With sexual assault and sexual harassment cases dominating the headlines, it's important to lay out the difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace. Though the two can be found in the same instance as sexual harassment can lead to assault, there are major differences in how they are handled.
Laws prohibiting sexual harassment in the workplace can be found at both the state and federal level. Sexual harassment includes verbal abuse, unwelcomed sexual advances, and requests for sexual favors. Both men and women can be subject to sexual harassment. Though some employees or supervisors might like to tease or joke around, these actions become illegal when they create a hostile work environment or when they result in the victim being demoted or fired. It's important to note that sexual harassment is illegal only in the workplace.
Sexual assault is a criminal offense that is illegal in or out of the workplace. Sexual assault involves physical touching and sexual acts performed without the victim's consent. Sometimes sexual harassment in the workplace will continue to a point where the aggressor crosses the line into assault with the victim.
The important thing to note is that sexual harassment has a different filing process than sexual assault as well as a different statute of limitations. A sexual harassment claim must be filed at the Connecticut state level with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities ("CHRO") within 180 days of the incident. A case can also be filed at the federal level with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") within 300 days, but the CHRO offers a quicker and more comprehensive process. After filing, a civil suit can be pursued in court.
Sexual assault has a longer statute of limitations and is a criminal procedure, though a victim can also file civil damages as well.
If you've been a victim of sexual harassment or assault in the workplace, don't be afraid to call Employee Advocates, LLC for help. Sexual harassment victims have less time to file their case, so it's important to call us for help as soon as possible.