Sexual Assault In The Workplace
Sexual assault in the workplace is a traumatic life event that should never happen to anyone. But it does. If you are sexually assaulted at work, Halunen Law has the experience to help you survive that life event and get justice. You do not have to suffer in silence, and you have the right to protect yourself and your job while holding your aggressor accountable.
Halunen Law attorneys have advised and represented many employees who have been the victims of workplace sexual assault. Some reported what happened immediately; some did not. We understand that the trauma of sexual assault affects each individual differently and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to react to a work-related sexual assault. We also know that getting support can make a significant difference in how a person gets through the trauma. Halunen Law employment attorneys are skilled and experienced in understanding what you are facing and can be your advocate in challenging workplace-related sexual crimes.
What Constitutes Sexual Assault In The Workplace?
Sexual assault is a form of sexual harassment and violates a person’s right to work in an environment that is safe and free of any unwanted sexual contact.
Sexual assault can take many forms. We have advised and represented many employees struggling with sexual assault matters including:
- Nonconsensual sexual contact
- Unwanted sexual advances or touching
- Lewd exhibition of genitals
- Intentional removal or attempted removal of clothing
Every state has its own definition of assault and rape. In Minnesota “criminal sexual conduct” ranges from removing clothing with sexual intent to touching or groping, even over clothing, to non-consensual penetration.
While many people are familiar with sexual assault perpetrated by male bosses against female subordinates, sexual assault can occur between all combinations of gender — male on female, male on male, female on male or female on female — and it can happen between colleagues and co-workers in all types of relationships.
Another type of sexual assault may occur in what we call quid pro quo harassment – meaning that offers of promotion or favorable treatment are conditioned on sexual acts.
What About Out-Off-Office Conduct?
Sexual assault is not limited to the actual workplace. Besides your workplace, Sexual assault can occur in other environments. Employees are also vulnerable during work-related events. In fact, an employee may be at a higher risk when with coworkers and managers outside the main work environment. This includes settings such as:
- Business trips
- During travel
- Employer-sponsored events
The lack of monitoring, potentially casual environment, types of activities (e.g. drinking), and easier access to victims combine to make these common times for sexual assaults to occur. While technically not “in the workplace,” sexual assault in these contexts still may fall under the auspices of workplace and employment law, and we encourage you to seek the support and advocacy of an employment lawyer if this has happened to you.
How Am I Protected?
Minnesota state and federal laws protect employees against sexual harassment, which includes sexual assault and related wrongful termination or retaliation. If you’ve been sexually assaulted in the workplace, it’s important to understand what rights you have, making it particularly important to contact a sexual assault lawyer.
If you are in a position to report sexual assault in a work-related context, our experienced employment law attorneys can help you navigate the process with the best chance of avoiding negative consequences.
What If My Employer Retaliates Against Me?
It is difficult to predict how an employer will respond to a reported sexual assault. Employees who experience sexual assault in the workplace may find their reports are ignored or discounted. They may find themselves a target for retaliation and wrongful termination. Clearly, all you want to do is stop the conduct and be allowed to do your work without fear.
Regrettably, it is not uncommon in these situations, particularly if the perpetrator of the assault is in a high-level position, to experience retaliation for making a report and even termination. However, retaliation or termination under these circumstances likely puts the employer in direct violation of state and federal laws that protect against not only sexual misconduct but wrongful termination. Whistleblower protections may also be available.
Halunen Law Will Fight For You.
Sexual assault is a traumatic experience that has a tremendous emotional and physical toll on victims. Many people who experience sexual assault may feel angry or disgusted, but they may also feel alone, afraid, and anxious about the situation. Halunen Law employment attorneys are skilled and experienced in understanding what you are facing and can be your advocate in challenging workplace-related sexual crimes. Regardless of what you’re dealing with, we will listen to you, and we can fight for your rights when they have been violated.
The First Step.
Call Halunen law at 612-605-3098. During a free, confidential consultation, we can help you figure out if you have grounds to pursue legal action against an employer, or whether to deal with the problem in a different way.
Case Example Involving Sexual Harassment
A female client worked for a small company and developed a friendly relationship with her supervisor. Soon after, the supervisor started grooming the client, texting her regularly, and sending her gifts. The client wanted to maintain a friendly relationship but did not want to get on the supervisor’s wrong side. One evening after a work-related dinner, the supervisor sexually groped the client. The client disclosed the incident to HR, who offered the client a separation and severance agreement. In working with Halunen Law, a six-figure settlement was reached without having to file a lawsuit or go to court.