Question: What are the legal rights of victims of workplace sexual assault?
Answer: Victims of workplace assaults including sexual assaults have two main avenues to justice. First, the victim can and should institute criminal proceedings by filing a report with local law enforcement. Second, the victim can pursue justice via the civil courts.
Criminal Justice for Workplace Assaults
Whether the perpetrator is a friend, co-worker or stranger, the victim of a sexual assault that occurs at the workplace should file a report with local law enforcement. Doing so often provides reassurance that the perpetrator will be punished and prevented from committing future attacks and assaults, not only of the specific victim, but others. Perpetrators of sexual violence who go unpunished often repeat the behavior and will often go on to assault others. At a minimum, being investigated by police can be a deterrent to future conduct. In addition, many victims of sexual assault often place blame on themselves and feel ashamed. Reporting the assault often helps victims feel safer and can help victims realize that they were not to blame in any way.
Related: Sex Assault/Abuse at Work, Part 2
Civil Justice for Workplace Assaults
In a workplace assault case, the victim may be eligible for workers’ compensation claims and receive medical treatment and in the case of physical disability, partial wage loss payments. In addition, the victim may be able to file civil tort claims against the perpetrator and others whose actions may have led to the assault. The civil justice system works much differently than the criminal justice system, which punishes the perpetrator with possible jail/prison time, fines, etc. In the civil justice system, a wrongdoer (the defendant) can be ordered to pay a monetary amount to the injured party. Defendants in workplace sexual assault cases often include the following:
- employers, in certain situations,
- franchise companies, and
- security companies.
The key in a successful civil workplace assault case is identifying the parties early on. Waiting too long to identify and add the correct parties may lead to issues with the applicable statute of limitations. That’s why it is crucial to have the case evaluated by a crime victims’ civil rights lawyer.
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