We see it on the news all the time. More and more women and even men are speaking up against sexual harassment at work. Unfortunately, what is considered sexual harassment in North Carolina isn’t always clear.
Sexual harassment itself isn’t a criminal act, but certain types of harassment can be deemed criminal. There is sometimes a very fine line between sexual harassment that isn’t a crime, and sexual harassment that is.
Types of Sexual Harassment
As a general rule, if the incident in question is a single careless remark or a joke that is sexual in nature at a place of employment, it won’t be considered a sex crime. However, if a charge is filed in court, the judge will want to know if any of the following things pertain to the incident.
- Is the work environment hostile?If the employee that filed the charge can prove that their work environment is hostile, intimidating, or offensive and their employer knew about it but chose to do nothing to stop of the problem, the case may be upheld in court. If the employee wasn’t able to complete their work due to the sexual harassment, whether the harassment was verbal, physical or written in nature, the charge may stand.
- The behavior is a condition of employment. If an employee has to consent or submit themselves to sexual harassment, either explicitly or implicitly, as a condition of employment, the employee has the right to file a complaint.
- Employment decisions are affected by the behavior. If an employer approaches an employee asking for sexual favors in exchange for special privileges or benefits, this is a type of sexual harassment. If the employee refuses to comply with the propositions and there are retributions to the employee for saying no, a case may be filed in court.
What Types of Behavior Can Be Considered Sexual Harassment?
Although there are many different situations that can be considered sexual harassment, the following is a list of some of the most common behaviors that are listed in sexual harassment lawsuits:
- Discussing sexual activities
- Using offensive or crude gestures or language
- Telling jokes about sex
- Displaying sexually explicit images
- Commenting on the appearance of an employee
- Touching an employee when it isn’t welcome
When is Sexual Harassment Considered a Crime?
Sexual harassment itself isn’t considered criminal in nature, but charges can be filed if sexual contact that isn’t welcome is made. Sexual contact can include touching any of the victim’s sexual organs, anus, breast, buttocks, or groin, or touching another person with one’s own sexual organ, anus, buttocks, breast, or groin. The touching is unlawful regardless of whether the victim is wearing clothing, or if the offender touches the victim directly or uses their clothing.
A sexual harassment charge that involves sexual contact is considered sexual battery, which is considered a Class A1 misdemeanor under North Carolina law. Other crimes may also apply depending on the extent of the sexual contact.
Is Sexual Battery Punishable with Jail Time?
Any individual that has been found guilty of sexual battery may be sentenced up to 150 days in jail. This jail sentence is based on the offender’s prior criminal history. The person may also be required to register on the sex offender registry for up to 30 years.
If You’ve Been Charged with Sex Crime
Sexual harassment can often result in sex crime charges if the allegations of the victim are considered criminal. If you have been accused of sexual harassment, it is important that you contact an experienced criminal attorney to defend you. The attorneys at Tarlton & Polk have years of experience handling cases just like these. Contact us today for a consultation.