Sexual Harassment Types

Federal law prohibits sexual harassment through Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This applies to employers that have 15 or more employees. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination that explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. The most common types are quid pro quo and hostile environment.

About Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo harassment typically involves someone in a supervisor-type role. He or she asks or hints at sexual favors in exchange for any type of employment benefit. This could also mean in return for some type of sexual favor the employee would receive more pay, a higher-ranking job, or more seniority within the company.

This is the most common types people see in the media. While this type of harassment doesn’t necessarily have to be between a subordinate and a person of power, it usually is. It is any person with the power to entice a victim into fulfilling sexual demands. These are usually raises, benefits, special deals, recommendations, and certain shifts.  Normally, the harasser threatens negative consequences if not fulfilled. These negative aspects can be a demotion, firing, bad shifts or bad performance reviews.

Other Forms of Quid Pro Quo Harassment

Most people believe that quid pro quo harassment only relates to sexual harassment. However, it can extend to other forms of harassment. Any trade involving gender identity, national origin, race, creed, religion, sexual orientation, age, political affiliation, veteran status, genetic information or a disability is intolerable. Just one threat is illegal and the victim should report it immediately. If nothing happens after reporting the threat, the employer can also be liable.

About Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment

This type of harassment involves several instances of a co-worker, supervisor, or third-party making inappropriate, repeated, and unwanted sexual advances, comments, or requests. Examples can be repeated and unwelcome sexual advances, sexual and distasteful jokes, or purposely blocking an employee in a small space.

Unlike other forms of harassment, hostile work environment sexual harassment rarely happens once. Most of the time, it is repetitious. This is because the hostile harassment occurs after the victim repeatedly asks the harasser to stop.  Also, a single event isn’t as easy to prove in court. It has to be severe enough to cause distress. For example, a single event of extreme sexual misconduct like groping or fondling would still constitute as hostile work environment sexual harassment.

Examples of hostile environment sexual harassment include:

  • Repetitious telling of dirty jokes or sexual anecdotes
  • Drawings, images, statues, pictures, dolls, or icons that are of a sexual nature or undertone
  • Written communications such as memos or emails that are sexual in nature
  • The use of insults or derogatory remarks that are sexual in nature; and/or
  • Repeated behavior that is inappropriate, such as touching, rubbing, or groping. This sexually-oriented behavior is not welcomed or done with permission, or, it is consented to, but it creates a hostile work environment for others.

Additional Examples

In some instances, hostile work environment sexual harassment victims aren’t directly involved in the incident. When other people comment or interact with the victim to the effect of making him or her feel uncomfortable, this contributes to the hostile atmosphere. A claim can still be made as long as someone with the same personal characteristics, such as race, age, or gender, would also consider it sexual harassment.

Another type but less frequently found is favoritism. This may seem like quid pro quo sexual harassment, however, there needs to be a pattern of sexual favoritism. This pattern must cause the victim to feel that giving in is the only way to avoid a hostile environment.

Free Consultation

If you have experienced sexual harassment in any form in the workplace, you should contact a qualified employment attorney. You should do this right away since time is of the essence. If the harassment has not stopped after making a formal complaint with your employer, consulting a harassment lawyer is your best option. Your attorney will be able to provide further guidance, help you file a claim with the EEOC, and help you build a case that will put an end to what you have experienced.

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