Claims and lawsuits for sexual harassment in Las Vegas, Nevada

Workplace sexual harassment is a form of employment discrimination in Nevada. There are typically two kinds of workplace sexual harassment:

  1. Quid pro quo: The harasser is in a senior position, and he/she conditions the victim's employment on complying with sexual acts; or
  2. Hostile work environment: The harasser subjects the victim to physical or emotional abuse that threatens the victim's job or makes it difficult to work.

Victims may be able to file a state or federal claim to recover money damages for:

  • pain and suffering (including emotional distress);
  • back pay and front pay (loss of past and future earnings);
  • medical and therapy bills;
  • attorney's fees and court costs; and/or
  • other compensatory damages for out-of-pocket costs related to the claim

If the case proceeds to trial, the court may also order the employer to pay punitive damages, which can be larger than compensatory damages.

Many sexual harassment victims can achieve a favorable resolution to their case without litigation by going through their employer's human resources department or participating in mediation. Victims who wish to see their harassers criminally charged can also file a police report with their local law enforcement agency.

In this article, our Las Vegas Nevada labor law attorneys discuss:

Woman sexually harassing man in workplace
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination under federal and Nevada law.

1. Definition of workplace sexual harassment in Nevada

Both Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Nevada state law prohibit sexual harassment, which is a type of sex discrimination. Workplace sexual harassment typically comprises unwelcome sexually-charged conduct from one co-worker to another (or job applicant). Examples include:

  • bluntly or subtly requesting sexual favors,
  • making a pass or other sexual advances, or
  • any other verbal or physical sexual conduct

A victim may have a legal claim of sexual harassment in either of the following two situations:

  1. quid pro quo harassment: the victim's reaction to the harassment (submitting to or rejecting it) affects his/her employment,
  2. hospital work environment harassment: the harassment prevents the victim from being able to perform his/her job or threatens his/her job

The "classic" sexual harassment scenario is an older senior male employee preying on a younger female inferior. But harassers can be of any age, gender, or staff-level.

Note that a victim does not have to experience financial losses or termination in order to have a claim for sexual harassment. Also note that victims include not only the person being harassed but anyone else adversely affected by the harasser's wrongful conduct.1

2. Filing a sexual harassment claim in Nevada

If possible, victims are advised to report the harassment to their company's human resources department and go through its grievance or complaint process. But if HR fails to resolve the problem to the victim's satisfaction, the victim may then file a claim with either of the following administrative agencies:

male hand on female knee
NERC and EEOC usually try to address claims through mediation.

An employment law attorney can help the victim determine which agency to pursue. The NERC website provides instructions for filing an employment discrimination claim in Nevada. And the EEOC website provides instructions for filing an employment discrimination claim in Nevada.

Note that victims usually have 300 days after the harassment to file a claim with the NERC or EEOC, but sometimes the time limit is shorter. Therefore, victims should discuss their case with an attorney as soon as possible to begin the claim process.

Also note that victims should try to preserve as much evidence as they can, such as video recordings or eyewitness accounts. Sexual harassment often causes no visible damage, so any other evidence of the harassment may be crucial for winning a claim.

2.1. Mediation

The NERC and EEOC often try to reach a favorable resolution through mediation. This is when both sides (and their attorneys) try to come to a solution without judges and with the help of a trained mediator.

Mediation is not mandatory. However, it may be worth attempting since it could expedite the settlement process and minimize legal fees. Learn more about NERC mediation services and EEOC mediation services.

2.2. Settling the claim

If mediation is unsuccessful -- or if the claimant foregoes mediation -- then the administrative agency (NERC or EEOC) will investigate the claim further by gathering evidence. NERC specifically considers the following factors:

paper in clipboard that says "sexual harassment complaint form"
Claimants need a "right to sue" letter before they can file a civil lawsuit.
  • the nature of the sexual advances,
  • the context in which the alleged incidents occurred, and
  • the severity and pervasiveness of the sexual conduct2

If the agency believes that no harassment happened -- or if the parties do not agree to a settlement -- the agency will issue the claimant a "right to sue" letter.

Note that if the case settles, the claimant may have to sign papers immunizing the employer from future harassment lawsuits.

2.3. Filing a lawsuit

When the NERC or EEOC fails to settle the claim, the claimant may then file a civil lawsuit against the harasser and/or the employer. Common claims in these types of cases include:

Many of these cases resolve without proceeding to trial. But if the case reaches trial, the victim (the plaintiff) would have the burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the defendant was liable.3

3. Damages

If the trial resolves in the victim's favor, the victim may be able to recover compensatory damages to cover:

  1. back pay;
  2. front pay;
  3. emotional distress and out-of-pocket costs; and/or
  4. punitive damages

Note that the court may also order that the defendant reimburse the plaintiff for reasonable attorney's fees and costs. And if the harassment caused the plaintiff to suffer job termination, demotion, or lack of advancement, the court can order that the plaintiff be reinstated.

