Sexual Assault in the Workplace

sexual harassment in the-workplace

Every person has the right to work in a safe environment, no matter what age, sex or race. Sexual assault is a violation of that right and causes victims – who are mostly women – to experience a wide range of overwhelming reactive emotions. These can include a fear of job loss or opportunity, shock, confusion, self-blame and anger. The victim may also feel unsafe and unsure about who to trust or tell.

Unfortunately, sexual assault in today’s workforce is a prevalent problem. In fact, a study of women in the workforce found that 38 percent had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. However, it is a gender-neutral offense that spans economic classes yet is especially common in highly competitive or male-dominated industries, such as entertainment or politics. Actresses and female politicians are notoriously harassed and sexually assaulted by men in power. But lately, men and women alike have chosen to speak out against their abusers.

What is Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is defined as any type of unwelcome request, conduct, or sexual advance that creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. It is a form of sexual discrimination that violates state and federal laws. Victims often feel bullied and can suffer profoundly from emotions that impact their job performance or career options. Unfortunately, when sexual harassment is tolerated by the victim, it often escalates into sexual assault.

Sexual Harassment vs. Sexual Assault

The lines between sexual harassment and sexual assault are not always easily defined. Sexual assault involves unwanted, intentional sexual contact or behavior while using force, intimidation or abuse of authority in any setting. It is a heightened version of sexual harassment that carries a higher level of consequences and falls under strict domestic violence laws in California.

Have You Been Sexually Assaulted in the Workplace?

If you’ve been assaulted in the workplace, it’s imperative that you have appropriate support and legal representation. No one should have to suffer from sexual abuse in their line of work. Many victims today are choosing to expose their perpetrators, much more so than in the past.

Jessica Pride is a leading sexual assault attorney in San Diego committed to stopping sex crimes in the workplace. Please contact us at ​(619) 516-8166 for a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Every conversation with Jessica is protected by an attorney-client privilege and will remain completely confidential.

Types of Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can be implicit (subtle) or explicit, and comes in two forms:

  1. “Quid pro quo,” is a Latin term meaning “this for that.” In the workplace, this type of sexual harassment happens when conditions are placed on a person’s career or terms of employment in exchange for demanded favors. It includes threats of adverse action if the person doesn’t comply with the conditions, and sometimes promises favorable actions if the person does.
  2. “Hostile work environment,” occurs when a person is subjected to offensive, unwanted and unsolicited comments or conduct of a sexual nature. It brings the topic of sex or gender into the workplace in any number of forms and generally includes nonviolent, gender-biased sexual behaviors.

Types of Workplace Sexual Assault

Sexual harassment can occur with and without sexual contact, including when a coworker or boss:

  1. “Forces him or herself onto you without consent,” involving sexual contact of any nature.
  2. “Penetrates without consent” of any part of the victim’s body, whether vaginal, anal or oral.
  3. “Sexually coerces” the victim by guilting, obligating, threatening or manipulating him or her into sexual activity.
  4. “Exposes him or herself” with the intent to gratify self or offend the victim. Federal law does not consider this sexual assault, however it is a crime in California under the Indecent Exposure Law.
  5. “Masturbates in front of another when it is not welcome,” similar to the Indecent Exposure Law where the victim is forced to witness unwanted exposure.
  6. “Uses drugs or other substances to impair” a victim to compromise his or her ability to consent to sexual activity.

Sexual Assault’s Impact in the Workplace

Sexual assault not only impacts the victim, but also those around it by:

  • Creating an oppressive work environment
  • Forcing victims and workers to keep quiet out of fear
  • Distracting from productivity
  • Effecting team morale and attendance

Examples of Sexual Misconduct in the Workplace

Sexual misconduct in the workplace can happen in any environment, including on and off work premises. It involves any type of requests, advances, slurs, jokes, name calling, crude remarks, or innuendos of sexual nature that a reasonable person would find inappropriate in the workplace. If sexual contact intensifies to where it is forced or coerced it becomes sexual assault.

woman being harassed

Examples of workplace sexual harassment may be when a coworker or boss:

  • Demands sexual favors of any kind in return for a pay raise
  • Repeatedly asks a worker out, even though he or she is told “no”
  • Belittles a worker with sexist or demeaning terms or comments about clothing or appearance
  • Sends emails to workers that contain sexually explicit language, images or jokes
  • Threatens an resistant employee with termination, deportation, a poor job evaluation
  • Touches, rubs or caresses a worker when it isn’t welcome

Examples of workplace sexual assault may occur when a coworker or boss:

  • Forces himself on another without consent
  • Exposes himself or masturbates in front of another when it isn’t welcome
  • Places a drug in another person’s drink so he can take advantage of him or her

Sexual Harassment in the Military

Serving in the U.S. military is an honorable act for both males and females. Unfortunately, it has become one of the most scrutinized work environments today due to escalating reports of sexual harassment and assault. On the one hand, this means that victims are coming forward; on the other, it means the abuse is still a common occurrence.

