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Sex crimes in the workplace on college campuses

On Behalf of | Mar 8, 2023 | Sex Crimes

Relationships between a department chair and subordinate workers or between professors and graduate students can be complex. Friendly banter and flirting sometimes seem inoffensive, but it can quickly cross the line into unwanted harassment. The matter can turn criminal if the flirting crosses the line into nonconsensual sexual contact.

Sexual activity and retaliation in the workplace

Any type of nonconsensual sexual activity is considered a crime in California. Rape need not be limited to sexual intercourse.

One specific act of rape occurs when the sexual activity is undertaken without consent and with the threat of future retaliation.

This can get a college professor or department chair in trouble quickly. It is a crime to engage in nonconsensual sexual contact with another employee or student by threatening to fire or otherwise retaliate against them if they do not engage in the act. Moreover, mere allegations of such conduct could cause the department chair or professor to lose their job.

But what constitutes consent?

A key component of sex crimes in California is consent. What is consent?

Consent is legally defined as having positive, voluntary and free cooperation in a sexual act. Consent must be given knowing what the sexual act being requested involves.

So, if a superior makes sexual advances against a subordinate employee or student, and the subordinate or student reluctantly complies out of fear, this does not constitute consent because it is not positive cooperation.

Ultimately, it is best to keep romance out of the workplace. Merely being accused of wrongful sexual conduct can cost you your job. Even worse, sexual acts in the workplace committed by threat and without consent would be considered sex crimes with serious penalties.