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Is Sexual Harassment a Felony?

Sexual harassment is a sex crime. In Michigan, sexual harassment is a felony if the victim is under 18 years old and the perpetrator is five years older than the victim. And it’s a misdemeanor if the complainer is older than 18 years old.

The state of Michigan does not have specific laws for cases of sexual harassment. But you will face criminal and civil penalties if accused of sexual harassment, as it meets the stalking laws and is criminal sexual conduct. 

When people talk about sexual harassment, they often think of situations in a work environment. However, cases of sexual harassment are not exclusive to work environments, occurring in public spaces. Also, each case is specific, meaning that there will be a full investigation of the allegations to determine what happened before a charge and the penalties are determined.

What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment in workplace example

Sexual harassment is a type of harassment where a person uses explicit or implicit sexual overtones. This includes verbal and physical misconduct with sexual connotations, sexual abuse, and assault.

For example, if one person makes promises for sexual favors, it is sexual harassment. And the victims or harassers may be of any sex or gender.

Sexual harassment happens in every sphere of relations, from the workplace to home, school, and religious institutions. 

Which Are The Michigan Laws on Sexual Harassment?

In the state of Michigan, there are two sexual harassment laws related to people in a workplace or organization:

Quid pro quo 

Quid pro quo means “this for that.” Sexual harassment quid pro quo happens when sex is used for favors and promises.

A common example is someone in power uses it to request sexual favors for increased pay, benefits, a promotion, etc.

Sexually hostile work environment

This is discrimination due to sex and includes sexual harassment. 

According to Michigan law, it means any requests for sexual favors, sexual advances, harassing behavior, unwanted touching, and other types of unwelcome conduct that have a sexual nature.

It is important to note that Michigan law also states that other actions are sexual harassment. These include:

  • Requirement of submission to a certain condition made implicitly or explicitly to get a job
  • Requirement or rejection of the communication or conduct is used to decide about a person’s employment
  • The communication or conduct creates an offensive, hostile, or intimidating work environment

What is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?

According to Michigan sexual harassment law, you can face charges of quid pro quo sexual harassment when the rejection of or submission to sexual communication or conduct plays a role in employment decisions related to the victim’s job benefits.

This includes

  • Demotions
  • Hiring
  • Benefits
  • Failing to promote
  • Pay cuts
  • Discipline
  • Firing

Sexual harassment leads to increased benefits or persecution. Meaning, the victim can both have a boost in their career or be harmed by the harasser when sexual harassment happens in the workplace.

What is Sexual harassment at work and what to do

The Burden of Proof in Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Cases

If a person claims quid pro quo workplace sexual harassment, they must prove it. 

There are a few ways a person can prove quid pro quo sexual harassment in the workplace

  • The victim’s employer or an agent made requests for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, or physical or verbal communication or sexual conduct
  • The employer or agent used the rejection or submission of this communication or conduct as an element when regarding their employment
  • The victim experienced damages

What is Sexual Harassment and the Creation of a Hostile Work Environment?

Under Michigan’s sexual harassment law, a sexually hostile work environment is when the employee:

  1. Is subject to unwanted harassment
  2. The harassment is based on sex
  3. The harassment alters the condition of the employment
  4. It creates an offensive, hostile, or intimidating environment

The Burden of Proof in Hostile Work Environment Situations

To substantiate the claim of a hostile work environment due to sexual harassment, the employee must prove the following elements:

  • The employee was considered part of a protected group
  • The employee was subjected to conduct or communication that was sexual in nature
  • The employee was subjected to unwanted sexual communication or conduct
  • Unwanted sexual communication or conduct interferes with the employee’s employment or creates an offensive, hostile, or intimidating work environment
Types of Sexual harassment and Michigan Laws

Other Types of Sexual Harassment in Michigan

Sexual harassment occurs any time someone makes unwelcome sexual contact with another person

If sexually harassing conduct causes the victim to experience emotional harm, it will become a crime and can be charged as a criminal offense, which carries potentially serious consequences.

While this is true, the Michigan Penal Code does not officially recognize sexual harassment as an individual criminal offense. Instead, sexual harassment is just one of many activities that meet the requirements of stalking laws in the state.

Also, the criminal justice system in Michigan will act and punish those who make others feel threatened or scared. Some behaviors that create this situation include:

  • Follow someone
  • Putting unwanted items on someone’s property
  • Sending unwanted texts, emails, or mail to someone
  • Going onto someone’s property, or showing up at their home or work without permission

If the statute is violated, it is charged as a misdemeanor if the victim is 18 years or older. 

If convicted for actions that are considered sexual harassment, the individual may face up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. 

However, if the victim is under 18 years or was when the conduct occurred and the defendant is five or more years older, the consequences differ. The charge is a felony and carries a jail sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Stalking and Harassment Laws in Michigan

Usually, stalking includes people with some type of prior relationship or who are at least familiar with one another. Even though this is the situation in most cases, Michigan state law also mentions situations where strangers harass others in public.

It is possible for one incident of addressing another person in a public space to result in disorderly person charges based on Michigan Statute 750.167 in the Penal Code. This action is considered a misdemeanor and comes with a penalty of up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $500.

The law is also created to help protect personal privacy. This means that you will be charged with a felony if you watch another person who is nude or who is just wearing underwear in a location where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Examples of these places include the restroom, changing room, or their home.

A similar law is that it is illegal for you to record videos or photos of anyone who is nude or who is in their underwear. Based on MCL 750.539j of the Michigan Penal Code, being convicted of these offenses may result in a several-year sentence in jail. 

Here, you will also have to pay fines. 

A Michigan criminal sexual conduct attorney can help you reduce the penalties that you may face with this charge and help prevent serious consequences.

What Should You Do if You are Charged with Sexual Harassment in Michigan?

If you face sexual harassment charges in Michigan, as with any criminal charge, it is not your job, nor the job of your sex crimes defense lawyer, to prove you are innocent. Instead, the prosecution must prove you are guilty. 

The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your rights after being arrested for sexual harassment is to hire a CSC defense attorney.

During your criminal case, you should avoid talking about it on social media and make sure you disclose all information to your attorney. This will help them build the best possible criminal sexual conduct defense for your situation.

Building a defense requires your attorney to have time to gather evidence, talk to witnesses, and review any documents related to the case and charges. The sooner you hire them, the more time they will have to create a strong defense. 

Get Help with Your Sex Crime Case

When facing charges or being accused of sexual assault, sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact or offensive touching, child pornography, sexual battery, or any other sex crime charge, having an experienced defense attorney on your side is essential. 

If you need help with your criminal case, contact criminal law Attorney Nicole Blank Becker 

Call (248) 803-0027 or send a message through the website to schedule a Michigan criminal defense attorney free consultation.

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