Understanding Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Quid pro quo means that the harasser states that they will take either favorable action on behalf of the person if the person will provide sexual activity or negative action against the person if the person refuses to provide sexual activity. While quid pro quo is certainly an egregious form of sexual harassment, the definition is far more broad. Indeed, sexual harassment can include verbal, nonverbal, and even physical contact.
The Military is Taking Active Steps to Fight Sexual Harassment
Every military member has right to serve their country free from sexual harassment. In recent years, the federal government and military leaders have taken active steps to eliminate sexual harassment. In December of 2013, President Barack Obama directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to conduct a comprehensive investigation on the progress that has been made in the fight against military sexual assault and sexual harassment. The president gave the DoD one year to report back with its findings. In late 2014, then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel delivered his conclusions to the president and the country. Secretary Hagel referenced an independent report that was put together by the RAND Corporation. This report found that real progress has been made in recent years. At the same time, it also noted that a lot more work still needed to be done. Specifically, the RAND study found that 22 percent of women and 7 percent of men in the military report that they have been victims of sexual harassment at the hands of a superior.
The Rights of the Accused Must Always Be Protected
The efforts to fight sexual misconduct in the military taken by President Obama, military leaders and political leaders like Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Claire Mccaskill of Missouri are commendable. Protecting the rights and safety of victims of sexual harassment is extremely important. Though, we must also vigorously protect the rights of the accused. An allegation of sexual harassment is incredibly serious. With it, can come severe consequences. Depending on the jurisdiction, a senior leader could face court-martial; of course, other punishments exist, as well.
Understanding Sexual Harassment Investigations
If a member of the armed forces is under investigation for harassment, he or she will be investigated by law enforcement or his or her equal opportunity section. To be clear, equal opportunity investigations are still very serious and the findings could potentially result in substantial sanctions against the accused. Each sexual harassment equal opportunity investigation will be unique. No two investigations will follow the exact same path. However, investigations do generally share the same basic process:
- The investigators will work to develop a written record that includes a basic account of the facts. This record will also contain any relevant evidence that has been discovered.
- The investigators will conduct interviews with the parties involved, including the accused, the alleged victim and any witnesses. As with all other equal opportunity investigations, these interviews will be conducted under oath.
- Finally, the EO team will turn over the findings of its investigation. They will generally also make some basic recommendations as to what should happened next in the case.
Punishment Can Severe in Sexual Harassment Cases
The military is paying very close attention to sexual harassment and sexual misconduct cases. In recent years, punishment for these type of infractions have been much more harsh. In fact, all branches of the military have been de-emphasizing counseling and remedial training as a form of corrective discipline. Now, a sexual harassment accusation will likely lead to one of the two following places:
- Administrative Hearings: In sexual harassment cases where the conducted is considered to be ‘less severe’, the accused may faced an administrative hearing. This will most often occur when no physical contact is alleged. An administrative hearing can still potentially result in significant non-judicial punishment. Indeed, the punishment could be anything from an administrative reprimand to an administrative elimination. Sexual harassment allegations have cost military members their jobs before.
- Court-Martial: For cases that are deemed more serious, the accused may face a court-martial. Most often, this will occur in cases involving the accusation of some type of physical contact. Though, that is not always a necessary element. Remember, a court-martial is a criminal trial and you should never go through the process without a well-qualified UCMJ defense lawyer by your side.
A UCMJ Attorney Can Help Protect Your Legal Rights
If you have been accused of sexual harassment in the military, you need to seek aggressive legal protection. This is true whether you are being investigated by military police or by the command’s equal opportunity unit. Sexual harassment allegations must always be taken seriously, the accusation will not go away on its own. Additionally, you need to get a UCMJ specialist involved in your case as soon as possible. Ultimately, your attorney may be able to make the biggest impact during the investigatory stage of the process. You need to be absolutely sure that any investigation into your actions is done fairly and with respect to your rights. To ensure this, our team will:
- Complete a comprehensive investigation of our own;
- Help you prepare for your interview with case investigators;
- Work hard to obtain and secure any evidence that supports your innocence; and
- Ensure that any disciplinary action stays at the lowest possible level.
The importance of the sexual harassment investigation can not be overstated. These investigations will produce reports that will provide the essential basis for any case against you. A bad investigation may result in unfair and unjust proceedings. In other words, if incorrect information is included, or if exonerating information is left out, your rights will not be properly protected. You need to do everything in your power to get an attorney by your side who will ensure that all investigations are conducted in an appropriate manner.
Contact Our Office Today
At the Law Office of Jocelyn C. Stewart, our legal team has extensive experience handling military sexual harassment investigations. Our team is ready to step up to help protect your legal rights and your professional interests. For more information about what we can do for you, please call us today at 253-212-9582 to request a review of your case. Our firm has an office in Anchorage, Alaska and in Tacoma, Washington and we look forward to helping you.