Sexual harassment refers to any unwelcome communication or contact that creates a hostile or offensive work environment. This can be verbal or physical, such as unwanted touching or sexual comments.
Sexual harassment can interfere with someone’s ability to perform their job or create an intimidating or offensive work environment.
When harassment escalates beyond a breach of civil or workplace acceptable behavior, then perpetrators may move into criminal behavior and arrestable charges. The crime of harassment is a serious offense that can have profound consequences. Criminal harassment is defined as a pattern of harassing actions against a specific individual. In this article, we’ll discuss sexual harassment in the context of a criminal offense.
Crimes Associated With Sexual Harassment
There are a number of crimes associated with sexual harassment in North Carolina. In our state there isn’t a specific crime called sexual harassment. Rather, behaviors and actions that are harassing with a sexual overtone can qualify as other types of offenses that are a crime. These include:
Types of Sexual Harassment
The definition of sexual harassment, as seen earlier, is in the context of inappropriate workplace behavior. If you engage in workplace misbehavior, this is not a crime but rather a reason for workplace discipline and perhaps discharge from the job. Workplace harassers will often have to resign to avoid being fired. For example, House Representative Scotty Campbell of Tennessee recently resigned when his workplace sexual harassment was revealed. Examples of workplace sexual harassment are:
Quid Pro Quo
The most common type of sexual harassment in the workplace is quid pro quo. It occurs when a person in a position of power, such as a supervisor or manager, requests or demands sexual favors from an employee in exchange for some benefit. This can range from offering promotions, raises, or special privileges to punishments, such as withholding job security, if those favors are not granted.
Hostile Working Environment
Another form of workplace sexual harassment is creating a hostile working environment through unwelcome sexual conduct such as sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, comments of a sexual nature, physical contact of a sexual nature, and other forms of sexual contact.
These actions of an individual make the workplace intimidating, hostile, or offensive for one or more workers by their sexual comments and actions. Creating a hostile workplace environment is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and employers are obligated to take steps to prevent it from occurring in the workplace. Employers must have policies in place that prohibit such behavior and provide training to employees so they understand what constitutes inappropriate conduct. An employee found to be guilty of sexual harassment will likely be fired and could be sued civilly by the victim or victims.
Harassment Can Escalate to Criminal Behavior
But harassment can take many forms, including sexual, and occur outside a workplace. For example, a person can be harassed by racist slurs, homophobic comments, misogynist remarks, and inappropriate comments about a disability. Sexual harassing comments may be ones that discuss things of a sexual nature the speaker would want to do to the victim or comments about body parts like breasts and genitalia. Further touching a person such as rubbing their back or thigh while indicating attraction when it is not welcomed, wanted, or invited is harassment. Imagine a woman riding a bus daily, and some rider creep starting commenting on her breasts
For example Sexual Battery is a crime defined as “the crime of sexual battery may occur if an individual, for sexual pleasure, gratification, or abuse, engages in sexual contact with another individual.” For sexual battery to be a crime, the sexual contact must have been by force or against the will of the other person, or if the person isn’t able to reject the sexual advances because he/she is mentally disabled, mentally incapacitated, or physically helpless.
Being accused of the crime of harassment, sexual battery, forcible sexual offense, or rape is a serious accusation. If accused or charged with a crime of this magnitude, you are likely afraid about what will happen to you if convicted.
Criminal Penalties in North Carolina
Criminal harassment convictions in North Carolina are often the most serious type of misdemeanor in the state called a Class A1 misdemeanor. However, some convictions can be felony convictions.
For example, stalking is a crime in North Carolina and can definitely be harassing behavior. A defendant with prior stalking convictions is guilty of a Class F felony. Stalking also often falls within the domain of domestic violence, another criminal offense. If convicted of a felony offense, the penalty could be up to 12 years in prison and/or fines.
If convicted you have a criminal record which will likely affect your ability to get or keep a job, obtain a loan, be approved for an apartment, and other such effects. You will likely experience difficulties in your personal with relationships and your mental health. Further a conviction can be strong evidence if you are sued civilly for your actions and if found culpable then hefty compensatory damages as well as punitive damages may be awarded which is intended to civilly punish the offender and deter future bad behavior.
Seek Help If Criminally Charged
If you have been accused of any type of criminal harassment or related crimes, it is important to seek legal help from an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Dewey Brinkley is a renowned Raleigh criminal defense lawyer who understands how charges like these can be terrifying and a conviction can be negatively life changing. He understands your rights under the law and will work to defend you rigorously against such accusations. Following his stint as a Wake County Assistant District Attorney and establishing his law office in 2005, he has focused on handling serious felonies, DWI, drug crimes, sex offenses and misdemeanors.
Clearly having an experienced criminal defense lawyer is key to beating allegations of criminal behavior.
Contact a North Carolina Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you or someone you know has been unjustly accused of criminal harassment or other sexual offenses, it is essential to seek the advice of a criminal defense lawyer immediately. As an experienced trial attorney and skilled litigator, Attorney Brinkley can navigate the North Carolina criminal justice system, build a strong defense strategy, and work to help you avoid conviction. Contact the Law Office of Dewey P. Brinkley at (919) 832-0307 or by using the online form for assistance.