is sexual harassment a crime

Is Sexual Harassment a Crime?

  • On behalf of Mike G Law posted in on Thursday, October 10, 2019

With #metoo remaining a force in the workplace, many individuals have begun to wonder whether sexual harassment itself is a crime. Can you go to jail for sexual harassment?

When thinking about it in this context, it’s important to first define what sexual harassment is. Is paying a compliment to a member of the opposite sex sexual harassment? What about giving a hug to a coworker?

In most cases, and this is quite unfortunate, what is considered to be sexual harassment depends on the context.

What Constitutes Sexual Harassment in Florida?

At its most basic, sexual harassment is all about behaviors that are “unwanted.” This includes unwanted touching and comments. Often, sexual harassment is seen as something that men do to women, however, that’s not always the case. A harasser can be of either sex and harass someone of either sex.

The US Equal Opportunity Employment Commission defines sexual harassment as:

“Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”

While sexual harassment can happen anywhere, there is little legal recourse for sexual harassment on the street.

Can You Be Charged with a Crime for Sexually Harassing Someone?

Sexual harassment is generally a civil matter, unless it moves beyond sexual harassment. Sexual harassment claims tend to center around the workplace, though harassment can occur outside of work, like at school.

Often, workplaces have protocols in place to investigate sexual harassment claims. Employees are expected to follow those protocols to report any issues. Sometimes, though, victims may feel that these investigations do not do enough to change the culture of the workplace. They then turn to the civil justice system in order to enact change or make a claim of distress and suffering. This can involve suing an alleged sexual harasser or an employer. Again, this is not part of the criminal justice system and there are no criminal charges. Only when sexual harassment becomes something more can it be considered a crime.

If you or your business is sued due to a sexual harassment claim, at most, you are facing financial penalties. This can be detrimental, of course, but at least it is not jail time.

Beyond Sexual Harassment

If sexual harassment has intensified or evolved to specific actions like those listed below, it will be considered a crime in the state of Florida. Again, the harassment itself won’t be considered a crime, however, it will likely be used against you to show a pattern of inappropriate behavior.

If you are charged with any of the following crimes or think that you may be, it’s crucial that you speak with a defense attorney. Even if you have not been charged, speaking with a lawyer can help head off unwarranted charges and help ensure that your rights are protected during an investigation.

Sexual Battery

Also known as rape, sexual battery is a serious charge that can carry a long sentence depending on mitigating factors. In addition to possible prison time, an individual convicted of sexual battery will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

Sexual battery charges vary depending on a variety of conditions, including whether a weapon is present or violence is threatened or used and the age of the victim. For more information, see our page on Sexual Battery.

Stalking and Cyberstalking

Stalking in Florida is defined as the repeated following or harassing of another individual. While it does not have to be sexual in nature, it can be seen as an escalation of sexual harassment. The penalties for stalking depend on whether a threat has been made and whether there is an injunction against the accused. If no threats have been made, the victim is over 16, and there is not an injunction in place, then stalking is a misdemeanor. If any of those three criteria are present, however, stalking is considered a felony.

Cyberstalking involves the continued unwanted online communications with another individual and can include attempting to access their online accounts without their authorization. Under this statute (784), ongoing online sexual harassment could be prosecuted as a crime. It carries the same penalties and mitigating factors as stalking. Like stalking, cyberstalking does not have to be sexual in nature, though it could be seen as an escalation of sexual harassment.

Sexual Cyberharassment

Sexual cyberharassment is also known as revenge porn. Posting sexually explicit images or videos you’ve received from an individual with any identifying information is against the law. While the images may have been willingly shared during the course of a relationship, their use and distribution without the subject’s consent is considered illegal. Visit our page on Sexual Cyberharassment to learn more.

Can Deep Fakes Be Considered Sexual Cyberharassment?

“Deep fakes” are doctored videos purporting to show an individual doing something that they have not actually done. While many deep fakes are innocent in nature, showing someone doing a silly dance move, for instance, others can be seen as more malicious and even sexually exploitative.

As of writing, there are few laws legislating deep fakes. While it is possible that the creation of deep fakes made to look like revenge porn may be charged under sexual cyberharassment, it would be a precedent-setting case with many ways to defend against it, especially since the supposed victim wouldn’t actually be in the image or video.

Accused of a Crime? Contact Mike G Law

If you’re being accused of sexual harassment or a related crime, a Tampa defense attorney can help you protect your rights. As a former sex crimes prosecutor, Mike G has special insight into the ways that sex crimes are handled by both the state and federal law enforcement. His years of service can work to your benefit, ensuring that your defense is top-notch.

Don’t let a sex crime ruin your life. Hire Mike G Law and protect your future.

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