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Why Family Employers Need To Address Sexual Assault Of Staff Members

Gene Simmons recently settled a sexual battery lawsuit brought against him by a woman who alleged he forcibly touched her during an interview.

The radio broadcaster alleged that Simmons grabbed her hand and pressed and held it against his knee. According to the lawsuit, he then "cooed" that she "must use lotion" and made a sexual innuendo. He then inexplicably "forcibly flicked/struck" the radio personality in the throat.

The plaintiff ended the interview early and immediately. She did agree to attend a promotional photo shoot, at which Simmons allegedly touched her buttocks.

The alleged assault took place at a casino in California during the reopening of Rock & Brews, a restaurant co-founded by Simmons and his Kiss bandmate, Paul Stanley. In addition to Simmons, the plaintiff also sued Rock & Brews, alleging the organization knew that Simmons engaged in illegal behavior and did nothing to stop the assault during the interview. Joe Reinartz "Gene Simmons Settles Sexual Battery Lawsuit" (Jul. 11, 2018).

Commentary and Checklist

Forcibly touching anyone—whether a staff member, a guest in your home, or a business partner—is always illegal. Assault, sexual or otherwise, can lead to civil actions, as in the above case, as well as criminal charges.

When family employers or their managers commit assault, the employer’s organization could be liable as well.

In the article above, the plaintiff sued Rock & Brews in addition to Gene Simmons, because she believed it should have stopped the assault. Family employers and their organizations can also be liable if they do not create sufficient protections, such as written policies and training prohibiting assault, or if they negligently hire someone who has been convicted of assault in the past.

Although your staff will probably never engage in assault-type behaviors such as threatening, hitting, or otherwise causing another person to fear for their safety, you should regularly train them on all types of sexual and other misconduct and what to do if harassed.

First, document your training content, delivery, and attendance. Then, make sure your training addresses behaviors that constitute assault:

  • Threatening a person with the intent to harm him or her;
  • Acting in a way that makes the victim fear that he or she will be harmed, even if you don't actually touch the person;
  • Physically harming a person, such as by hitting or slapping, or attempting to physically harm a person, even if the person is not injured;
  • Threatening a person with a weapon, including household items that could cause injury, such as a golf club, screwdriver, or rock;
  • Sexual touching or intercourse that is forced upon a person; and
  • Forcing a person to touch the perpetrator in a sexual manner.
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