The mere notion of sexual harassment being consensual seems absurd, but what if a female employee, who has been a victim of harassment for a while, eventually engages in consensual sex with the harasser? Would that still be sexual harassment? And would that employee still be able to file a claim?
While this may seem like an unrealistic scenario – as most victims of sexual harassment are disgusted by their harassers and suffer emotional distress from harassment – cases like these are not unheard of.
Our Los Angeles sexual harassment attorney Jeffrey Rager explains that if an employee agrees to consensual sex or even gets into a consensual relationship with the person who has been sexually harassing him or her for a while, this does NOT mean that the harasser is now off the hook for his prior behavior.
Whatever is the reason why the employee decided to engage in consensual sex with the harasser, the harasser may still be punished for his unlawful behavior if the victim chooses to file a sexual harassment claim.
Consequences of consensual sex after harassment
Think about it this way: just because a murderer befriends his victim’s brother does not negate the fact that his new friend’s relative was murdered and the murderer will still be held accountable for his actions. The same can be said about sexual harassment.
However, once a victim of sexual harassment engages in consensual sex with the harasser, it does change a few things, our best sexual harassment attorneys in Los Angeles warn.
The thing is: while the harasser will still be investigated for sexual harassment and punished for his unlawful actions, the fact that the consensual sex has taken place will impact any award for damages stemming from this particular sexual harassment case to this particular victim.
Emotional distress damages in consensual sexual harassment
When a victim enters a romantic or any other type of relationship with the harasser, it creates a variety of other obstacles for the victim, if she or he chooses to bring a lawsuit.
Here’s the thing: in the vast majority of cases, victims of sexual harassment are awarded the so-called “emotional distress damages,” which arise as a result of a hostile work environment caused by sexual harassment in the workplace.
When the victim eventually gives in and enters into a relationship with the harasser – or engages in consensual sex with him or her – this type of damages may be difficult to prove, especially when the victim is not legally represented by a lawyer.
And it makes sense: after all, it takes a lot of effort and evidence to prove that you’ve suffered emotional or mental damage caused by workplace sexual harassment when you, as known for a fact, decided to consciously and deliberately enter into a relationship with the harasser.
What about quid pro quo harassment?
But what about “quid pro quo harassment” – the type of sexual harassment in which promotion and other employment benefits – or even employment itself – directly depend on whether or not the employee performs sex acts?
Let say a female employee was offered to have sex with her boss in exchange for keeping her position in the company. Basically, her employer threatened to fire her for no reason at all just to get leverage and to coerce her into engaging in sexual behavior.
Even though, technically, the victim engaged in consensual sex with the harasser in that hypothetical situation, the victim was coerced into the sex act. This could serve as a substantial piece of evidence in a sexual harassment case against the harasser to prove emotional distress damages.
Every case is different and requires a professional opinion from a Los Angeles sexual harassment lawyer. If you’ve been sexually harassed at work, speak to our attorneys at Rager & Yoon – Employment Lawyers right away.
Call our offices at 310-527-6994 for a free case evaluation. Learn your employee rights and the best legal recourse for free today!