Sexual assault and sexual harassment: do you know the difference?

An image of a Justice statue with law books in the background

Once again, the #MeToo movement is in the spotlight with the allegations surrounding Brett Kavanaugh, nominee to the United States Supreme Court. The allegations against Justice Kavanaugh encompass claims of attempted sexual assault and sexual harassment with respect to more than one accuser.

It is important to understand the difference between these two legal concepts. Sexual assault involves unwanted sexual contact with an individual. It is a criminal offense, up to and including life in prison. Sexual Harassment, on the other hand, is civil in nature and encompasses speech and conduct (teasing, jokes, exposure to sexual material) and does not necessarily involve any physical contact.

Claims of Sexual Assault are, in many ways, easier to prosecute as they involve divisions of law enforcement working together to investigate the matter and longer statute of limitations periods to allow accusers to bring claims. Sexual harassment claims need to be timely filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If they decide not to keep the case, the plaintiff/victim has to bring a discrimination case in Federal Court within a mere ninety (90) days. That is not a long time to file a claim when you consider that you have four (4) years to bring a personal injury action (car accident cases, for example).

The rights of the accuser must, of course, be balanced against the ability for the accused to have these claims investigated, and handled in a fair manner. There are many things that an employer can do to ensure that they have practices and procedures in place to afford a fair determination of the matter “in house.” It is not financially burdensome to implement safeguards to protect both the accuser and the accused and is considerably cheaper than having to deal with lawsuits down the road.

At Schwam-Wilcox and Associates we have attorneys with considerable experience representing sexual assault and sexual harassment claims on behalf of the employer and employee, let us help you evaluate your claim and assist in making the correct legal decision on how to proceed.

Contact us today to meet with an experienced attorney.

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