According to the Texas Penal Code, a person is guilty of harassment when he or she “acts with intent to harass, embarrass, torment, alarm, abuse, or annoy someone else.” It’s a pretty broad definition. In fact, you may have exhibited certain behaviors that could qualify as harassment without even realizing it. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. So when it happens at the workplace, it violates the laws associated with sex discrimination in the workplace. This includes Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against someone on the basis of sex. If you work for someone with fewer than 15 employees, you may be protected under state or local law.
What kind of behaviors are considered harassment in Texas?
The kind of actions that are considered harassment in Texas include but may not be limited to:
- Obscene Communication – Involves contacting someone (whether it’s in person, in writing, over the telephone, or through any type of electronic communication) that includes a proposal, suggestion, request, or comment that contains some type of description or solicitation to engage in sexual activities.
- Threatening Communication – Any type of threat that causes the victim to become afraid of getting injured or that the person making the threat will commit a felony against the person, his or her family, any household members, or property.
- False Report – Knowingly making a false report to someone that another person has died or has become injured in a way that is likely to alarm that person.
- Phone Harassment – Involves anything from making a repeated number of anonymous phone calls and refusing to hanging up to allowing someone else to use the phone under the original person’s control for the purpose of harassing a particular person.
- Electronic Communication Harassment – Using any type of electronic communication channel to send repeated texts, sounds, images, or data for the purpose of harassing, annoying, embarrassing, tormenting, alarming, or offending someone else.
According to the Texas Penal Code, harassment charges in Texas are seen as Class B misdemeanors that can lead to a $2,000 fine, up to 180 days in County Jail, probation, and being prohibited from having a license to carry a weapon for the next five years. Repeated offenses are considered Class A misdemeanors, which can carry a penalty of a $4,000 fine and up to one year in a County Jail.
What can elevate the degree of harassment charges in Texas?
Most harassment offenses are seen as Class B misdemeanors, but there are some circumstances where the offense is considered a Class A misdemeanor. Some of them can include but may not be limited to:
- A repeated offense.
- Any action that involves some type of electronic communication harassment.
- Any action committed against a minor for the purpose of provoking suicide or causing serious bodily injury.
- Any action that’s in violation of a restraining order or injunction listed under Chapter 129A of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code.
Sometimes, harassment can be elevated to a more serious charge (such as stalking or bullying) because of certain “aggravating factors.” Be sure to speak to a qualified attorney for more information.
What is considered sexual harassment in the State of Texas?
Sexual harassment in Texas is any type of unwelcome behavior that happens to you because of your gender. This includes any of the following:
- Any unwelcome sexual advances.
- Any requests for sexual favors.
- Any hostile or verbal conduct that targets you based on your gender (regardless of whether any sexual words or behavior were involved).
- Your submission to or rejection of any sexual advances is used as the basis for any employment decisions.
- Your submission to any sexual advances is made as a condition for your employment (called “quid pro quo harassment”).
- Any sexual conduct or gender-based hostility that’s severe or pervasive enough to create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment (called “hostile work environment harassment”).
Be sure to speak to a qualified attorney for more information.
Can sexual harassment be considered a crime?
Sexual harassment could be considered a crime, depending on the state in which it occurred. If it involved any type of physical attack, criminal sexual conduct, stalking, threats, or any other crime, you could face criminal prosecution.
When does harassment violate Federal Law?
Reporting sexual harassment can lead to several actions. Your employer may investigate the allegation, which will most likely lead to him or her speaking to the alleged harasser as well as any other witnesses to the alleged harassment. Like any other investigation, the results can vary (depending on what is found and the available disciplinary action for the business). You shouldn’t automatically assume that filing a complaint for sexual harassment will cause the alleged harasser to have your employment terminated.
Is there a difference between sexual assault and sexual harassment?
The main difference between sexual harassment and sexual assault is the degree to which the offender makes unlawful contact with the victim. Sexual harassment often occurs through any of the following behaviors:
- Sexual advances.
- Requests for sexual favors.
- Vulgar or sexually degrading language.
- Inappropriate gestures.
It can also include any kind of physical contact that isn’t considered sexual assault (such as pinching, shoulder rubbing, or knee grabbing). Sexual harassment can also occur in other forms. While sexual harassment doesn’t involve a great deal of physical contact, it can still be seen as uncomfortable or threatening to that person.
When does harassment violate Federal Law?
Harassment violates Federal Law if it involves any actions that discriminate based on any of the following:
- Gender (with or without sexual conduct)
- National origin
It also violates Federal Law if the actions occurred in the form of retaliation because the harassed person filed a complaint. Federal Law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or any isolated incidents that aren’t extremely serious. If you’re facing harassment charges in Texas and need to find a criminal defense lawyer in Corpus Christi to help you with your case, be sure to speak to someone at Gale Law Group.