3.1. Back pay

Like it sounds, back pay comprises all the wages, tips, bonuses, and benefits that the plaintiff lost due to the harassment. Note that if the plaintiff did not make a "good faith" effort to find another job and "mitigate" his/her damages, the court may reduce the back pay damages.

3.2. Front pay

Like it sounds, front pay -- also called "loss of future earnings -- is meant to compensate the plaintiff for the money he/she is likely to miss out on in the future due to the case. Courts consider various factors, including:

male hand on female shoulder
Sexual harassment victims may be entitled to front page, back pay, and other compensatory damages.
  • the plaintiff's age,
  • the difficulty of finding a similar job with another company,
  • the length of the plaintiff's employment, and
  • how long the plaintiff probably would have stayed with the company but for the harassment

3.3. Emotional distress and out-of-pocket costs

Depending on the case, the judge may order the defendant to pay for the plaintiff's:

  • emotional distress (a.k.a. "pain and suffering"),
  • reputational harm,
  • medical bills (including therapy pills), and/or
  • costs of job searches

Plaintiffs should keep bills of all their expenses to prove these damages.4

3.4. Punitive damages

The court might also elect to award punitive damages to punish the employer for egregious behavior. For instance, if the employer knew of the harassment but did not take any measures to address it, the court may order punitive damages.

Depending on the case, punitive damages can be as much as three times the amount of the compensatory damages.

4. Filing a police report in Nevada

Victims of sexual harassment may also consider filing a police report at their local police or sheriff's station. But victims are advised to consult with an attorney first to compose the report in a way that does not incriminate the accuser and that conveys the criminality of the harasser.

Learn how to file a police report with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. Note that the LVMPD calls police reports "incident crime reports" (ICRs). There is no fee for filing an IRC.

Upon receiving the ICR, the LVMPD may investigate the matter and ultimately bring criminal charges against the harasser. Scroll down for common sexual harassment crimes in Nevada.

5. Crimes that constitute sexual harassment in Nevada

Nevada law has no specific "sexual harassment" crime. Instead, Nevada has several laws that prohibit specific behaviors that may constitute sexual harassment. These offenses include the following (click on a crime to go directly to that section):

  1. stalking
  2. harassment
  3. assault·
  4. peering
  5. coercion
  6. extortion
  7. indecent exposure
  8. open or gross lewdness
  9. breaching the peace
  10. hate crimes

Name-calling, telling sexist jokes, and leering are usually not criminal in Nevada unless the behavior is recurrent or coupled with threats.

Predictably, sexual harassment that involves physical touching usually carries harsher sentences in Nevada than sexual harassment that is only psychological. Depending on the case, the prosecutor may agree to dismiss the charge or reduce it to a lesser offense in exchange for the defendant agreeing not to take the matter to trial.

5.1. Stalking as sexual harassment in Nevada (NRS 200.575)

5.1.1. Definition

The Nevada crime of stalking is trying to force contact or communication with someone while willfully causing him/her to feel scared for the safety of him/herself or family. An example of stalking as sexual harassment is following someone who does not want to be followed down the hall or on the street while shouting suggestive things.

5.1.2. Defenses

Common defenses to stalking include:

Sexual harassment written on newspaper print
Stalking can be a form of sexual harassment.
  • The victim falsely accused the defendant of stalking,
  • The victim's fears of his/her safety being threatened were unreasonable, or
  • The defendant's behavior was constitutionally protected free speech or assembly

5.1.3. Penalties

Stalking penalties depend on the defendant's criminal record, the severity of the alleged stalking, and whether the alleged stalking occurred online or over the phone.

Nevada stalking charge

Penalty

A first offense of stalking that did not involve the internet or cause the victim to fear substantial bodily harm in Nevada

misdemeanor in Nevada:

A second offense of stalking that did not involve the internet or cause the victim to fear substantial bodily harm

gross misdemeanor in Nevada:

  • up to 364 days in jail and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines

Aggravated stalking, which is stalking that causes the victim to fear death or substantial bodily harm

category B felony in Nevada:

Cyber-stalking

category C felony in Nevada:

  • 1 to 5 years in Nevada State Prison, and
  • possibly up to $10,000 in fines.

Note that the court may also impose a restraining order on the defendant prohibiting him/her from contacting the victim.

