What Is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment takes many forms in the workplace including quid pro quo (attempted exchange of sexual favors for favorable treatment) and hostile work environment (unwelcomed conduct of a sexual nature that alters your work conditions).

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

“Quid pro quo” translates to “something for something” or “this for that.” Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a boss, supervisor, manager or coworker conditions an employment benefit on accepting a sexual advance or engaging in sexual favors. A victim of quid pro quo sexual harassment must show the harasser made unwanted sexual advances or engaged in unwelcomed comments and conduct of a sexual nature in exchange for a concrete employment benefit such as a promotion, better work schedule or larger bonus. Such claims may be brought even where the employee ultimately submits to the harasser’s advances. Quid pro quo sexual harassment may also exist where a harasser punishes a victim for refusing to engage in the requested sexual conduct or submit to the sexual advances.

Sexual Hostile Work Environment

Demeaning comments, sexual advances, inappropriate touching, offensive conduct and intimidating and aggressive behavior directed at you by a coworker or boss can destroy your ability to perform your job. More importantly, this conduct creates an illegal hostile work environment that should not be tolerated.

Can a Claim of Sexual Harassment Include Demeaning Conduct and Comments That Are Nonsexual in Nature?

While less common, a viable sexual harassment claim may exist where the employer creates a hostile work environment by directing comments and conduct of a nonsexual nature at an employee on the basis of gender. Quite frequently these cases involve claims that a supervisor favors female employees welcome the supervisor’s advances. Another example of a gender based nonsexual harassment claim is where a boss or entire management team treats females less favorably compared to male employees and creates an offensive atmosphere by making demeaning comments regarding females in the workplace.

What Can You Do?

If you believe you have been sexually harassed at work, Kimberly Ahrens and her team can answer your questions and help you understand your legal options. Beware, you must take legal action within required time periods or your claims may be barred, in whole or in part.