexual Assault are forms of Sexual Harassment that are illegal

Sexual harassment, which by definition is any unwelcomed sexual advance, takes on many different forms.  The two main categories of sexual harassment are those stemming form a Hostile Work Environment (sexual touching, sexual threats, sexual comments and outright sexual hostilities) and those that are classified as Quid Pro Quo (which is a Latin phrase meaning “you do something for me and I do something for you”).

Although both sexual abuse and sexual assault can be classified as sexual harassment and give rise to a hostile work environment claim, these two types of harassment are not the same. While sexual assault involves touching without valid consent, sexual abuse is a much broader term that includes sexual intimidation, threats and comments in addition to sexual touching.  In other words, although sexual assault can be classified as sexual abuse, not all sexual abuse claims necessarily stem from Sexual Assault. Sexual Assault is a term that is used in the criminal and civil context, while sexual abuse is used exclusively in civil litigation.

Some sources define sexual abuse as repeated and unwanted sex-oriented remarks, behaviors or gestures that attack an individual’s dignity and security and their physical and psychological integrity. In the workplace, sexual abuse may be accompanied by blackmail (coercion), by incitement (bribery), and abuse of power that could compromise employment (quid pro quo).  Sexual assault on the other hand is any sexual act in which a person is coerced or physically forced to engage in the act against their will; it can also be non-consensual touching of a person in a sexual manner. Sexual assault is a form of sexual violence, and it includes rape (such as forced penetration / sodomy or drug facilitated sexual assault), in addition to groping or the torture (infliction of pain) to the employee in a sexual manner.

Examples of Sexual Abuse:

  • Allusions to sexual preferences
  • Blackmail / threats
  • Comments on appearance / body
  • Indecent proposals
  • Intimate references
  • Obscene language
  • Sexual innuendoes
  • Unsolicited advances
  • Unwanted advances
  • Showing, displaying sexual images or obscene items
  • Dismissing or firing a person who refused sexual advances

Examples of Sexual Assault:

  • Touching (especially private parts)
  • Fondling or patting / squeezing
  • Hugging or Kissing
  • Sexual stimulation of any nature
  • Rape (with use or threat of force)
  • Removal of clothing (with use or threat of force)
  • Getting too close physically while working

Are there laws against Sexual Assault / Sexual Abuse at work?

In New York City, New York State, and in New Jersey both local and federal laws protect victims of sexual assault and sexual abuse.  Although there are also criminal laws that pertain to sexual assault, in the civil context regarding employment protection is clear.  In New York City the Administrative Code of the City of New York § 8-101, in New York State the Human Rights Law, Executive Law § 296, in New Jersey the Law Against Discrimination (N.J.S.A. 10:5-12) and on a Federal Level Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. § 2000 e) protects employees against sexual assault and sexual abuse in the workplace.

Often, victims of sexual abuse (especially sexual assault) blame themselves for the acts feeling that something they said or the clothes they wore must have given the assailant reason to believe they could violate the victim in this manner.  Often these victims feel embarrassed and humiliated to such an extent that they are fearful of pursuing their rights. The New York Sexual Harassment attorneys at the Akin Law Group and the New Jersey Sexual Harassment Attorneys at the Akin Law Group are here to help. We will treat you with the compassion, care and consideration that you deserve. Our consultation is always Free and always Confidential. We can handle your claim in a very discrete manner.  You need not fear or blame yourself (even if you have given into the sexual abuse) for any of the harassment that you were forced to endure. We look forward to receiving your call to help you while punishing and holding those that committed the illegal acts responsible.

Call and speak privately with one of our attorneys at (212) 825-1400.