5.2. Harassment as sexual harassment in Nevada (NRS 200.571)

5.2.1. Definition

The Nevada crime of harassment is using words or conduct to knowingly threaten another person (or his/her family) with harm so that he/she reasonably fears the threat will be carried out. The threatened harm can be either:

  • Physical injury,
  • Property damage,
  • Physical restraint or confinement, or
  • Anything else meant to substantially impair the victim's bodily or psychological safety

An example of harassment as sexual harassment is leaving someone threatening notes saying that he/she is going to be raped soon.

5.2.2. Defenses

Typical harassment defenses include:

  • The victim falsely accused the defendant of harassment,
  • The victim's fear of the defendant's actions was unreasonable, or
  • The defendant's behavior was constitutionally protected free speech or assembly

5.2.3. Penalties

Nevada harassment penalties turn on the defendant's criminal record, whether the harassment included threats of substantial injury, and whether the harassment occurred online or over the phone.

Nevada harassment charge

Penalty

A first offense of harassment that did not involve the internet or cause the victim to fear substantial bodily harm

misdemeanor:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines

A second offense of harassment that did not involve the internet or cause the victim to fear substantial bodily harm

gross misdemeanor:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines

Aggravated harassment, which is harassment that causes the victim to fear death or substantial bodily harm

category B felony:

  • 2 to 15 years in prison, and
  • possibly a $5,000 fine

Cyber-harassment

category C felony:

  • 1 to 5 years in prison, and
  • possibly up to $10,000 in fines.

The court may also order the defendant to stay away from the victim as well.

5.3. Assault as sexual harassment in Nevada (NRS 200.471)

5.3.1. Definition

The Nevada crime of assault is basically an intended battery, and no physical touching actually occurs. In order to convict a defendant of assault, the prosecution has the burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following elements:

  • The defendant put the victim in reasonable apprehension of an immediate unlawful physical touching,
  • The defendant intended to commit the assault, and
  • The alleged victim was aware of the assault as it was happening

An example of assault as sexual harassment is someone making a sudden groping motion to a women's breasts or behind.

5.3.2. Defenses

Common defenses to Nevada assault charges are:

  • The victim was unaware of the alleged assault as it was happening,
  • The victim's apprehension of physical touching or harm was unreasonable,
  • The defendant was acting in self-defense, or
  • The victim consented to the alleged assault

5.3.3. Penalties

As long as no deadly weapon was involved, assault is a misdemeanor carrying:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines

5.4. Peering as sexual harassment in Nevada (NRS 200.603)

5.4.1. Definition

Woman holding "me too" sign
Peering may be a form of sexual harassment.

The Nevada crime of peering is knowingly going to a person's residence in order to secretly peer, peep, or spy on them through a window or other opening. An example of peeping as sexual harassment is looking through a bathroom keyhole at someone else undress.

5.4.2. Defenses

Common defenses to peeping include:

  • The victim consented to the peeping, or
  • The victim falsely accused the defendant of peeping

5.4.3. Penalties

Nevada peering charge

Penalty

Peeping without a deadly weapon, camera, or audio recorder

misdemeanor:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines

Peeping without a deadly weapon but with a recording device

gross misdemeanor:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines

Peeping with a deadly weapon

category B felony:

  • 1 to 6 years in prison, and
  • possibly a $5,000 fine

5.5. Coercion as sexual harassment in Nevada (NRS 207.190; NRS 207.193)

5.5.1. Definition

The Nevada crime of coercion is intentionally bullying another person to do, or not do, something by either:

  • injuring (or threatening to injure) the victim or victim's family or property,
  • depriving the victim of any tool or clothing, or hindering his/her use of a tool or clothing, or
  • trying to intimidate the person by threats or force

An example of coercion as sexual harassment is a boss threatening to have a female employee fired if he/she does not remove her bra for him.

5.5.2. Defenses

male hand on female knee
Coersion may be a type of sexual harassment.

Common coercion defenses include:

  • The defendant had no intent to deprive the victim of the right to do, or not do, something, or
  • The victim falsely accused the defendant

5.5.3. Penalties

Nevada coercion charge

Penalty

Coercion without using force or the immediate threat of physical force

misdemeanor:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines

Coercion that involves assault or battery

category B felony:

  • 1 to 6 years in prison, and
  • possibly a $5,000 fine

Note that once someone is convicted of felony coercion in Nevada, the court will hold a hearing to determine whether the coercion was sexually motivated. The court will then take the results of that hearing into account when deciding the final sentence. 

5.6. Extortion as sexual harassment in Nevada (NRS 205.320)

5.6.1. Definition

Also called blackmail, the Nevada crime of extortion is when someone threatens to do any of the following in order to obtain money, favors, or something of value:

  • accuse someone of a crime,
  • injure a person or property,
  • publish untruths, or
  • expose any secret

An example of extortion as sexual harassment is threatening to post naked pictures of someone unless that person agrees to go out with him.

