Workplace conduct is often scrutinized to ensure that employers and employees maintain a healthy relationship. Due to this, you may face serious sexual harassment accusations attracting criminal charges in specific cases. When accusations arise, you want to ensure that the charges pressed against you are valid under criminal law statutes to enable you to face a fair trial process. Moreover, you want to consult a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to help you navigate the accusations you face by preparing credible defenses. At the Law Office of Sara L. Caplan, you will receive solid criminal defense services to help you combat criminal sexual harassment accusations.
Understanding the Nature of Sexual Harassment
Labor laws applicable in California dictate that every workplace should provide a safe environment for its employees, including protecting them from sexual harassment. Typically, cases involving harassment stem from persons at a higher authority level than the victim. The power dynamics make it easy to exploit the alleged harassment victim, giving them the benefit of believability in most cases.
Despite this, you may face accusations for actions you did not participate in or undertaken without an intention to cause harassment to other persons at the workplace. Subsequently, you want to understand the nature of sexual harassment to anticipate further the actions amounting to criminal activity.
Usually, sexual harassment at the workplace encompasses unwanted sexual advances on the victim, making them uncomfortable and offended. Cases of unfair treatment are also prevalent when dealing with sexual harassment instances.
When seeking legal guidance as an accused person, you will need to understand the four elements in detail to help you establish where the problem may have occurred. Thus, the following are important considerations to make when assessing a sexual harassment claim:
The Offender Portrays Unwanted Behavior to the Victim
Determining whether your conduct is welcomed or unwanted may not always be straightforward, especially when you have an open relationship with most employees. This is characterized by a casual tone when communicating, occasional office banter, and unregulated body contact that is not necessarily sexual.
Despite this, consent is the primary factor that most cases inquire about when handling sexual harassment cases at the workplace. Hence, the determining factors will often lead to studying the alleged victim’s body language when interacting with you.
For example, if they close off and try to move away when you place your arm around their shoulder, it may be a sign of their discomfort towards your conduct. Further, you can identify an alleged victim’s negative reaction towards your behavior by their verbal responses. This is useful where the accusations against you described your use of inappropriate words or touching on scandalous topics.
You should also remember that since the alleged victim in the case may be subordinate, they may be unable to deny you consent when you engage. Due to this, the court handling your case may still find you liable for sexual harassment as long as the victim acknowledges that your actions were unwanted.
The Offender’s Behavior is Sexual in Nature’
Doubtless, identifying sexual conduct is easy, as it is characterized by exceeding personal boundaries, mostly through physical conduct. Additionally, sexual advances often target persons of a specific gender, depending on the perpetrator’s preferences or orientation. Therefore, investigations can quickly reveal the nature of sexual conduct you engaged in against the victim.
It is noteworthy that you may face sexual harassment accusations even when your actions were not explicit. This means that you did not undertake extreme behavior characterized by the severe violation of personal space. For example, you can face accusations for simply stroking the victim’s back, provided they did not consent to it, nor find it comfortable.
Additionally, it does not matter whether you had any sexual motives towards the victim when making your sexual advances. The court is primarily interested in the type of conduct you exhibited and how the victim felt or reacted.
The Sexual Advances Created an Uncomfortable Work Environment
On top of this, a sexual harassment claim will only stand if the victim can elaborate on the effects of the accused person’s action on the workplace. A distinct change of the workplace environment from safe to hostile should be apparent for the claim to be substantiated.
It is also important to remember that sexual harassment claims are only considered if the alleged actions were extreme and created a pervasive impression towards the targeted person. Thus, the court will assess the accusations on a broad conduct scale to determine if the accusations are substantiated.
For example, your workplace can be classified as a hostile environment if employees are reluctant or stressed about interacting freely for fear of sexual harassment. Furthermore, exposure to offensive language and online content like pornography is sufficient to warrant additional investigations against the workplace.
The Alleged Victim Suffers Harsh Working Conditions
A common outcome of rejected sexual advances includes placing the victim in disadvantageous positions, especially when work opportunities arise. For example, the victim may complain of unwarranted discrimination that makes them lose out on promotions or bonuses, even when other employees with equal achievements are considered.
Additionally, adverse actions against the alleged victim may also expose them to intense scrutiny during performance review exercises despite their efforts at work. Extreme outcomes include termination of the victim’s work contract, rendering them unemployed. Most termination cases also arise without adequate notice, meaning that the victim is less prepared to move on.
Instances Where Sexual Harassment is Considered a Crime
Having understood the basic premise of sexual harassment, it is important to understand the various actions amounting to criminal accusations. Facing criminal charges would mean that your actions were extreme and put the alleged victim in danger and psychological distress.
The following are common sexual harassment behaviors attracting criminal penalties:
Assault and Battery
Although assault and battery offenses are classified under one category, they encompass different elements of a crime necessary for the prosecution to prevail. As a result, you may be guilty of assault separate from battery depending on the evidence presented against you in court.
