What Are the Rights of Those Accused of Sexual Harassment?
The rights of those accused of sexual harassment are the same as all those accused of a tort – they have the right to air their defense in a fair, impartial, and speedy court of law. If the sexual harassment is aggravated to the point where it becomes a crime such as sexual assault, lewd behavior, stalking, etc., then the suspect will have additional rights afforded to a criminal suspect, such as a right to a jury trial, freedom from self-incrimination, the right to a public defender, and soon.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is a kind of sex discrimination occurring in the workplace as defined by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of1964. Traditionally, sexual harassment could not occur outside of the workplace. However, new laws are finding it in certain relationships of trust, such as one with a doctor, an attorney, a social worker, a real estate agent, a banker, a contractor, an executor, a landlord, a teacher, and so on.
In order to protect the rights of a person accused of sexual harassment, one must understand what sexual harassment is to present a good defense. First of all, sexual harassment cannot occur on the first sexual advance alone. People are free to make their sexual feelings known to another person in any legal way (i.e., free of touching).
However, sexual advances become sexual harassment when they are Òunwelcome.” In the context of criminal law, sexual harassment can become criminal when sexual battery or stalking is committed. Sexual battery is the un-consented sexual touching of another person in a way, which is harmful or offensive. The exact definition of criminal sexual harassment will differ from state to state since criminal law is largely a domain of state law. The basic idea remains the same though.
In the context of employment law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency in charge of enforcing discrimination laws, defines sexual harassment as:
“Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
- Submission to such conduct was made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individuals employment,
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual was used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or
- Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individuals work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.”