5.6.2. Defenses

Common extortion defenses include:

  • The defendant never intentionally threatened the victim in order to obtain something of value,
  • The alleged extortion qualifies as a legitimate legal business offer, or
  • The victim falsely accused the defendant

5.6.3. Penalties

Extortion is a category B felony. The standard punishment includes:

  • 1 to 10 years in prison, and/or
  • up to $10,000 in fines, and
  • restitution

5.7. Breaching the Peace as sexual harassment in Nevada (NRS 203.030; NRS 203.040)

5.7.1. Definition

The Nevada crime of breaching the peace comprises any disruptive behavior involving either:

  • making loud or strange noises,
  • conducting oneself in a tumultuous and offensive manner,
  • threatening, traducing, or quarreling, or
  • challenging to fight, or fighting

An example of sexual harassment as breaching the peace is screaming sexually-charged insults at someone.

5.7.2. Defenses

Common defense to breach of peace are:

  • The defendant did not intend to incite a breach of peace, or
  • The defendant was exercising his/her First Amendment right to free speech

5.7.3. Penalties

Breach of peace is a misdemeanor in Nevada, carrying:

  • up to 6 months in jail, and/or
  • up to $1,000 in fines

Since breach of peace is a minor offense that carries little stigma, a defense attorney may try to get a serious sexual harassment charged reduced down to breach of peace as part of a plea bargain.

5.8. Indecent Exposure as sexual harassment in Nevada (NRS 201.220)

5.8.1. Definition

It is illegal in Nevada for someone to openly and obscenely reveal the body of him/herself or someone else. An example of the Nevada crime of indecent exposure as sexual harassment is an employee taunting a coworker by flashing his genitals at her.

5.8.2. Defenses

A common defense to indecent exposure is that the victim falsely accused the defendant. If no photographic evidence exists to document the alleged incident, the prosecution may have a difficult time proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

5.8.3. Penalties

The sentence for the Nevada offense of indecent exposure turns the defendant's criminal record.

Nevada indecent exposure charge

Penalty

First offense

gross misdemeanor:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines

Subsequent offense

category D felony:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • possibly a $5,000 fine,

The defendant may also be ordered to register as a sex offender in Nevada.

5.9. Open or Gross Lewdness as sexual harassment in Nevada (NRS 201.210)

5.9.1. Definition

The Nevada crime of open or gross lewdness comprises the following two circumstances:

  1. any intentional sexual act done where others could see it; or
  2. any nonconsensual sexual encounter that falls short of rape

5.9.2. Defenses

Common defenses to open or gross lewdness are:

  • The defendant acted unintentionally, such as by accident, or
  • The victim falsely accused the defendant

5.9.3. Penalties

The sentence for open or gross lewdness depends on the defendant's criminal record:

Nevada open or gross lewdness charge

Penalty

First offense

gross misdemeanor:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines

Subsequent offense

category D felony:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • possibly a $5,000 fine,

The defendant may also be ordered to register as a sex offender.

5.10. Hate Crimes as sexual harassment in Nevada (NRS 193.1675)

5.10.1. Definition

The punishment for many sexual harassment crimes can be as much as doubled if the defendant did it because of the victim's:

  • sexual orientation,
  • religion,
  • color,
  • national origin,
  • physical or mental disability, or
  • gender identity or expression

An example of a hate crime as sexual harassment is stalking a victim by sending him sexually offensive racist texts because he is African-American.

Note that Nevada hate crimes are not independent offenses but rather an enhancement to an underlying charge. If a defendant gets acquitted of the underlying crime, such as stalking in the above example, the hate crime enhancement gets dismissed as well.

5.10.2. Defenses

Common defenses to hate crime enhancement charges include:

  • The victim falsely accused the defendant of the hate crime, or
  • The incident was an accident

5.10.3. Penalties

The misdemeanor crimes of assault, harassment, stalking, or breach of peace are prosecuted as gross misdemeanors if they were committed as a hate crime. Therefore the punishment would be:

  • up to 364 days in jail, and/or
  • up to $2,000 in fines.

And the 2 to 15-year prison sentence for aggravated stalking could be as much as doubled if committed as a hate crime.

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Call a Nevada attorney...

If you are a victim of workplace sexual harassment in Nevada, call our Las Vegas labor law attorneys at 702-DEFENSE for a FREE consultation. We may be able to help you file a claim or sue the employer in pursuit of substantial financial damages.

Do you work in California? See our article on California sexual harassment laws.

If you are facing sexual harassment allegations, call our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) to discuss your case for free. We may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to have the charges reduced or dismissed. We are also ready to take your case to trial and fight for a “not guilty” verdict.


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