Posted on 12/16/19

Though sexual harassment in the workplace is illegal, it is not always a crime. So, what does it take to make sexual harassment a crime?

Federal laws categorize sexual harassment as gender discrimination, which is prohibited by the Civil Rights Act. Workplace sexual harassment is handled by the Texas Workforce Commission. It may inflicted by a male or a female and it does not always have to involve the opposite sex. Anyone who was affected by the act, even if they were not the immediate target, can file a complaint.

Where do Sexual Harassment Claims Go?

When it comes to sexual harassment at work, victims in Texas have a variety of options. They may file a claim with the Texas Workforce Commission’s Division of Civil Rights or with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Neither of these options involve criminal complaints. In most situations, sexual harassment is a civil complaint that is handled by a civil lawsuit. These lawsuits may be handled by an employer’s administrative hearing or by the government entities listed. 

However, there are certain situations in which sexual harassment crosses the boundary from civil claim to criminal territory. This is the case when it comes to rape or sexual assault. This type of behavior goes beyond workplace discrimination and should always be reported to local law enforcement authorities. 

When Sexual Harassment Becomes a Crime

Sexual harassment can result in a variety of criminal charges in some situations including the following:

  • Assault – When one co-worker touches another worker’s behind, rubs shoulders, or makes other physical contact with the intent to offend the employee being touched, it could be considered assault. This class C misdemeanor is punishable with a fine up to $500. If the touching resulted in physical pain, it may be considered a class A misdemeanor assault which can be punished with a fine up to $4,000 and up to one year in jail.

  • Sexual Assault – If a case of sexual harassment is extreme it may be considered sexual assault. Examples may include penetration of the mouth, anus, or vagina of a co-worker without  consent. Penalties for this second-degree felony may include a fine up to $10,000 and up to 20 years in prison. 

  • Criminal Harassment –If a one employee persistently calls or texts a co-worker or makes sexually explicit advances to harass, alarm, annoy, abuse, embarrass, or torment the other employee, it may be considered criminal harassment. This class B misdemeanor is punishable by a fine up to $2,000 and up to six months in jail. 

If convicted of criminal sexual harassment, additional penalties may include having to register as a sex offender, being unable to legally own or possess a firearm, and having trouble finding another place of employment.

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

If you are facing criminal sexual harassment charges or another type of criminal charge, contact the attorneys at Abel Law Firm today to schedule a consultation. We will ensure your rights are protected and help you understand your legal options.

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Phone: 972.584.7837

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