Statistics show that 14,900 service members experienced some kind of sexual assault in 2016. One in four women, and one in three men were assaulted by someone in their chain of command. Even more disturbing is that 58 percent of victims in the military experienced reprisals or retaliation for reporting the incidences. Also, one in four survivors of sexual harassment or assault took steps to leave the military as a result.

 75% of employees who spoke out against workplace mistreatment faced some sort of retaliation.


The Employer’s Legal Obligation

According to California and federal laws, employers in all settings have the responsibility to ensure their workplace is free of sexual misconduct and assault at all times. If the employer knows or should have known that sexual harassment and/or assault is occurring but does not take steps to prevent or stop it, the company (or military) can be held liable.

In California, employers must provide a safe work environment for all employees or those affiliated with the business by:

  • Requiring two hours of interactive sexual harassment training every two years if the company has at least 50 employees
  • Fully investigating all complaints and bearing the costs of at-fault litigation
  • Ensuring that employees, managers and supervisors have a clear understanding of the sexual harassment training, policy and review
  • Having a safe grievance system to allow employees to come forward
  • Telling employees that neither sexual harassment nor assault are tolerated and wrongdoers will be disciplined
  • Stating to employees that retaliation against the person who filed a complaint is not tolerated

In fact, a study by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found that “75% of employees who spoke out against workplace mistreatment faced some sort of retaliation.”

Too Afraid to Report Assault? It’s Your Right to Take Action

If you’ve been sexually assaulted in the workplace, your mental, emotional or physical capacities may have been violated. When this happens, it’s not uncommon to feel uncertain about what to do, especially when your job and livelihood could be at stake.

Individuals who have been sexually assaulted in the workplace may fear:

  • Coming forward by reporting the incidence(s) to a manager or human resources department
  • Retaliation if they tell, which is quite common when the perpetrator is a manager, supervisor, or other person in power
  • Facing disbelief about what happened, how it happened and being accused of instigating it
  • Being labeled and ostracized from teams, groups, other coworkers if they find out
  • Jeopardizing their career advancement or employment

How to Stop and Report Sexual Assault

stop sexual harassment


  1. Contact law enforcement and file a police report
  2. Use your employer’s reporting system to report the assault
  3. Document the event details including the date, time, place, behavior, who did it, how it was addressed and the perpetrator’s response
  4. Do not apologize to your abuser or make excuses
  5. If you are afraid for your job or safety, report it immediately to management or human resources and contact a sexual assault attorney
  6. Contact U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to file a complaint

If You’ve Been Assaulted in the Workplace, Jessica Pride Can Help

At Pride Law Firm, we are more than just professionals; we are a trusted network of resources for victims and survivors of sexual abuse. Not only will we listen to your story, we can help you understand your legal rights and advise you about how to move forward. Whether you’re an employee, contractor, or in the military workforce, you always have a right to a safe environment and to take action against your abuser.

An experienced sexual assault attorney can help you file a claim and represent you in any potential legal proceedings that arise as a result. We can help protect your job, collect damages and recover any wages or benefits you’ve lost. It’s normal and okay to have questions; we can help give you answers.

Sexual assault is not your fault, no matter what you were wearing when it occurred. We will protect your identity, prevent workplace retaliation and help you move on with your life and career.

Call Jessica Pride to Find Out More About Your Rights

If you are ready to talk about your situation, we are ready to help. Contact Jessica Pride at ​(619) 516-8166 to learn about how we can take action against the person who assaulted you, retaliated against you, or failed to protect you in the workplace. All consultations are free, private and without obligation. We offer trusted legal advice and support anonymously.

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If you’ve been the victim of sexual assault, Jessica Pride wants to help you once again become the strong person you are. No man or woman deserves to be victimized in such a way.

The Pride Law Firm
2831 Camino Del Rio S., Suite 104
San Diego, CA 92108

1900 Powell St., Suite 6022
Emeryville, CA 94608

Hours. M-F 6:00am - 10:00pm PST

Phone. ​(619) 516-8166

Fax. (619) 785-3414

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