Sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination and is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there are two types of sexual harassment that take place in the workplace: quid pro quo and hostile work environment.

What is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?

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

Quid pro quo and hostile work environment sexual harassment can happen to women and men, and the victim and perpetrator can be of the same or differing sex.

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What is Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment?

Hostile work environment sexual harassment can consist of intimidating or threatening comments, jokes, and repeated sexual advances that impact the ability of an employee to do his or her job.

This type of sexual harassment is more centered on the hostility and offensiveness that pollute the workplace environment when an individual or group of individuals harass a colleague or a group of colleagues.

Examples of hostile environment sexual harassment may 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.

What About Non-Direct Harassment?

The above-mentioned examples of sexual harassment are common instances of direct sexual harassment. Non-direct (indirect) sexual harassment occurs when a secondary victim has been offended by auditory or visual conduct.

For instance, if a bystander hears something offensive that wasn’t aimed at him or her, indirect sexual harassment may have occurred. This could take place by overhearing a lewd joke, seeing an email or letter that was sexual in nature, or coming across pictures on a screen saver that are deemed sexually offensive. Non-direct sexual harassment can also involve a person witnessing the harassment of someone else.

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

If you have experienced sexual harassment in any form in the workplace, you should contact a local employment attorney as soon as possible.

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.