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Is Sexual Harassment a Felony?

Many people do not think of sexual harassment as a sex crime; however, it is. While the state of Michigan does not have specific laws for cases of sexual harassment, you can still face criminal and civil penalties. If you are arrested for this crime, you probably have many questions.

For example, if you are convicted of sexual harassment, will you have a felony on your record? Do you need an attorney to help you fight this charge? What are the penalties for this crime (to name a few)?

If that is the case, keep reading. Here you can learn more about Michigan law and what steps to take if you face sexual harassment charges.

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, though this is usually where they occur and are reported.

Is Sexual Harassment a Felony?

Selective focus at face of young beautiful women office worker sitting with hand of men touch her body. Sexual harassment in workplace concept.

In Michigan, sexual harassment is charged as a felony when the victim is under 18 and the perpetrator is more than five years older than them. Other sexual harassment cases are charged as misdemeanor sex crimes.

Remember, each case is unique. This means that there will be a full investigation of the allegations to determine what happened. This is what will determine the actual charges you face.

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

  • Quid pro quo: This means “this for that.” A common example is someone in power requesting 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 considered 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 make decisions about a person’s employment
  • The communication or conduct creates an offensive, hostile, or intimidating work environment

Understanding 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 victims job benefits, which include demotions, hiring, failing to promote, pay cuts, discipline, firing, or a decision that results in a change of benefits.

Man touching woman's butt, in the office, Sexual harassment at work

The Burden of Proof in Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment Cases

If an employee claims quid pro quo workplace sexual harassment, it is important to understand what they must prove. The elements that must be proven in these cases include:

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

Sexual Harassment and the Creation of a Hostile Work Environment

When looking at Michigan’s sexual harassment law, a sexually hostile work environment occurs when the environment is so tarnished in a way that the entire situation would make a reasonable person in the employee’s position perceive the conduct as significantly interfering with their employment or that it created 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 are present:

  • 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
  • The unwanted sexual communication or conduct was done to interfere with the employee’s employment or to create an offensive, hostile, or intimidating work environment
Angry unhappy Asian secretary woman looking hand's boss touching her shoulder in workplace. Sexual harassment in office

Other Types of Harassment in Michigan

It is important to note that harassment is not only seen in the workplace. It occurs any time someone makes unwelcome sexual contact with another person. If the sexually harassing conduct causes the victim to experience emotional harm, or if it could be expected, 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 (as mentioned above).

Instead, the activity is just one of many that meet the requirements of stalking in the state (see: Michigan stalking laws). 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:

  • Following 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 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 was under 18 when the conduct occurred and the defendant is five or more years older than the victim, the charge is a felony and carries a jail sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $10,000.

Additional Harassment Criminal Charges You May Face in Michigan

It is worth noting that not all behavior some people consider harassment will be covered by the stalking statute in the Michigan Penal Code. 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 Statute 750.167 in the Michigan 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 surveil 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. You will also likely be required to pay fines. Hiring 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, you will likely feel confused and scared. However, 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.

Remember, the potential consequences of being convicted can be severe. Due to this, it is imperative that you act right away when it comes to finding and hiring an attorney. Learn what to look for in a criminal defense lawyer here.

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 and “poke holes” in the prosecution’s case. Remember, sexual harassment and other such conduct are serious and will be charged and treated as such. You have to be proactive in this situation.

Get Help with Your Sex Crime Case

When facing charges or are accused of sexual assault, sexual harassment, unwanted sexual contact/offensive touching, child pornography, sexual battery, or any other sex crime charge, having an experienced defense attorney on your side is essential. Even a criminal complaint of unwanted sexual banter can carry serious consequences.

If you need help with your criminal case or are facing a civil claim in civil court, contact criminal law Attorney Nicole Blank Becker by calling (248) 515-6583 or by reaching out through her website to schedule a Michigan criminal defense attorney free consultation.

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For sexual harassment to become a crime, the prosecution must prove that certain elements were present. Having an attorney on your side means you will have a solid defense to fight the charges against you. This is true for sexual harassment charges, sexual assault charges, and other inappropriate sexual conduct cases.

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Troy, MI 48083
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