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What is Considered Unlawful Workplace Harassment?

— March 9, 2022

Typically, people do not go to jail for normal instances of sexual harassment.

Is workplace harassment really illegal? Can people actually go to jail for harassing their co-workers? When does an inappropriate joke or an offensive remark become a criminal action? What can employees do if they have experienced harassment firsthand? These are all valid questions, and the world of workplace harassment can become quite complex – especially for those with no legal background. 

Fortunately, these situations can be handled confidently and efficiently by sexual harassment lawyers. These lawyers can work with employees who have experienced harassment, helping them pursue a considerable financial settlement for everything they have been forced to endure. On the other hand, these lawyers can also represent companies and individuals who have been accused of harassment, defending them and protecting their rights. 

Can People Go to Jail for Workplace Harassment?

Prison Officer Jailed After an Affair with Murderer
Photo by Marco Chilese on Unsplash

Typically, people do not go to jail for normal instances of sexual harassment. This is because sexual harassment lawsuits are prosecuted as civil cases and not as criminal cases. Telling a sexist joke or commenting on the body of a woman at work may be a violation of employment laws, but it is not actually a “criminal action” per se. 

On the other, hand, there may be instances where legitimate sexual crimes take place at the workplace. For example, someone might be sexually assaulted at work. This is both a violation of employment laws and criminal laws in Missouri. The offender would likely face criminal charges and a workplace harassment lawsuit.  

When Does Harassment Become Illegal?

Harassment becomes illegal whenever it targets a group or individual on the basis of gender, sexuality, belief, religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, disability, or anything they cannot control. If workers are being harassed simply because they are not doing a good job, this may not constitute a crime.

What If I Consented?

If you and your fellow co-workers were engaging in consensual sexual behavior, jokes, or even touching, you may not be able to sue. However, things change when the harassment was being committed by someone in a position of power and authority over you. For example, your boss might have strongly encouraged you to send them nude pictures of yourself, hinting that you would lose your job if you refused. Even if you consented to do this, you could still sue due to “quid pro quo” sexual harassment laws1. 

Where Can I Find a Sexual Harassment Lawyer Near Me? 

If you’ve been searching for Missouri sexual harassment lawyers, there are many in your area who can help. These Kansas City sexual harassment lawyers can assess your unique situation during a consultation and recommend the best course of action. While internet research helps, you’ll need to connect with an actual lawyer to file your lawsuit and hold employers accountable for allowing your harassment to occur. It’s best to act quickly, as the statute of limitations in Missouri can prevent you from suing if you wait too long2. 



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