Hardly a day goes by when there isn’t a new report of someone alleging sexual harassment-typically against a well-known celebrity or politician. Though companies have been providing sexual harassment training and have implemented specific policies prohibiting sexual harassment, it’s obviously still a serious problem in America. This blog looks at the types of conduct that can be cause for legal action for sexual harassment on the job.


Under the law, sexual harassment is essentially a form of discrimination in the workplace. There are two specific types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo sexual harassment and the creation of a hostile environment based on sex. Sexual harassment may be heterosexual or same-sex, and it may be perpetrated by a male or a female supervisor.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment-quid pro quo is Latin for “this for that”-occurs when a person with power or authority over a worker offers some type of exchange involving sexual favors or contact. It may be the promise of a work-related benefit, such as a raise, promotion, new office, or benefits, in exchange for sex. It may also involve a threat of a work-related punishment, such as a demotion, undesirable job assignment, denial of a raise or benefits, if an employee refuses to consent to sex.

The creation of a hostile environment occurs when supervisors encourage, allow, condone, promote or facilitate a work environment where references to sex are consistently present. The references may be visual or verbal, including jokes, pictures, e-mails, posters, comments or artwork. As a general rule, the references must be continual or regularly repeated-a single instance will typically not constitute a hostile environment. In addition, the victim must either show that complaints were made or that it was unreasonable to anticipate that complaints would change the behavior.


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