Sexual Assault in the Workplace
A victim of sexual assault that occurred at a workplace may be able to file a third party claim against his or her employer. Depending on the circumstances, several different types of claims may be available. For example, the employer may be liable for negligently maintaining the premises or for creating unsafe or dangerous conditions, such as through inadequate lighting or poorly maintaining locks or security systems. Also, the employer may be liable for creating or permitting a hostile work environment by not controlling the actions of the victim’s superiors or co-workers. Hostile work environment harassment generally exists if unwelcome sexual conduct in the workplace unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive employment environment. Several other factual scenarios may create liability on the employer’s part, such as “quid pro quo harassment,” in which an employee must either accede to sexual demands or forfeit job benefits, lose perks, or otherwise be subject to less favorable working conditions. If you or someone close to you suffered workplace sexual assault, an experienced attorney can help you determine how to proceed.
Liability for Employees’ Acts
An employer may be held liable for the acts of its employees, and, under some circumstances, even a single extremely traumatic incident, such as a rape or a violent sexual assault, may create a hostile environment. Sexual harassment in the workplace may also include behaviors less serious than sexual assault, such as telling sexually offensive jokes, questioning or commenting on someone’s sexuality, displaying sexually explicit pictures, spreading sexual rumors, making comments about someone’s clothing or body, repeatedly propositioning someone after a refusal, standing near or rubbing against a person, making suggestive gestures or noises, or extorting sexual cooperation. Although in some cases, an employer may be liable for sexual harassment by a supervisor it employs even if the employer has no knowledge of the harassment, employers generally are liable for a hostile work environment only if they knew or should have known about the harassment. Many state laws focus on whether the sexual assault occurred during the scope of the assailant’s employment, and many courts question an employer’s liability if the injuries occur off the work-site or after hours. While an employer that has allowed inappropriate or offensive behavior to occur or has been negligent in hiring has faced potential liability for many years, now even an employer that attempts to implement policies and procedures to prevent liability may be liable for damages in some cases.
Consequences of a Workplace Assault
For a victim who was assaulted by a co-worker or a supervisor, the consequences of the crime can be severe. The victim may no longer feel physically safe at work. He or she may fear retaliation by the employer or the assailant if he or she reports the assault. As a result, the victim may quit his or her job or experience attendance problems. If you have been assaulted at your workplace, your safety at work is a major concern, and you must contact a law firm experienced in workplace sexual assault as soon as possible to get the protection you need. An expert attorney can help you plan for your safety with your employer, and, if necessary, obtain a restraining order that applies to your workplace.
If the assault was caused or encouraged by a hostile work environment or has resulted in a hostile environment, your employer must cooperate in fixing the situation. Possible remedies may include removing the perpetrator from your workplace or even firing him or her. An experienced attorney can help you work with your employer to create a safe atmosphere for you at your job.
If you were assaulted at work or during your job, you may have several avenues for obtaining compensation. State victim’s funds may provide assistance, and you may bring a claim in court against either the perpetrator or your employer. Under certain circumstances, you may also be able to receive compensation for your injuries, medical bills, and lost wages through Workers’ Compensation Insurance. An attorney experienced in sexual assault cases in the workplace will be able to help you sort through the many options and choose the one that’s best for you.
DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.