By HGD Staff
Many victims of sexual misconduct feel there is nowhere to turn. Victims often worry that they will not be heard or that they will be punished for coming forward. While it is certainly easy to understand these fears, there is hope. The law does offer protections to sexual assault and harassment victims.
At Heninger Garrison Davis, LLC, our team of experienced legal professionals want to help. We have represented many assault survivors, victims of harassment and discrimination, and even those who have suffered from gender and sexual identity discrimination. For those who wonder what rights they have, the truth is, you can file a lawsuit and claim financial damages for what has happened. Here is what you need to know.
Understanding Sexual Misconduct
In the age of the #MeToo Movement, more and more women have come forward to speak truth about their stories of assault, discrimination, and harassment. Of course, it is important to remember that many men are the victims of assault and harassment, as well. Misconduct can be aimed at anyone.
When we talk about sexual misconduct, it is important to separate the various forms of misconduct and the potential remedies available. Consider just a few of the broad categories and options available for survivors.
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The federal government agency in charge of regulating and enforcing anti-discrimination laws is known as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC defines discrimination as any adverse employment actions that are based on or directed at a protected class. So, discrimination can affect people because of their race, religion, age, national origin, sexual orientation or identity, and gender.
When discriminatory actions are taken against someone because of their gender, it is considered sexual discrimination. The law allows victims of discrimination to bring a lawsuit against their employer seeking compensation when the discrimination has caused some harm or loss. These adverse employment actions can include:
- Reduction in pay
- Denial of job opportunities
- Refusing to permit transfers
- Denying promotions or pay increases
Next, there is sexual harassment. This is technically just a form of sex discrimination; however, it is worth distinguishing that the term harassment is usually used in situations in which an employer or superior is using one’s gender as a grounds for inappropriate behavior of a sexual nature. As the EEOC explains, harassment can take on many forms. Here are just a few examples:
- Unwelcome touching
- Unwelcome advances
- Aggressive or threatening comments
- Repeated unwelcome sexual comments
- Displaying vulgarity or sexual content
- Creating a hostile working environment
It does not always require the employer to terminate a person’s employment in order to qualify as harassment. In some cases, the behavior is so egregious that the law will regard it as a “constructive termination.” This occurs when no reasonable person could be expected to continue tolerating or enduring the behavior. However, it is important that you, as the victim, make it clear and well-known that you do not approve of the behavior and want it to stop. Often a brief initial consultation with a skilled attorney can give you the confidence and information to protect your rights early.
Sexual Assault, Abuse, and Domestic Violence
Finally, there are criminal acts that go above and beyond mere discrimination or employment-related abuses. In all states, it is a crime to touch someone against his or her will.
Consider one such example. In New York, Penal Code Section 130.52 concerns “forcible touching.” The law clearly makes it a Class A Misdemeanor to touch another person for one’s own sexual gratification or for the purpose of humiliation or embarrassment. The law is exceedingly clear about this and even goes so far as to state that it expressly includes things like grabbing, pinching, or squeezing someone.
The important thing to remember is that your body is yours alone. If a person commits an act of unlawful touching in the workplace, it could rise to both a civil and criminal charge. No employee should ever be forced to spend day after day subjected to criminal conduct. Therefore, such behavior is often a strong piece of evidence in support of a claim for constructive termination.
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How to Make a Claim and Protect Yourself
The first thing any victim of sexual misconduct should do is document the behavior in as much detail as possible. Next, make it clear and well-known to your supervisor and management team that you are not okay with the behavior and you want it to stop immediately. Next, contact Heninger Garrison Davis, LLC to schedule a free consultation. Hopefully, your employer will take the message and stop the behavior in its tracks. If not, or if you face any retaliation, you will have an experienced team of attorneys at the ready, poised to take action on your behalf.
Serving clients in Georgia, Alabama, and New York, the attorneys of Heninger Garrison Davis, LLC are here to help when you need us.