Utah Criminal Code 76-5-106: Harassment
1. A person is guilty of harassment if, with intent to frighten or harass another, he communicates a written or recorded threat to commit any violent felony.
2. Harassment is a class B misdemeanor.
“Harassment” refers to a broad number of behaviors that are subject to both criminal punishment and civil liability. On the criminal side, states have a wide variety of criminal laws forbidding harassment in many forms, including general harassment crimes as well as specific forms of harassment, such as stalking and cyberstalking.
Criminal harassment should not be confused with how “harassment” is often used in contexts such as workplace discrimination lawsuits. Federal and state laws ban discrimination against certain types of people in certain situations, such as at work or in housing decisions. In these non-criminal contexts, the victim can sue the harasser in a private civil lawsuit, alleging that the harassment constitutes discrimination. On the other hand, criminal harassment is usually confined to state law. States vary in how they define criminal harassment. Generally, criminal harassment entails intentionally targeting someone else with behavior that is meant to alarm, annoy, torment or terrorize them. Not all petty annoyances constitute harassment. Instead, most state laws require that the behavior cause a credible threat to the person’s safety or their family’s safety. Though state harassment laws vary, they often take different levels and methods of harassment into account. Separate penal statutes or a general harassment statute may list various ways to communicate harassment, including telephone calls, emails, and other forms of communication. Whether there was any legitimate reason for the communication becomes a factor under many states’ harassment laws. Harassment charges can range from misdemeanor to high level felony charges. In many states, people charged with harassment will receive a higher level charge if they have previously been convicted of harassment, of communicating a threat, or of a Domestic Violence offense. Harassment by someone in violation of a restraining order may also draw a higher level charge. Some states elevate the charge if the harassment targeted someone based on race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation.
Stalking and Menacing
In some states, “stalking” is specified as a separate offense from harassment. Other states include both harassment and stalking under a single general statute. Stalking generally refers to a clear pattern of conduct through which the perpetrator causes the victim reasonable fear for their safety or their family’s safety. Interstate stalking is a federal crime Some states punish stalking as a form of “menacing.” Menacing can often include ongoing actions, such as stalking someone, which cause reasonable fear in the victim. Menacing also often includes single acts which are purposefully intended to create a reasonable fear in someone, such as brandishing a weapon.
Some states have enacted specific laws against stalking someone online. “Cyberstalking” generally refers to stalking someone through the internet, email, text messages, or other means of electronic communication. Many states have revised their harassment and/or stalking laws to explicitly include harassing electronic communications. Some states also punish actions akin to cyberstalking under laws aimed at improper uses of computers or electronic communications networks. Federal law makes it a crime to “transmit in interstate commerce” (which includes the internet) a communication containing a threat to kidnap or physically harm someone.
Harassment and Restraining Orders
While prosecutors can charge someone with criminal harassment, victims of abuse or harassment may also petition the court for an order of protection or restraining order to prohibit someone from engaging in harassing behaviors. Orders against harassment and restraining orders frequently come into play in situations involving domestic violence. Such orders come from civil courts, but violation of these court orders may constitute a separate criminal offense and/or contempt of the civil court. Violating a protective order may also increase the severity of harassment, stalking or menacing charge.
How Harassment Works
Harassment in the workplace may occur in a variety of circumstances. In a given situation, a harasser may be a victim’s coworker or supervisor, or they may not work directly with the victim at all, such as a client, customer, or vendor. Harassment doesn’t only affect the victim or intended target. The negative work environment that develops as a result might make other employees victims of the harassment as well. Demeaning another individual regarding a protected classification is discriminatory and therefore illegal.
According to the EEOC, harassment becomes illegal when either of the following conditions is true:
• Putting up with offensive and unwanted actions, communication, or behavior becomes a condition of continued employment.
• The behavior is severe and pervasive enough to create a work environment that any reasonable individual would find intimidating, hostile, or abusive.
• Demeaning an employee for any aspect of their parental status, appearance, weight, habits, accent, or beliefs can also be considered harassment and can add to a claim about a hostile work environment.
• The employer is automatically liable when a supervisor’s harassment of an employee results in termination, failure to promote, or loss of wages. An employer is liable if the harassment creates a hostile work environment; they can only avoid liability if they can prove they took immediate corrective action and the employee unreasonably neglected to take advantage of the opportunity to correct the behavior.
Employers avoid harassment charges when they create expectations in their workplaces that all employees will treat each other with respect, collegiality, fairness, honesty, and integrity. Employers should develop policies that clearly define inappropriate actions, behavior, and communication. The workforce should be trained about the issue and educated about the expectations. Furthermore, the harassment policy must be consistently enforced and complaints treated seriously. A clear harassment policy gives employees the appropriate steps to take when they believe they are experiencing harassment. Companies must be able to prove that an appropriate investigation occurred and that perpetrators found guilty were suitably disciplined. If you are experiencing harassment in the workplace, you can begin by telling the person harassing you to stop (if you feel comfortable doing so). If they continue their behavior, your next course of action is to consult the anti-harassment policy of your employer, if there is one, and follow the steps outlined in it. If there is no policy, talk with a supervisor and ask for their help. You may fear retaliation, but the law is on your side: It’s illegal to retaliate against an employee for reporting harassment. If you wish, you can file a discrimination charge with the EEOC. You must file a charge before you can file a lawsuit for unlawful discrimination. Generally, you have 180 days to file a charge.
