What behaviors constitute sexual harassment?

| Jun 17, 2020 | Firm News |

At work, you may have a supervisor or colleague who makes you feel uncomfortable, but you can’t quite put your finger on why. Their actions may feel like sexual harassment to you. But you may believe the phrase refers only to behaviors like unwanted touching or unwelcome commentary. Yet, these are but two of sexual harassment’s most obvious forms. By knowing about the different types of sexual harassment, you can define your concerns and act as needed.

Quid pro quo

Quid pro quo, meaning “this for that,” refers to sexual harassment involving the abuse of power. This form of harassment happens when your boss or another superior requests or demands sexual favors from you. To qualify as quid pro quo, these advances must come with the promise of potential incentive or the avoidance of detrimental action. If you give in to them, they are still sexual harassment so long as they were unwanted on your part.

Hostile work environment

Behaviors that create a hostile work environment also qualify as sexual harassment. Inappropriate touching and lewd commentary certainly fall under this category. Yet, its scope is far greater and can include acts that seem innocent at first. You may be experiencing a hostile work environment if:

  • Your boss or colleagues share sexual videos, photos or messages
  • Your boss or colleagues make suggestive gestures toward you
  • Your boss or colleagues stare at you
  • Your boss or colleagues brush against your body
  • Your boss or colleagues repeatedly ask you out on dates
  • Your boss or colleagues make unwanted comments about your appearance

Understanding your options

You may worry that some types of sexual harassment do not meet the threshold for reportability. Yet, if you experience quid pro quo or a hostile work environment, it is crucial for you to protect yourself. Your employer likely has a sexual harassment policy that outlines steps for reporting your harasser. But not all companies take their policies – or harassment – seriously. Whether yours does or not, an attorney with employment law experience can help you stand up for yourself.