Sexual Harassment vs. Sexual Battery: Explained

Filner said Thursday he would not respond to allegations, reiterating that he wanted due process to take place.

Touching someone at work is one of the worst types of sexual harassment, according to one San Diego attorney and it may be considered sexual battery in certain situations.

Three women have now come forward accusing San Diego Mayor Bob Filner of inappropriate behavior.

One of the women has filed a lawsuit against Filner and the City of San Diego alleging sexual harassment.

"I saw him place his hands where they did not belong on numerous women,” Mayor Filner’s former communication director Irene McCormack Jackson said Monday when she announced she had filed her lawsuit.

“I was placed in the ‘Filner Headlock’ and moved around as a rag doll while he whispered sexual comments in my ear," she said.

McCormack Jackson described her time working with Mayor Filner as “the worst time in my working life.”

In a matter of days, two other San Diegans stepped forward with similar stories of unwanted advances.

Laura Fink, a political consultant, said Filner grabbed her backside at a 2005 fundraising dinner she was working at after a colleague said she had “worked her ass off” for the Congressman.

Morgan Rose said Filner attempted to kiss her four separate times during a 2009 meeting. Rose said the then-Congressman tried to move her face towards his to kiss her on the mouth.

When asked about the new allegations at a public event Thursday, Filner would not respond. When asked why he wouldn’t speak, he said he wanted due process to take place.

To give you a bit more perspective on what might come next NBC 7 along with its media partner looked into what sexual harassment is, under the law and how it's different from sexual battery.

Legally, sexual harassment can include sexual advances, solicitations, sexual requests, physical contact of a sexual nature that's "unwelcome and pervasive or severe."

Attorney Kerry Armstrong has represented many sexual harassment victims and explains it like this:

"Basically sexual harassment can take the form in a lot of different ways. It can be obviously physical,” Armstrong said. “Sexual harassment generally is known as more of a verbal type thing where you’re saying lewd or crude things to an employee or someone who works for you."

The law also says there must be a business or professional relationship and an inability by the plaintiff to easily terminate the relationship

Armstrong said an employee has the right not to be hit on every day.

“Basically that law says that if you’re in a workplace, you have the right to do your job, to not to be harassed by a co-worker or especially a boss and if you are harassed and it makes you lose productivity at work or possibly even quit, then obviously your damages would be much higher in a certain situation," he explains.

Sexual harassment can sometimes include criminal violations. The laws can overlap.

A person can be convicted of sexual battery under the law if the person:

Acts with the intent to cause a harmful or offensive contact with an intimate part of another, and a sexually offense contact with that person directly or indirectly results.

Acts with the intent to cause a harmful or offensive contact with another by use of his or her intimate part, and a sexually offense contact with that person directly or indirectly results.

"So obviously if you're touching someone at work that’s one of the worst types of sexual harassment,” said Armstrong. “The sexual battery is virtually the same thing. It’s an unwanted touching of an intimate part of your body. The person has some type of sexual intent or sexual arousal or gets that out of it."

Once a victim reports the battery incident to the police, investigators must determine if there's enough proof and decide whether to forward the case to prosecutors.

If convicted of a misdemeanor, the offender could face up to a year in jail per victim.

A felony conviction could mean as many as four years in prison and a $10,000 fine. In some cases, a conviction may also require registering as a sex offender.

It is important to note that Mayor Filner has not been charged with sexual battery.

The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department has confirmed they’ve received calls at a special hotline set up for the investigation into the mayor’s scandal but would not reveal the details of those calls.

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