Both men and women have the right to feel safe at work. Unfortunately, over 15,000 people were victims of rape or sexual assault at work each year between 2002 and 2011, according to reports from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Sexual assaults can cause trauma and lifelong physical, financial, and emotional damage.
If you or a loved one was sexually assaulted at work, you have rights, legal options, and someone to turn to. For help holding the person responsible, give a workplace sexual assault lawyer in Charlotte at Gibbons Leis, PLLC a call: 704-612-0038.
While sexual assault is a violent crime, it is also a type of sex-based discrimination.
Sex discrimination occurs when an employer or coworker treats a job applicant or employee unfairly due to his or her sex. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, there are two main types of sex discrimination.
- Discrimination due to gender identity
- Discrimination due to sexual orientation
Sex-based discrimination is illegal; if you were sexually assaulted at work, you may be able to hold the assaulter and your employer liable.
Liability for Sexual Assault in the Workplace
Victims of sexual assaults can hold those who commit acts of sexual violence in the workplace criminally and civilly liable. Victims of sexual assault may also be able to file civil lawsuits against the company or employer.
An employee who sexually assaults someone at work may face sexual assault charges. Under North Carolina G.S § 14-7A, sexual offenses include:
- Engaging in sexual intercourse or a sexual act with another person against his or her will and either injuring that person, possessing a deadly weapon during the assault, or receiving assistance from one or more persons to commit the assault; or
- Engaging in sexual intercourse or a sexual act with a person who lacks the mental or physical capacity to consent.
The consequences the attacker may face depend on the type and severity of the assault.
Personal Injury Claim Against Assailant
In addition to criminal liability, the assailant may also face civil liability. The victim of the assault may file a personal injury suit against the assailant for damages. To prove this claim, the plaintiff (victim) will have to prove that:
- The defendant (attacker) assaulted him or her.
- He or she sustained physical or emotional injury from the assault.
- The defendant caused the injuries
Lawsuit Against Employer
Employees who have been sexually assaulted in the workplace may be able to file a negligence claim against their employer. To establish employer negligence in a sexual assault case, victims will need to show:
- Employer failed to provide a safe environment: The law requires employers to provide employees with a safe working environment.
- Employer failed to respond properly: When an employee files a sexual harassment complaint, the employer must take immediate action to ensure that the harassment does not turn into assault. If the employer fails to take appropriate action, the employee can hold the employer liable for a hostile, unsafe work environment.
- Employer retaliation: Employer retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an employee for filing a sexual assault complaint. Title VII prohibits this behavior.
Types of Employer Negligence in Workplace Sexual Assault Cases
Some other common examples of employer negligence in sexual assault cases include:
Negligent Hiring and Retention
Employers have a duty of care to thoroughly vet potential employees. Employers must conduct background checks to avoid hiring an employee that may pose a threat to others. Failure to do so may constitute negligent hiring.
Once they have hired an employee, employers must continue to monitor the employee’s conduct. If an employer learns that the employee is a danger to others in the workplace, it is the employer’s duty to remedy the situation by firing, retraining, or reassigning them. If he or she fails to take corrective action, victims can hold the employer liable for negligent retention.
Employers are responsible for supervising their employees and making sure that they are adhering to workplace standards and policies. Failure to monitor an employee’s actions can constitute negligent supervision.
The law requires employers to adequately train their employees. Failure to use reasonable care to train them can make the employer liable for an employee’s actions.
What can I do if I have been sexually assaulted at work?
Victims of sexual assault often undergo a great deal of physical, mental, and financial turmoil. However, you have options available:
File a Claim with EEOC
If you are the victim of a sexual assault at work, we can help you file a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You have 180 days from the date of the incident to file the complaint. You must file a complaint with the EEOC before you can file a lawsuit.
File a Lawsuit
Once we receive the “right to sue” letter from the EEOC, we can file a lawsuit against your employer and others who played a role in your assault. Gibbons Leis, PLLC can manage your case for you, as well as handle correspondence with state or federal agencies. We will also review all relevant records and speak to witnesses and co-workers regarding your situation.
Recovering Compensation after a Workplace Sexual Assault
If you were sexually assaulted at your workplace, you may have suffered a number of injuries. The emotional trauma as well as the physical injury may have kept you out of work.
With bills piling up, filing a lawsuit may be the best — or only — way for you to recover damages to take care of some of your expenses. You may receive the following damages.
Back Pay: If you lost your job or had to quit due to the assault, you may recover back pay. Back pay will cover any wages, bonuses, or benefits you lost because of your employer’s wrongful actions. You will be able to collect two years of back pay from the filing of the lawsuit.
Front Pay: Front pay covers wage loss you will likely suffer in the future as a result of the assault. Reinstatement to your former position after a sexual assault may not be a practical option. Courts will consider these factors to determine how much front pay to award you:
- How long you would have stayed in your position if there was no assault
- How much time you may need to find a similar job
Compensatory Damages: These damages will cover any emotional distress, medical costs, and other expenses.
Punitive Damages: The courts may award punitive damages to punish the employer if he or she was aware of the situation but did nothing about it.
No one should ever have to be the victim of a sexual assault, in the workplace or anywhere else. Call the attorneys at Gibbons Leis, PLLC to see how we can help protect you and your legal rights.
Schedule a free consultation today: 704-612-0038.