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Sexual Harassment

Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination that is prohibited under state and federal law. Sexual harassment occurs when a woman (or man) receives unwanted or unsolicited sexual advances or conduct at work and the sexual advances or conduct is a term or condition of the employment for the employee.

Sexual harassment may occur between coworkers at work, or an employee and their supervisor. However, when a coworker (that is not a supervisor) sexually harasses another coworker, this is not enough to bring an action against your employer. In order to bring an action against your employer the employee sexually harassed must have complained to their employer or put their employer (supervisor, manager, Human Resources) on notice regarding the sexual harassment and the employer failed to investigate or failed to take prompt and adequate corrective action.

Sexual harassment often includes an imbalance of power between the employee and employer. For example, a supervisor that requires the subordinate employee to endure the sexual advances or conduct to keep or improve the employee's employment status (i.e. keep heir job, receive a raise or promotion, or any decision) is an example of sexual harassment with an imbalance of power. Sexual advances or conduct is also harassment if it is used for the purpose of making the employee's work environment unbearable and interferes with the employee's ability to carry out their duties (creating a hostile work environment).

Types of sexual harassment:

  • unwanted sexual advances
  • asking for sexual favors in order for the employee to receive something (i.e. raise, promotion) ( aka "quid pro quo")
  • unwanted verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature
  • harassment based on sex, gender or gender identification 

What types of sexual harassment are legally actionable?

Quid pro quo and a hostile work environment are actionable sexual harassment claims.

What is 'quid pro quo'?

Quid pro quo harassment is when a supervisor requires an employee to put up with sexual advances and/or conduct as a condition to receive tangible job benefits, or the supervisor takes negative action against the employee when the employee rejects or refuses the advances or conduct by the supervisor. 

What is a hostile work environment?

A hostile work environment exists where a coworker's or supervisor's sexual harassment results in an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. In order for the environment to be considered 'hostile' the the workplace must be permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is so severe or pervasive that it alters the conditions of the victim's employment and creates an abusive working environment. 

If you believe you believe you have been sexually harassed at work and would like to discuss your case further contact us.