Everybody in the state of California deserves a safe and respectful workplace, which is why sexual harassment laws exist to begin with. However, it can be very difficult to stand up for your rights if you are not aware of the terminology surrounding the laws. Terms that are frequently used where sexual issues in the workplace are concerned are sexual harassment, sexual assault, and sexual misconduct. According to RAINN, these are three very broad but very important terms in sexual harassment cases.
Sexual harassment involves sexual advances that are not desired and occur in a workplace or learning environment. It can happen in many different circumstances. Some common forms of sexual harassment involve literal sexual advances in the workplace, discussing sexual relations in the workplace, or unwanted touching or other contact. Generally speaking, a sexual harassment charge is a civil charge. Sexual harassment can indeed escalate up to sexual assault, but this does not happen most of the time.
Sexual assault, on the other hand, is a criminal offense. Forms of sexual assault may include attempted rape, unwanted sexual touching, or forcing an individual to engage in sex acts.
Finally, sexual misconduct is usually referred to in the Human Resources paperwork at a particular company. It is generally a non-legal term and refers to specific behaviors that a workplace wishes to discourage amongst its employees. For example, dating another person who works at the same place may be considered sexual misconduct according to the internal policies of the company in question. Sexual misconduct is generally not handled in a court of law, but can result in disciplinary action within the company.