Types of Harassment in the Workplace
Workplace harassment is a form of discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other federal regulations, including the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 Harassment becomes unlawful when:
• Enduring the offensive conduct becomes a prerequisite to continued employment, or
• The conduct is severe or pervasive enough that a reasonable person would consider the workplace intimidating, hostile, or abusive. Also, if a supervisor’s harassment results in an obvious change in the employee’s salary or status, this conduct would be considered unlawful workplace harassment.
Components of Workplace Harassment
Harassing conduct may include offensive jokes, slurs, name-calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule, insults, offensive pictures, and more. Workplace harassment isn’t limited to sexual harassment and doesn’t preclude harassment between two people of the same gender. The harasser can be your boss, a supervisor in another department, a co-worker, or even a nonemployee. In addition to harassment occurring in the workplace, harassment can also take place during a job interview. During an interview, employers should not ask about your race, gender, religion, marital status, age, disabilities, ethnic background, country of origin, or sexual preferences.
These are discriminatory questions because they are not relevant to your abilities, skills, and qualifications to do the job. When someone is being abused or harassed, he or she needs to decide on the best way to get legal protection from the abuse or harassment. To do that, several things need to be looked at, like: what type of relationship there is between the person being abused or harassed and the person doing the abuse/harassment; the age of the person being abused or harassed; and the type of abuse or harassment. Then, the law says what type of protection someone can ask for and what he or she has to prove to get it.
There are 4 types of abuse or harassment cases in civil court:
• Domestic Violence
• Elder or Dependent Adult Abuse
• Civil Harassment
• Workplace Violence
Domestic violence is abuse or threats of abuse when the person is being abused and the abusive person are:
• Married or registered domestic partners,
• Divorced or separated,
• Dating or used to date,
• Living together or used to live together (but more than just roommates), OR
• Closely related (like parent, child, brother, sister, grandmother, grandfather, in-law).
The domestic violence laws say “abuse” is:
• Physically hurting or trying to hurt someone intentionally or recklessly;
• Sexual assault;
• Making someone reasonably afraid that he or she or someone else is about to be seriously hurt (like threats or promises to harm someone); OR
• Behavior like harassing, stalking, threatening, or hitting someone, disturbing someone’s peace, or destroying someone’s personal property).
Keep in mind that abuse and domestic violence do not have to be only physical. Abuse can be verbal (spoken), emotional, or psychological. You do not have to be physically hit to be abused. Often, abuse takes many forms, and abusers use a combination of tactics to control and have power over the person being abused. If you are being abused in any of these ways or you feel afraid or controlled by your partner/spouse or someone you are close with, it may help you to talk to a domestic violence counselor, even if you do not want (or are not sure if you want) to ask for legal protection.
Elder or Dependent Adult Abuse
Abuse of an elder or a dependent adult is abuse of:
• Someone 65 years old or older; or
• A dependent adult, who is someone between 18 and 64 that has certain mental or physical disabilities that keep him or her from being able to do normal activities or protect himself or herself.
The law says elder or dependent adult abuse is:
• Physical abuse, neglect, financial abuse, abandonment, isolation, abduction (taking you out of the state against your will), or other behavior that causes physical harm, pain, or mental suffering; OR
• Deprivation by a caregiver of things or services that the elder or dependent adult needs to avoid physical harm or mental suffering.
In general, civil harassment is abuse, threats of abuse, stalking, sexual assault, or serious harassment by someone you have not dated and do not have a close family relationship with, like a neighbor, a roommate, or a friend (that you have never dated). It is also civil harassment if the abuse is from a family member that is not included in the list under domestic violence. So, for example, if the abuse is from an uncle or aunt, a niece or nephew, or a cousin, it is considered civil harassment and not domestic violence.
The civil harassment laws say “harassment” is:
• Unlawful violence, like assault or battery or stalking, or
• A credible threat of violence, and
• The violence or threats seriously scare, annoy, or harass someone and there is no valid reason for it.
For a workplace violence situation, the harassment is defined in the same way as for civil harassment. The difference is that the harassment happens primarily at work and it is the employer of the harassed employee who asks for protection for the employee (and, if necessary, for the employee’s family). For an employer to get a workplace violence restraining order on behalf of an employee, there needs to be reasonable proof that:
• The employee has suffered unlawful violence (like assault, battery or stalking) or a credible threat of violence;
• The unlawful violence or the threat of violence can reasonably be construed to be carried out or to have been carried out at the workplace;
• The conduct is not allowable as part of a legitimate labor dispute; and
• The person accused is not engaged in constitutionally protected activity.
Terms Used In Utah Code 76-5-106
• Felony: A crime carrying a penalty of more than a year in prison.
• Misdemeanor: Usually a petty offense, a less serious crime than a felony, punishable by less than a year of confinement.
• Person: means an individual, public or private corporation, government, partnership, or unincorporated association.
• Written: includes any handwriting, typewriting, printing, electronic storage or transmission, or any other method of recording information or fixing information in a form capable of being preserved.
Utah Criminal Defense Attorney
When you need to defend against criminal harassment charges in Utah, please call Ascent Law LLC for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you!
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506