Sexual Assault vs. Sexual Harassment

By Gregory Thyberg on September 16, 2021


upset femaleMillions of men and women in the United States have been victims of sexual assault or sexual harassment. While both are forms of sexual misconduct, the definition of these two actions are different, and the legal consequences for each differ as well.

Individuals in the Sacramento, CA, area who have faced unwanted sexual advances may be due compensation for damages, depending on the details of their situation. Here, sexual harassment lawyer Gregory Thyberg explains the differences regarding sexual assault vs. sexual harassment, as well as the legal options that may be available to victims.

What Is Sexual Assault?

Sexual assault refers to any non-consensual sexual act, including those that are performed when the victim lacks the capacity to consent. Common examples of sexual assault include fondling or unwanted sexual touching, forcing a victim to perform sexual acts, and rape or attempted rape. Sexual assault often involves physical or psychological force.

Criminal Charges for Sexual Assault

Sexual assault is a criminal offense, which means that perpetrators face jail or prison time. To report sexual assault, victims should contact their local law enforcement department as soon as possible following the crime. In the state of California, individuals convicted of sexual assault face a determinate sentence of 24, 36, or 48 months, depending on the details of the crime. They may also be charged a $10,000 fine.

Damages for Sexual Assault

All victims of sexual assault deserve to see their attacker punished, but many sexual harassment victims suffer physical, emotional, and financial losses that lead to long-term damages, regardless of whether or not their perpetrator faces legal punishment. It is natural for sexual assault victims to wonder if they can take civil action to seek compensation for these types of losses.

Depending on the details of the assault, it may be possible for victims in the Sacramento area to file a personal injury lawsuit on the grounds of civil assault/battery or intentional infliction of emotional distress. Unfortunately, even if a civil lawsuit is successful, unless the perpetrator has significant personal assets, the victim is unlikely to collect on awarded damages.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment describes unwanted sexual advances or sexual conduct within the workplace. Sexual harassment generally falls under one of two categories: quid pro quo or hostile work environment.

  • Quid pro quo: Quid pro quo sexual harassment describes situations in which employment or employment benefits are offered on condition of a person submitting to or tolerating sexual acts. For example, a superior offers an employee a raise in exchange for sexual favors.
  • Hostile work environment: Hostile work environment sexual harassment describes situations in which there is pattern of harassment that is so pervasive that it creates hostility and discomfort in the workplace. This type of sexual harassment may involve sexual jokes or comments, sharing of sexual material, or unwanted sexual advances. 

Is Sexual Harassment a Crime?

Sexual harassment itself is not a crime. However, it is a violation of employment laws that prohibit harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender. As such, employees who experience sexual harassment should report it to their employer or human resources department as soon as possible. Employers are responsible for:

  • Taking reasonable actions to prevent harassment and/or discrimination
  • Taking immediate action to investigate and/or remedy reported sexual harassment
  • Refraining from retaliating against employees who report sexual harassment

Damages for Sexual Harassment

Sacramento employees who are victims of sexual harassment can work with lawyer Gregory Thyberg to hold their employers liable for losses related to workplace sexual misconduct. Potential damages in a sexual harassment lawsuit include:

  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering; emotional distress
  • Medical expenses for therapy or psychological treatment related to harassment
  • Job search costs
  • Punitive damages

Contact Us

If you have been the victim of unwanted sexual advances or sexual conduct, sexual harassment lawyer Gregory Thyberg can help you explore your legal options regarding financial compensation and/or criminal charges. To discuss the details of your situation, contact our law firm online, or call (916) 204-9173 to schedule a personal consultation.

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