For most working adults, the typical work shift is eight to ten hours long, sometimes even 12. When working so many hours, it is only logical that the workplace becomes a second home. Just because it feels like home doesn’t make it any safer. Statistics show that approximately 58% of women experience sexual harassment or assault while they are at work.
Sexual assault in the workplace is defined as any type of physical behavior that occurs between two adults without consent from both of the parties involved. Sexual assault includes acts of rape, fondling, and inappropriate touching.
In allegations that range from suggestive comments, lewd behavior, sexual assault, and rape, a notable sexual assault case is Harvey Weinstein. Since 2017, over 80 women have accused him of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape. Many of these women worked for Weinstein in some capacity at the time of the incidents.
As of right now, Weinstein has only been found guilty of two counts of sexual assault. Why did it take so long for his behaviors to be punished?
As a producer, Weinstein held a position of power. He felt he could do what he wanted when he wanted and wasn’t accountable for any of it. Quinton Tarintino even admitted knowing how Weinstein was and was ashamed he didn’t stop him. The accusations are reminiscent of a cascade type effect. As water fills up something, there comes the point where no more can fit. Once that first drop comes out of the glass, the rest tends to follow.
The same type of philosophy applies in sexual assault cases. All it takes is the first person to come forward to stand up to their accuser, and the others tend to fall in line behind them. Many times the victims of these crimes feel ashamed or that they are to blame for what happened, which is not the case at all.
What To Do If You Were Sexually Assaulted in the Workplace
If you believe that you have been sexually assaulted, as a victim, you need to worry about taking care of yourself first. You need to make sure you can remove yourself from the situation safely, and once you do, you need to begin the process of seeking justice.
- Seek medical evaluation – The survivors of sexual assault may require medical attention, especially in cases where rape is involved. Medical professionals should check to see if the victim of the assault has suffered internal injuries, sexually transmitted diseases, internal bleeding, or any other emotional trauma. If rape is suspected or the victim admits it, a rape kit should be done to collect the evidence.
- Contact the police – If a victim seeks medical attention, the medical personnel is likely to call the police for them. This is especially true if a rape kit is completed due to the need for a police report if pursuing charges.
- Notify employers – When sexual assault happens in the workplace, the managers and human resources must be notified. There may be specific forms that will require your account of what happened. Filing the incident report may prevent someone else from going through what you are going through.
- Find a support system – There is an importance to finding a support system during this time, even if you cannot see it at first. Waves of emotions hit survivors of sexual assault. They may encounter PTSD or have panic attacks that they cannot explain. Aligning with other survivors can help make the process go a little easier.
- Seek professional mental health – When it comes to the mental health of a sexual assault survivor, professional help should be sought out. While support systems can do so much, being evaluated to understand the depth of the damage caused by the assault might be necessary for lawyers who take your case.
- Hire a lawyer – The lawyer that you choose should offer a specialty in the type of case you are presenting them with. An inexperienced lawyer is not going to be able to drive settlement amounts up or fight to get you compensated for the damages done through the sexual assault.
Fear of Retaliation in the Workplace
One of the biggest reasons that sexual assault and sexual harassment go unreported in the workplace is the fear of retaliation. Retaliation occurs when an employer, employment agency, or labor organization takes adverse action against an employee for essentially doing the right thing. Retaliation for reporting sexual assault, harassment, or any other serious problems is illegal. Still, many employees are fired as a result of trying to be compliant with rules.
The United States Equal Opportunity Commission sued Konos, Inc., a Michigan-based egg producer, for sexual harassment, culminating in the sexual assault of a female employee and their retaliation when she reported it. According to the lawsuit, the female employee had been repeatedly harassed with sexual advances by a male supervisor at the company. These ultimately led up to the woman being sexually assaulted.
When the employee reported the behavior, instead of addressing the situation, Konos sent her home. A part of being compliant with the law requires following up on accusations and taking remedial measures to ensure the safety of the employees.
Why Employers are More Likely To Settle
A common trend among cases involving sexual assault and harassment are settlements. Employers who are a part of a lawsuit between a manager and a subordinate are more likely to settle because it is a cheaper tactic than going to trial. People often call the money paid in these types of settlements “hush money.”
Most of the settlements that come from employers and companies are accompanied by a non-disclosure agreement. A non-disclosure agreement is a legally binding form that, once signed, binds you from bringing the charges up against the accuser and the company again. Many non-disclosure agreements also require that those who are a part of it cannot discuss the matter with anyone.
Some advocates for the sexually assaulted would like to see non-disclosure agreements taken off the table, but the truth is that the payments wouldn’t be as high in a settlement. With the non-disclosure agreement comes the extra money for the victim to “keep quiet.”
The employer or company also remains untarnished in the settlement process. Part of the settlement is often a clause where they are not required to admit any guilt in the accusation. This action by the company falls in line with the assumption that most of the employers take the side of the accused and not the accuser.
Settlement amounts often depend on the offense and the person who committed it. It is not clear once a settlement goes through if the perpetrator is punished by the workplace. However, many of these perpetrators still hold their same positions, even after the settlement is over.
In 2008, Ashley Alford sued Aaron’s Rent-to-Own, her employer. In the original case, she won $95 million in a federal court after a three-day jury deliberation. After federal statutory limits, her payout would be closer to $41 million.
Alford brought the lawsuit forward after her supervisor, Richard Moore, sexually assaulted her in the backroom of the business, pulling up her shirt and masturbating on her chest. Aaron’s claims no wrongdoing. Alford claims that she called the company’s sexual-harassment hotline, but her call went unreturned.
Aaron’s appealed the decision, citing that lack of evidence. After demanding a new trial for the case, reports were made that everything had been completed in an out-of-court settlement. Based on social media accounts, the settlement totaled $6 million. A tactic that corporate attorneys like to use in litigation is frequent appeals or injunctions, tying up the process and leaving the victim with no on-hand funds. It is likely that this tactic was used, which may be why it was easier to settle for $6 million than to spend more time in court.
TorkLaw Won’t Settle For Less
Even though sexual assault cases often end up in settlements with non-disclosure agreements, that doesn’t mean that lawyers don’t try to spare a victim from the intensity of a jury trial. If a settlement is a goal, how do you know when the right amount has been offered? By asking a legal professional!
TorkLaw understands the way that settlements work. Companies want to offer you and pay you as little as possible. For this reason, many of them will start low, pretending that it is a generous amount, only to end up talking you down. Their lawyers can’t do that to your lawyers, especially not us. We fight to get you the maximum payout possible.
We understand that sexual assault is a sensitive subject area and that you have been through enough. Nobody wants to relive one of the worst moments of their lives, let alone in front of strangers. As boss/workplace sexual assault lawyers, TorkLaw understands and upholds the laws required to bring you justice.
If you or someone you know is a victim of sexual assault in their workplace, give us a call at 888.845.9696. We offer FREE and confidential case evaluations for these and other types of cases.