On the one hand, assault entails attempting to exert violence or force on a victim as a reaction to a previous trigger. Persons accused of assault may face the charges after using an object aimed at the victim to try and harm them. For example, throwing a stapler at someone but missing is classified as assault, as it demonstrates an intentional attempt at causing harm.
Conversely, battery charges are issued to persons who inflicted actual force or violence to the alleged victim resulting in harm. You should note that battery does not necessarily include extremely violent actions resulting in serious bodily harm.
Due to this, you may face the accusations even where the victim sustained minimal to no injury. Further, actions involving physical contact with the victim, like slapping or kissing the person against their will, are also battery. The elements of crime against you should indicate your violation of personal space, as well as the intention to cause harm.
The offense of rape is among the most serious crimes in the California Penal Code based on the gravity and effects of the act on the victim. Under section 261 of the penal code, an accused person will be found guilty of rape if they had unconsented sexual intercourse with the victim.
Moreover, the prosecutor is keen to identify any threats, force, lies, or fraud used against the victim to put them in a vulnerable position. The perpetrator may lure the victim to an isolated section in the office and force themselves on the abused party at the workplace.
Once the case proceeds for hearing, the prosecutor relies on evidence from various sources to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, the victim’s statements are recorded to narrate the events leading up to the offense. Additional evidential sources like witness testimonies, statements, and recorded footage will also play a significant role for the prosecution team.
Notably, being found guilty of rape attracts harsh penalties like long imprisonment sentences and payment of expensive fines. Further, you will need to register as a sexual offender, which reduces your chances of accessing a better quality of life after your release from jail.
Stalking Persons in the Workplace
On top of this, you may be criminally charged for stalking alleged victims in the workplace and outside the workplace environment. Under section 646.9 of the penal code, the elements of crime associated with stalking include following the person physically or online beyond a reasonable extent.
Persons accused of stalking are also likely to have threatened or harassed the alleged victim, making them face elevated insecurity levels. For example, the stalker may have taken invasive photos of the victim at home and used them to blackmail the person into giving in to their sexual harassment advances.
Online stalking is more prevalent in today’s world, often characterized by breaking cybersecurity laws. Hacking a victim’s account or device to learn their details can also attract stalking charges and result in imprisonment or fine payment.
False Imprisonment of the Victim
Workplace environments can also form safety hazards for victims of sexual harassment because the alleged perpetrator may falsely imprison them. Section 236 of the penal code defines false imprisonment as holding someone against their will and restricting their liberty by unlawful means.
Although false imprisonment is chargeable as a civil offense in some cases, criminal provisions are used more commonly to ensure the offender does not interfere with the victim’s safety in the future. An important aspect of the crime is the lack of consent to detain the victim, meaning that you violate their rights and freedom of movement.
A false imprisonment case involving workplace sexual harassment may involve restraining the victim in an isolated office until they comply with sexual advances. Similarly, the detention may prevent them from leaving the office establishment at the appointed time to try and lure and engage them in sexual misconduct.
Displaying Pornographic Material to the Victim Against their Will
Some offenders may lure persons at the workplace by forcefully displaying pornography using office facilities like computers or laptops. Sometimes, the targeted person may have limited options to escape the advances, as they may be sternly asked to remain in the office as the material plays.
The situation becomes aggravated when the perpetrator displays child pornography, violating harsher regulations. Under section 311 of the penal code, you will be found guilty of an offense related to child pornography if you distribute, copy, share or print the material to anyone. Possessing the material for personal consumption is also a serious offense, so the victim in the situation may report you and have you detained.
Seeking the Services of a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Sometimes, your actions may be misconstrued as attempts to make sexual advances and harassment to other employees at the workplace. This does not necessarily mean you are guilty of the crime, as the criminal trial process must proceed for a final determination.
You can consult your criminal defense attorney to ensure you receive the best guidance on your sexual harassment case. This is because a matter tried as a criminal offense often attracts harsher penalties that may affect your professional life. With an attorney’s help, you significantly increase your chances of receiving a favorable outcome.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
Understanding the difference between sexual harassment as a criminal and civil offense is crucial for any party facing criminal accusations. With the knowledge you obtain, you can prepare for subsequent trial or settlement with the alleged victim, depending on the case circumstances. Therefore, working with a criminal defense attorney is highly advisable as you will receive guidance from an experienced professional. Their input is also pivotal in helping you develop credible defenses for your actions to increase the chances of avoiding a harsh penalty. At Law Office of Sara L. Caplan, we dedicate ourselves to giving the best legal defense services to anyone facing sexual harassment criminal charges in Los Angeles, California. Our team is well equipped to handle cases with varying facts to ensure each client receives personalized assistance. For more information on sexual harassment at the workplace and criminal repercussions, contact us today at 310-550-5877.