Is sexual harassment of a minor a criminal offense?

I’m dealing with a situation right now in which two teenaged girls I know, both of whom are minors, are being continually sexually harassed by a slightly older (but legally adult) male supervisor. He’s directing comments to one of them concerning how “hot” and “irresistible” she is, and the other is being subjected to visible gestures, such as staring down her shirt every time he talks to her. When neither of the two girls are present, he makes comments to other male co-workers such as “wow—the titties and asses on these girls, man!” Both girls have complained to the supervisor’s immediate superior, but his only response was to schedule all three of them such that they never work together. Since both girls are under the age of 18, would there be any criminal legal issues here? This is in the state of California. The Law School of Google hasn’t yielded much, but if I knew more technical and specific search terms I would probably get more salient results.

Obligatory IANAL but the age of consent in California is 18. I’ve never heard of a minor being the subject of merely a ‘sexual harassment’ charge, their underage status seems to always make it a more serious charge like lewd conduct or performance with a minor etc. I suppose there’s no reason they couldn’t (nor wouldn’t) be charged with these and sexual harassment if it was in a workplace environment (and the minor was legally employed).

For the life of me, I can’t understand why people do this. Do you honestly think that if you didn’t post those five capital letters, you’d be liable for some criminal or civil charges? :smiley: This is an anonymous message board for god’s sakes. I just don’t get it. It must just be a tradition that people just do with thinking much of it.

We’re held to different standards here. This is the only message board in which I regularly participate which compels me to compose my posts in MSWord first, carefully scrutinize them two or even three times for grammatical, spelling, and syntax errors, and then cut and paste them into my browser before clicking ‘Submit Reply.’

Feel free to kick off a pit thread then. :dubious:

It’s a simple warning (IANAL either) that whatever response you are receiving is anecdotal, hearsay, or educated guesswork - or “I read it in a magazine once” - and not necessarily the law of the land. People who have actual knowledge of the law and cases will likely state so along with the reminder “I am not your lawyer, this does not constitute legal advice”. If you don’t say so, there is a risk that someone could be stupid (naïve) enough to take your advice too seriously.


My (IANAL) take -

Lewd and lascivious requires that sort of behaviour - i.e. pulling out the genitalia and exposing one’s self, etc. I’m not sure that looking at the wrong place, or comments could be construed as illegal, or much of the male population would be in jail.

Of course, if the language got too explicit “Hey babe, flash me those tits” that might cross some line.

Inappropriate touching - whatever the victim’s age - is illegal. But presumably this bozo is not so stupid as to actually physically grope someone. The victim being a minor would probably exacerbate the crime.

This being California, I’d be surprised if the workplace sexual harassment rules did not preclude anyone in authority from “harassing”, where simply uncomfortable language and inappropriate behaviour (deliberate ogling down shirt, for example) could be considered harassment. This, for example, makes it obvious what you see is harassment:

http://www.dfeh.ca.gov/Publications_StatLaws_SexHarrass.htm

However, the Employer’s obligation is:

Ensuring their paths don’t cross is possibly sufficient. (IANAL) However, I would guess that if subsequently someone on that different shift complains about this individual, then it would be obvious the employer failed in their obligation.

I would suggest you go to the employer (the boss’s boss) and explain the law, suggest that you will file a complaint

Then you can suggest the employer can satisfy the Department that he has done what is necessary:

So basically, the employer will have to show a record of what steps he took to discipline and straighten out the offender. If he has no records, then he didn’t do a good job did he? Note the mention of a $150,000 fine. That should get their attention.

(I assume. IANAL)

IAAL, but this is outside my area of expertise and I’m not a California lawyer so take this with a grain of salt: no. Civilly actionable, yes.

How much “slightly older” is this supervisor? Even if there are laws against adults sexually harassing minors, they might have an exception for small age gaps.

IANAL. I work and supervise employees in the State of California. My comments are based on working at a larger company and undergoing regular training on sexual harassment at the workplace.

Sexual Harassment issues, yes. There is clearly an issue at the workplace. It is not clear that the girls feel safe/not harassed, even when not working with this man. Furthermore, since he is making comments to other workers, he is creating an atmosphere of harassment, whether or not he is directly working with them. The employer in question has not done enough to stop the environmental issues. At a minimum, the employee in question needs to be directed to stop all comments and sexual behavior immediately. What has happened is more likely grounds for termination.

It’s not clear whether their age brings in criminal charges. It may or may not. If the girls want to bring criminal charges, they need to investigate that with the DA or the police department.

