In the most severe instances of sexual harassment in the workplace, criminal misconduct may be a factor. Criminal sexual misconduct can have devastating emotional, professional, and financial repercussions for the victim. If you have faced criminal misconduct in the workplace, you can pursue both criminal and civil charges against the culprit. Contact an employment lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that the individual who wronged you faces the consequences for his or her actions.

Sexual Harassment vs. Criminal Sexual Misconduct

If you suspect that you have been a victim of criminal sexual misconduct in the workplace, you may wonder how it differs from sexual harassment. While criminal sexual misconduct is considered sexual harassment, not all sexual harassment is considered criminal in nature. An incident of sexual harassment is considered criminal misconduct when it is severe enough that it violates criminal statutes. There is often a fine line between sexual harassment and criminal sexual misconduct. The latter comes into play when there is non-consensual sexual contact or touching, exposure of the genitals, or sexual intercourse. In these cases, an employer, supervisor or co-worker may be guilty of both sexual harassment and a more serious crime, such as sexual assault or battery.

What Types of Sexual Misconduct are Criminal?

Criminal sexual misconduct may come in different forms. The following acts may be considered a violation of criminal law.

  • Rape– The worst instances of sexual harassment may involve sexual assault, in which case the harasser is also a rapist. The victim may press a criminal charge against the perpetrator and a sexual harassment lawsuit against the employer.
  • Assault and battery– A sexual harassment case that involves aggressive physical contact or threats of bodily harm may contain actions that violate New York’s battery and/or assault laws or New Jersey’s simple and/or aggravated assault laws.
  • Bullying– New York anti-bullying laws that prohibit bullying, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination on the basis of a number of protected characteristics, including gender. New Jersey anti-bullying laws prohibit bullying, harassment, and intimidating on the basis of, including but not limited to, race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation. These laws make it illegal for a supervisor to threaten to fire an employee for refusing to provide sexual favors. They also prohibit cyberbullying.
  • Stalking– If a harasser follows a victim home or engages in other stalking behavior, he or she may be charged with criminal misconduct.
  • Pornography– Sometimes, sexual harassment in the workplace involves sexually offensive visual content. If this content includes child pornography, then both the harasser and employer may be charged with violating criminal law.

Degrees and penalties for criminal sexual misconduct

Depending on their severity, sexual offenses may be classified as either felonies or misdemeanors. Possible penalties for criminal misconduct include jail time, criminal fines, community service, probation, and monetary compensation for the victim’s suffering. Here are some examples of the amount of jail time that may result from different types of criminal sexual misconduct:

  • Rape– sexual intercourse that involves forcible compulsion or a victim incapable of consent can mean up to 25 years of jail for the assailant.
  • Criminal sexual acts– offenders that engage in non-consensual oral or anal sex may be imprisoned for up to 25 years.
  • Forcible touching– if an individual is found guilty of grabbing or touching the victim’s intimate or sexual body parts, he or she may be incarcerated for up to a year.
  • Sexual abuse– if the perpetrator uses forcible compulsion to get the victim to engage in sexual conduct, he or she may spend three months to seven years in prison.

Each of the categories above may be broken up into first, second, or third degrees of sexual misconduct. First degree acts are considered the most severe, and accordingly carry the heaviest punishments. The minimum determinant sentence for first degree rapes and criminal sexual acts, for example, is 5 years. Depending on the seriousness of the specific crime, the assailant may be imprisoned for up to 25 years. Criminal sexual acts that do not involve non-consensual sexual intercourse, oral sexual conduct, or anal sexual conduct may be considered misdemeanors, in which case the assailant may be imprisoned for up to one year. An example of an act that would be considered a misdemeanor is forcible touching, where an offender grabs, pinches, or squeezes the sexual or intimate body parts of a victim in order to degrade the victim or to gratify his or her own desires. If you have been a victim of non-consensual sexual contact, you may be able to press criminal and civil charges against your assailant. Contact a lawyer at Akin Law Group, PLLC as soon as possible to learn about your options.

Can there be offensive sexual conduct without physical contact?

If you have been a victim of sexual conduct such as inappropriate remarks, but have not been subjected to forcible touching, you have probably been a victim of sexual harassment but not criminal sexual misconduct. If that is the case, you can file a lawsuit against your harasser, or bring a charge to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR), or the New York City Commission on Human Rights (NYCCHR). In New Jersey, you can report violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination to the Office of the Attorney General, Department of Law & Public Safety. In doing so, you may receive monetary compensation for the emotional and/or financial hardships that you endured. However, you cannot press a criminal charge, and your harasser will not receive jail time.

Are there Laws against Criminal Sexual Conduct?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces the federal law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of race, color, sex, gender, religion, and national origin. Employers with 15 or more employees must abide by the EEOC’s federal law.

New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prevents employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of nearly all workplace related actions including recruitment, hiring, interviewing, promotions, compensation, terms, conditions, discharge, and privileges. The terms and conditions prohibit employers from workplace discrimination on the basis of national origin, race, color, creed, age, nationality, ancestry, sex (including pregnancy and sexual harassment), domestic partnership or civil union status, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, mental and physical disabilities, including AIDS and HIV. The Law Against Discrimination protects employees from intentional discrimination based on any of these characteristics.

Seek the counsel of a skilled NYC & NJ Sexual Harassment Lawyer

Victims of criminal sexual misconduct may face great emotional, physical, and financial suffering as a result of their assailant’s actions. If you have faced criminal misconduct on the job, or you are unsure if a specific act is criminal in nature, seek the advice of the attorneys at Akin Law Group, PLLC. Our respected attorneys have years of experience dealing with these complex issues and are passionate about helping victims of on-the-job harassment and discrimination. Our boutique firm only works with a small number of clients, so you will get the personal attention and responsiveness you need. You’re not just another name or number to us — the challenges you face truly matter to our attorneys.

Call us today at 212-825-1400 to schedule a free consultation (confidential) with an experienced sexual harassment attorney.