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Types of Sexual Harassment

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What Are the Two Types of Sexual Harassment?

There are two types of sexual harassment that are legally recognized:

  1. Quid pro quo sexual harassment
  2. Hostile environment sexual harassment

1. What Is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?

Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when an employee gets on the promotion track or even gets to keep his/her job is based on if the employee submitted to or rejected sexual advances or other types of inappropriate sexual comments. For example, if a supervisor were to tell an employee she would be more likely to be promoted if she dressed sexier, that would be considered quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Remember, if an employee submits to the sexual advance or comment, it does not necessarily mean that the employee is then barred from ever making a complaint. If the employee should change her mind, she can still complain against the supervisor who made the comment.

2. What Is Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment?

This type of sexual harassment occurs when a co-worker or supervisor in the workplace makes sexual advances or comments to an employee that, while not affecting promotions or the future of the employee's job, makes the working environment of the employee offensive and hostile. In general, the comments tend to affect the employee's ability to do her job. Some instances of hostile environment sexual harassment can be:

  • Personal questions of a sexual nature
  • Vulgarities and other offensive language
  • Physical conduct that is sexual or degrading to any reasonable person
  • Any sexually explicit or offensive pictures or literature that is in plain site of other employees

If the employer was aware, or should have been aware, of the sexual harassment and did not take action to discipline the offender and correct the situation, the employer can be liable as well as the offender.

What About Non-Direct Harassment?

Sometimes third parties who were not directly the target of sexual harassment may be able to bring a claim against the offender for work employment harassment due to the offender's inappropriate actions. If the third party does not get a promotion she rightfully deserved because another employee submitted to sexual harassment and was promoted because of it, the third party has the right to lodge a complaint against the offender.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Have Been Sexually Harassed in the Workplace?

If you have already filed a complaint with your employer and there has been no response made (or an inappropriate response was made, such as your termination), you may want to consult a harassment lawyer. Your attorney can advise you regarding what are the two type of sexual harassment claims, and can let you know if you may be able to recover any money damages in a lawsuit against your employer.

Photo of page author Peter Clarke

, LegalMatch Content Manager

Last Modified: 03-06-2018 01:20 AM PST

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