Sexual Harassment Vs Sexual Assault

Sexual Harassment Vs. Sexual Assault

Defining Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual assault is any nonconsensual sexual act prohibited by Federal, State, or tribal law. Even though sexual assault is considered a criminal offense, the law also considers  sexual harassment as a type of employment discrimination. 

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) indicates several behaviors that may create an unwelcome sexual environment including:

  • Asking for sexual favors.
  • Verbal harassment of a sexual nature.
  • Nonverbal harassment of a sexual nature. 

These types of behaviors will unfortunately foster a negative impact on employees in the work environment because they:

  • Explicitly or implicity affect an individual’s terms and conditions of employment.
  • Interfere with an individual’s work performance.
  • Create an uncomfortable, intimidating, or hostile work environment.

To meet the standard for initiating legal action, these sexually charged behaviors must be either severe or pervasive enough, while also adversely affecting an individual’s working conditions. 

Defining Sexual Assault in the Workplace

Sexual assault is any type of sexual contact or behavior that is performed without the consent of the victim. Forms of sexual assault include:

  • Unwanted sexual touching.
  • Rape attempts. 
  • Forcing the victim to perform sexual acts.
  • Penetrating the victim’s body with objects.

Additional actions that fall under sexual assault are verbal, visual, or non-contact activities, such as:

  • Peeping.
  • Sexual harassments or threats.
  • Forcing someone to pose for sexual pictures.
  • Sending unwanted, inappropriate texts of sexual photos or messages.

It is common for a perpetrator to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they are sexually assaulting someone. Date rape drugs have been used to trap victims, along with pressuring them to drink more acohol, as well. 

If an individual is drunk, drugged, or high on drugs, it is not possible for them to give consent. If any sexual acts are performed on a victim without their consent, it is considered sexual assault.

How Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Affect Victims

Sexual harassment affects an individual’s mental and physical health and also limits opportunities for being promoted and receiving more compensation. 

  • Mental and Physical Health. Many victims who endure sexual harassment experience severe symptoms that may lead to depression. One in ten women who suffer these type of sexual acts will develop severe symptoms that relate to PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Sexual harassment has the power to create a negative impact on an individual’s overall psychological health and worklife. If sexual harassment or assault are repeatedly inflicted on an individual, long-term mental and physical health damage is likely to occur. Some common symptoms that victims experience are severe anxiety, drug or alcohol addiction, eating disorders, sexually transmitted infections, unplanned pregnancy, and self-injury.
  • Opportunities for Being Promoted. Individuals may give up on opportunities or step down from their job position to avoid contact with the attacker. If the harassment is severe enough that it affects their work environment, then individuals won’t be able to focus on getting work done. This added stress can easily result in losing chances for promotions or advancement. 
  • Compensation. Along with missed opportunities for job advancement, individuals may also become unemployed. Being unemployed sets them back from making any money. Harassment and assault have a financial impact, even if individuals find another soon after quitting. In some instances, individuals will leave their job field entirely to avoid any future encounters with similar people in their work environment. Finally, if the victim was in a higher-paying position, they will experience a huge loss in wages compared to those who are in lower-paying positions. 

Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault Affecting Companies

If companies aren’t quick to resolve sexual harassment or assault, it can create a negative impact on their overall company performance. 

  • Legal costs.
  • Employee turnover. It is more common for employees who are experiencing harassment or assault to leave a job compared to those that are not experiencing this behavior. This can contribute to higher economic costs. Replacing employees creates financial problems since it can be very expensive in the long run to constantly hire and train new staff members. 
  • Noticeable increase in absences. Targeted individuals tend to take at least two weeks off work compared to those that are non-targets. Also, about one in six employees who are harassed or assaulted are more likely to take sick or annual leave after their situation becomes problematic. The victims’ moods and personalities will drastically change as well. Signs of low job satisfaction and withdrawal will become noticeable and may resulting in poor productivity.


Preventing sexual harassment in the workplace is the most ideal approach for everyone within an organization to participate in. If you are an employer, take the initiative of following up with employees and observe the work environment to ensure that these activities are not occurring. 

If you are an employee, take notes and document your experience in the workplace. Providing evidence or proof of the situation will give you a higher chance of putting the attacker in their place. 

What Can West Coast Employment Lawyers Do For You?

If you have made up your mind to take action, it is important to work with an attorney that specializes in cases like yours. The sexual harassment lawyers at West Coast Employment Lawyers have extensive experience handling sexual harassment cases. We will work tirelessly to gather the facts, find and interview eyewitnesses, hire experts, and fight for your rights.

We work on a contingency basis, which means we only get attorney’s fees if we are able to recover for you. Our legal team is available 24/7 and will take care of your case from start to finish. For a free no-obligation consultation with a sexual harassment attorney in California, contact our office at 213) 927-3700.

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