Louisiana Workplace Sexual Abuse Attorneys

Our highly experienced team of personal injury lawyers at Herman, Herman & Katz has been representing members of Louisiana’s workforce since 1942. You work hard to support yourself and your family, and you should never have to worry about being sexually harassed or even assaulted while doing so. Unfortunately, workplace sexual harassment, assault and abuse is an all-too-common occurrence.

More than 405,000 American women and 50,000 men were victims of sexual assault or rape in 2019. Someone is sexually assaulted every 68 seconds in the U.S., and rape or attempted rape occurs every five minutes. Most people don’t expect to be sexually harassed or assaulted by someone they know (such as a coworker), but in fact, the majority of these crimes are committed by a familiar face. Strangers are the perpetrators in just 14% of sex crimes in Louisiana.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 affords employees protection from sexual harassment in the workplace and forbids their employers to retaliate if they file a complaint. Unfortunately, many employers abuse their power and find other ways to push victims out of the company anyway.

What Is Workplace Sexual Harassment?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, physical or visual harassment of a sexual nature in the workplace or a learning environment. It doesn’t have to explicitly refer to sexual behavior or even refer to a specific person – derogatory speech about women in general, for example, can also be considered sexual harassment if it goes beyond thoughtless teasing or comments.

Sexual harassment is a broad term that can be applied to a wide variety of incidents. Here are just a few examples:

  • Jokes about sexual acts or orientation or pressure to engage in sexual acts or dating
  • Recounting stories of sexual relations
  • Unwanted touching, sexual advances in person, photos, emails or texts
  • Indecent exposure
  • Offensive nicknames (honey bun, sweet cheeks, etc.) and catcalling

There are two types of sexual harassment claims: “quid pro quo” and “hostile work environment.” 

Quid pro quo means “this for that,” and it involves clearly stated or implied demands for sexual favors in exchange for a benefit (such as a promotion) or to avoid consequences (such as termination). These demands are made by a person of authority over the employee, like a manager.

a woman holding up her hand at workplace to stop harassmentA hostile work environment is created by sexual speech or conduct so bad that the employee feels consistently intimated or demeaned, or their job performance suffers. It can be perpetrated by anyone in the workplace, including clients and subordinates. These claims are not as clear-cut as quid pro quo.

Victims and perpetrators may be of any gender. They don’t even have to be the subject of sexual harassment and can instead be observers who find it offensive.

Sexual Harassment vs. Sexual Assault

The forms of verbal, visual or light physical offenses discussed above are sexual harassment. While illegal, sexual harassment does not carry criminal penalties and can only be pursued in civil litigation.

Sexual assault is physical contact that occurs without the victim’s consent. Examples include rape or attempted rape, unwelcome touching, forced sexual acts and incest. Even consensual sex is considered assault if it occurs between an adult and a minor. According to Louisiana law sexual assault, such as rape or sexual battery, is a criminal act and is punishable by fines and imprisonment depending on the degree. 

Because there is a slim chance of conviction and prison time for sexual assault perpetrators, the best course of action for victims is a civil claim. Civil plaintiffs don’t have to prove their perpetrators guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, only that it’s more likely than not that they committed the act. 

Where Does Workplace Sexual Assault Happen?

While sexual harassment, assault and abuse can happen anywhere, there are a few settings that seem more likely for it to occur. Sex abuse in the workplace, group organizations like churches, youth programs, and college campuses are some of the most common.

Women between the ages of 18 and 24 are three times more likely to experience sexual violence than women overall. College students tend to use alcohol and drugs more often than the general population, heightening their risk of being incapacitated. And the systemic failure of colleges and universities to prosecute student perpetrators has led to a severe lack of underreporting by victims who believe their school won’t help them.

Fortunately, four new laws requiring new policies for reporting and responding to college campus sexual assault, harassment, violence and stalking were passed in 2021. Employees who dismiss reported sex crimes or attempt to retaliate against victims will be penalized, and records must be kept on investigated students. An anonymous reporting system was also created.

Military workplaces such as bases and ships are another setting for workplace sexual assault and harassment. The unique and often isolated nature of these settings makes reporting and prosecuting offshore worker sexual abuse more difficult. Members of Congress who oversee the government agencies responsible for regulating the merchant marine industry proposed a new bill that would make it easier for sailors found guilty of sexual assault or harassment to lose their licenses, but it has yet to advance. 

While Louisiana’s penalties for convicted sex criminals are severe, over 97% of them walk free. This is largely due to the fact that about 70% of victims never come forward. Some are unsure whether they were indeed assaulted and fear they won’t be taken seriously. In the workplace, sex abuse victims don’t want to risk termination or a poor reputation among colleagues. Sometimes the assault may be so traumatic that they repress it and continue as if nothing had happened.

Effects of Workplace Sexual Assault and Harassment

Victims of workplace sex abuse can experience short and long-term consequences in every aspect of their lives. Survivors can suffer from flashbacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety, and problems trusting others and maintaining relationships. A heartbreaking 13% of women who are raped will attempt suicide. Other potential effects include:

  • Emotions like anger, fear, shame, guilt, and a sense of helplessness
  • Panic attacks, trouble concentrating or enjoying life, lack of motivation, and abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Stress, headaches, fatigue, and problems eating or sleeping
  • Unwanted pregnancy 
  • Sexually transmitted diseases

Therapy and medication can help, but many sex abuse survivors cannot afford these services. Their only hope is to recover financial compensation by filing a sex abuse lawsuit against the person or institution whose actions destroyed their lives.

Louisiana does have resources to help if you or a loved one has been a victim of sexual assault or harassment. These include the Louisiana Foundation Against Sexual Assault, the New Orleans Family Justice Center and the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-4673.

Blue hue on Scales of Justice legal law books

Laws To Protect Sex Abuse Victims

Several federal, state and local lawmakers have introduced or passed legislation to strengthen protections and penalties for sex abuse victims and perpetrators. Last June, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards signed a law giving sex abuse victims more time to pursue their legal rights. Child sex abuse survivors can now sue their attackers at any age, whereas before, they couldn’t be older than 28. The bill also created a lookback window of three years for anyone wanting to sue for sex abuse, no matter how long ago it occurred.

Louisiana passed two laws in 2019 designed to revamp state law and government policy on sexual harassment. The new measures prevent the state from keeping harassment victims silent while settling lawsuits and forcing perpetrators to settle claims with their own money rather than taxpayer dollars.

President Joe Biden passed a new federal sexual harassment law in early 2022. The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act bans workplaces from forcing victims to pursue their cases in private mediation with their attacker. They now have the option to tell their stories and hold their perpetrators accountable in a public court.

And for victims serving in the military, sexual harassment was formerly added to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which defines it as unwanted sexual advances or demanding of sexual favors wherein victims are led to believe they will be punished for non-compliance. The harassment can occur in person or online, an important distinction for those who receive pornographic images and videos.

While this new legislation is encouraging, the team at Herman, Herman & Katz finds the overall lack of accountability for sex abuse unacceptable. Our sex abuse and sexual harassment attorneys are dedicated to using our expertise to fundamentally change the justice system until survivors can report their abuse without fear they will be ignored or punished. We will guide you through every step of the process and make sure you feel safe and secure along the way. For a free and confidential case review, call us anytime at 844-943-7626 or fill out our online form. We can take it from here.