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Criminal vs. Civil Sexual Harassment Claims

Sexual harassment is a serious problem. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center (NSVRC) reports that “81% of women and 43% of men” have personally endured some form of sexual harassment. In too many cases, people experience sexual harassment within their workplace. As explained by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment is a form of sex-based discrimination. Within this article, our Las Vegas workplace sexual harassment attorney provides a comprehensive overview of the key things to know about the difference between criminal and civil claims. 

What to Know About Criminal Sexual Harassment Claims in Nevada

In Nevada, sexual harassment is a criminal offense. A person who commits the act of sexual harassment can be charged with a crime and, if convicted, could potentially be sentenced to jail time. The criminal sexual harassment statute in our state is NRS 200.571. It falls under a section of the state’s criminal code that applies to “crimes against persons” and it also relates to non-sexual harassment offenses. Broadly speaking, sexual harassment under the criminal code is defined as doing any one of the following without permission: 

  • Threaten bodily harm of a sexual nature; 
  • Threaten a person of sexual-related physical confinement or restraint; or
  • Threaten a person in a manner that undermines his or her physical or mental health. 

A first-offense criminal sexual harassment is a misdemeanor. A conviction carries a maximum sentence of six years in prison. With that being said, any subsequent offense is a gross misdemeanor that can carry up to 364 days in jail. Further, in some cases, harassment conduct could be deemed a more serious offense—such as stalking. Stalking is a felony in Nevada. 

What to Know About Civil Sexual Harassment Claims in Nevada

Beyond criminal penalties, victims of sexual harassment in Nevada can pursue civil claims against perpetrator and, in some cases, negligent third parties, such as employers. A civil claim is primarily focused on compensation for the victim rather than criminal punishment of the offender. Financial compensation may be available for various damages, including lost wages, medical bills, mental health care costs, and emotional distress. Most civil sexual harassment claims are pursued against employers or against other third parties that bear liability for the misconduct. 

In the context of employment law, both Nevada law and federal split sexual harassment into two broad categories: 1) Quid pro quo sexual harassment, and 2) Hostile work environment sexual harassment. Unlike criminal cases—which require proof beyond a reasonable doubt—civil cases are subject to the less-intensive preponderance of evidence standard. In other words, a victim of sexual harassment must prove that it is more likely than not that the harassment occurred and that the defendant bears liability to bring a successful claim. 

Not “Either/Or” Case: The Victim Could Have Criminal and Civil Claims

Victims of sexual harassment should understand that pursuing justice is not an “either/or” scenario between criminal and civil claims. You have the right to bring both types of claims at the same time. For example, imagine that a waitress was subject to severe and repeated sexual harassment by a customer in Las Vegas. She informed her employer, but the company failed to take any action. That employee may have a criminal sexual harassment claim against the perpetrator and a civil workplace sexual harassment claim against her employer.  These are separate causes of action. Though the criminal case could be evidence of a civil violation by an employer. 

How the Workplace Sexual Harassment Lawyer at Ace Law Group Can Help

No employee should ever be forced to endure sexual harassment in the workplace. Remember, certain forms of sexual harassment are a crime in Nevada. Even more forms of sexual harassment are civil violations. The person(s) who committed sexual harassment should be held accountable. Further, if the harassment occurred within the workplace, your employer may bear liability. At Ace Law Group, our employment law team has a history of verdicts and settlements on complex cases. We are committed to fighting for justice for employees through the civil claims process. 

Speak to Our Las Vegas Sexual Harassment Attorney Today

At Ace Law Group, our Las Vegas employment law attorneys are committed to protecting the rights of employees. If you or your loved one was subject to sexual harassment on the job, we can help. Reach out to us by phone at (702) 333-4223 or connect with us online for a strictly confidential initial appointment. From our Las Vegas office, we handle sexual harassment cases throughout Nevada.