OP, in what way are you “dealing with” this situation?
Are you a parent? Co-worker?
Has the former supervisor continued his behavior even now after the schedule change?
What is the industry of the work setting?

If the harassing employee’s behavior has continued even after the complaint, then follow-up to his supervisor and even to the corporate level, would be warranted. If this company has any sort of loss protection mentality, they would fire this guy’s ass rather than open themselves up to a sexual harassment lawsuit, if he has continued his behavior after the complaint.

Since this involves legal issues, let’s move it to IMHO.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

Federal law requires all supervisory employees to report sexual harassment whether or not the harassed reports it.

There are two types of sexual harrassment laws. One is “quid pro quo” or something for something. This is basically something like, “you date me and I won’t fire you.” The other is “hostile working environment.”

The latter sounds like what you’re dealing with here. The old joke goes there are three types of employment law, “federal,” “state” and “California” which does have significant differences.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution strongly protects the right to have an opinion. Telling others that someone is “hot” or is attractive, no matter how vulgarly done would be protected and clearly is someone’s opinion.

Now we’re left dealing with which right trumps the other. In general, there is a concept of “No means no,” where once the party clearly communicates to the other to stop then at that point the action must stop. This is why you can get oddites, like courts have ruled, an employer can’t prevent you from discussing religion or proselytising others at work. That would violate your First Amendment rights. However when the person proselytising is told to quit (By the person s/he’s talking to) than that must cease. Why? Because the proselytiser is now violating the other person’s rights. So the door swings both ways.

Sexual harassment CAN be criminal in nature, it would normally have to involve something along the lines of assault, stalking, or threat. Here it doesn’t really sound like that. I would ask, if the two girls were at a bus stop and this guy made the same comments, would you think he could be arrested for making the comments? If no, then an educated guess would say it’s not criminal.

It sounds like the OP is looking to get the police to do what the employers bosses should be doing.

Since California law is can be quite different, the only real solution at this point is to talk to a lawyer. You went to the boss and he did what he thought was a correct solution, to change schedules. If this isn’t enough, then it really is time to get a legal opinion or have the girls quit.

Right, I was thinking the same thing myself. One girl is 16 years old, the other is 17, and the person engaging in the offensive behavior is 19.

One of the girls is the daughter of my next-door neighbor. The business in question is a Subway franchise. This guy just doesn’t seem to give up; the behavior is persisting even after the schedule changes were implemented. The manager is an incompetent idiot. He’s a former member of the MS13 gang, and despite having severed his affiliation with the street gang, stills retains all of his tattoos. There have been numerous complaints made both to him and to the person who held his position prior to him involving employees who report for their shifts under the influence of crystal meth, and of serious violations of safe foodhandling practices which pose a very real threat to the public. They not only did nothing about it, they engaged in retaliatory behavior against the people who were making the complaints. The franchisee owns 24 stores in the Southern California area and similar behaviors and practices are occurring in other stores that he owns. The 22-year-old manager of the store closest to my home not only allows his pregnant 16-year-old girlfriend to work in the store unpaid, he gives her free access to the company’s computer system and internal documents.

If the girls want to pursue remedies, they can talk to the store owner, the DA in their town, and the police.

Otherwise, the option is quit.

Legally, they are in the right, FWIW. It’s just what they are willing to do.

Given the number and types of problems you describe, it’s probably best that these two girls just leave and find work somewhere else. Even if the immediate problem is solved, other problems will come up. It doesn’t sound like a safe place to work. It won’t hurt these girls if they find work elsewhere, but it could hurt them if they don’t. There are so many issues here that nothing you or the girls can do will make this into a decent environment.

I agree the girls need to get the hell out of there, as apparently the franchise owner is not taking actions on a LOT of issues.

But in the meantime (or even after they leave): Has the franchise owner been notified of the complaints? If so, contact Subway corporate - even if they don’t directly “own” the store, it’s their reputation on the line.

There may be some state labor laws being violated if the owner and manager are not taking appropriate action.

Have the health authorities been told of the safety issues?

How exactly do you know what your next-door neighbor’s daughter’s supervisor says about your next-door neighbor’s daughter to his male coworkers when your next-door neighbor’s daughter and the other girl aren’t present?

Have you ever considered not being such a busybody?

The pregnant girlfriend is not an employee of the company. I just now realized that I wasn’t being entirely clear on this point.

Where on earth are you getting all of this information about the place where your next-door neighbor’s daughter’s place of work? And why do you care?

Is sexual harassment of anyone a crime? I mean, I know you can get fired, but are there legal penalties beyond that like jail time or even just fines?