Sexual Assault vs. Sexual Harassment: What is the Difference?

Sexual Assault vs. Sexual Harassment: What is the Difference?


Sexual assault and sexual harassment are both serious problems in the workplace that can cause lasting harm for victims. As an employee, it is important to be aware of the problem, of the differences between the two, and how you can hold those at fault accountable. 

Common Forms of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Under the Illinois Human Rights Act, sexual harassment is prohibited in the workplace but continues to be a common problem. It can happen among employees or between business owners, supervisors, and the people who work under them. For those victimized, it can impact their performance on the job, their financial security, and their overall physical and mental well-being. Common forms of sexual harassment include: 

  • Making sexually suggestive comments and gestures;
  • Sharing lewd comments and images or sexually based jokes on bulletin boards, in emails, or through other company communications;
  • Requesting sexual favors and asking people out on dates;
  • Inappropriately touching or rubbing against someone either as an ‘accident’ or under the guise of performing normal workplace activities;
  • Assigning tasks, making schedules, or handing out promotions or bonuses based on a person’s gender or sexual orientation. 

Sexual Assault in the Workplace

You have the right to hold employers at fault for sexual harassment in the workplace. In addition to having to show concrete ways they are changing workplace culture to prevent it, they can also be subject to fines and civil liability. 

Sexual assault is another common problem. However, it takes the form of physical acts, threats, and intimidation. This includes rape and attempted rape, as well as any type of forced groping, touching, or sexual activity. In addition to facing fines and civil liability, which involves having to pay monetary damages to the victim, those who commit sexual assault in the workplace could also face serious criminal penalties under the Illinois Statutes. These include: 

  • Sexual assault is a Class 1 felony criminal charge, resulting in a criminal record that could prevent the person from obtaining a job, housing, or an education;
  • If convicted, the guilty party may be assessed fines of up to $25,000;
  • Sexual assault carries a prison sentence of between four and 15 years, which may be increased to life imprisonment for a second offense. 

Reach Out to Our Chicago Sexual Assualt and Harassment Attorneys

If you have experienced sexual assault or harassment in the workplace, reach out to The Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. We provide the caring support and professional legal representation you need to hold those at fault accountable. To request a confidential consultation with our Chicago sexual assault/sexual harassment attorney, call or contact our office online today.