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Can Sexual Harassment Be a Crime?

Published: Nov 12, 2020 in Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

Everyone knows that sexual harassment is wrong. But at what point does it become a crime? The answer depends on state law. In Texas, sexual harassment may be charged as harassment, assault, or in serious cases – sexual assault. These charges carry heavy fines, possible imprisonment, and lifelong damage to your reputation. A judge might also issue a restraining order against you, even before you’ve been convicted of any wrongdoing.

If you’re worried that sexual harassment allegations are about to turn criminal, you need help from an experienced Houston sex crimes lawyer. As a former prosecutor with a long history of getting sexual allegations dismissed, reduced and cleared up in Harris County, contact The Law Offices of Ned Barnett ASAP.

Call us at (713) 222-6767 for a free and confidential consult to discuss the matter.

Can You Be Arrested for Sexual Harassment?

It is not uncommon for someone to face criminal sanctions for sexual harassment. But in most cases, sexual harassment is handled within civil courts or an administrative process.

For example, a coworker might file a sexual harassment claim with the Texas Workforce Commission – Civil Rights Division (TWC-CRD) or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) because you allegedly made unwelcome advances.

No matter the form your sexual harassment allegations might take, you’ll need an attorney who understands the ins and outs of Texas and federal sexual harassment law. At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we have a proven track record of restoring our clients’ reputations after false allegations and helping them avoid the resulting civil and criminal penalties.

The Criminal Penalties for Sexual Harassment

The Texas Penal Code does not explicitly address sexual harassment. But sexual harassment may be charged as one or several offenses, depending on the circumstances.

Here are some of the most common charges brought in sexual harassment cases:

  • Criminal harassment (Texas Penal Code Section 42.07)- If you repeatedly call or text someone, make explicit sexual advances with the intent to “harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment or embarrass,” them, you may be charged with criminal harassment. This is a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months of incarceration, and a fine of up to $2,000.
  • Assault (Texas Penal Code section 22.001)- If you make physical contact with another person with the intent to offend, you may be charged with assault. For example, if you rub a coworkers’ shoulders or touch their backside, you could be charged with assault. This is a class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500. However, if you cause someone “pain” when you make contact, it is a class A misdemeanor carrying up to one year in county jail, and up to $4,000 in fines.
  • Sexual assault (Texas Penal Code section 22.011)- Some very serious cases of sexual harassment may involve sexual assault charges. For these charges to apply, the prosecutor must have evidence that you penetrated the alleged victim’s mouth, vagina, or anus without their consent. A second-degree felony, sexual assault is punishable by two to 20 years in prison, and fines reaching $10,000.

In addition to the criminal penalties, a criminal sex crime conviction carries collateral consequences that can affect your life long after you’ve served your time. Theses consequences include:

  • Registration as a sex offender
  • Changes to your immigration status
  • Inability to possess or own firearms (for those convicted of a felony)
  • Difficulty finding any job that requires a background check
  • Damaged personal and professional reputation
  • Paying the costs of litigation and any civil liability

Civil Sexual Harassment Complaints

Sexual harassment claims often result from an employee experiencing unwelcome sexual advances at work, or a promotion offered in exchange for a sexual favor. People subjected to such harassment at the workplace may file a claim with either the federal EEOC or the state TWC-CRD.

These agencies investigate and adjudicate claims of sexual harassment at workplaces. If they conclude that sexual harassment occurred, the employer may be ordered to compensate the wronged employee.

Several laws address sexual harassment at the workplace, and prohibit behavior like:

  • Requesting sexual favors
  • Showing or sending explicit images, letters, cartoons, texts, or emails
  • Making inappropriate physical contact
  • Making harassing phone calls or sending inappropriate love letters
  • Threatening termination if the sexual advances are not accepted

An isolated occurrence usually isn’t enough for an agency to say sexual harassment happened. The agencies need evidence of a pattern of harassment that affects the employee’s ability to perform their job.

Let The Law Offices of Ned Barnett Help

At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we know that when you’re facing sexual harassment allegations, you may feel like the whole world has turned against you. But there is a lot you can do to make your situation better.

An experienced Houston sex crimes attorney like Ned Barnett can challenge the evidence, help you avoid criminal charges, and fight to clear your name and restore your reputation.

Call The Law Offices of Ned Barnett today at (713) 222-6767, or contact us online for a free and confidential consultation.