Sexual harassment claims often involve people focusing on specific behaviors, but it is important to understand that there are actually two categories of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from allowing anyone to be sexually harassed at work by another person, regardless of their sex, gender, or sexual orientation.
People should understand that retaliation is also forbidden in these cases, as people cannot retaliate for reporting or speaking out against sexual harassment, or for people participating in investigations or legal actions related to sexual harassment. When an employer is informed of sexual harassment, they are required to take prompt action.
Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that relates to an exchange of goods or services, often translating to “this for that,” “a favor for a favor,” or “give and take.” Quid pro quo sexual harassment involves an employment benefit being contingent on a person providing sexual favors.
An example of quid pro quo harassment would be when a supervisor telling a person they will receive a promotion if they submit to the supervisor’s sexual demands. Quid pro quo harassment most often occurs between people in positions of authority and their subordinates.
Some of the employment benefits quid pro quo harassment could involve may include receiving recommendations or positive performance reviews, receiving promotions, receiving raises, or receiving sought-after shifts or work assignments.
Quid pro quo harassment can also involve people in positions of power threatening negative job actions for refusal to submit to sexual demands. People threatened with terminations, demotions, receiving bad reviews, or other consequences of refusing to provide sexual favors are victims of quid pro quo sexual harassment.
Any kind of incident of quid pro quo sexual harassment will be illegal and grounds to file a lawsuit. An employer could be liable for the acts of a supervisor who commits quid pro quo harassment since supervisors are acting on an employers’ behalf.
A hostile work environment sexual harassment involves pervasive or frequent actions of a sexual nature that make an environment hostile to the extent that a person is unable to perform their job duties. Examples may include people telling obscene jokes, people displaying offensive or inappropriate materials, any kind of unwanted touching, interfering with a person’s ability to freely move, pornographic or sexually offensive emails, or unwanted and persistent interactions such as a person constantly asking for dates.
The conduct must be unwanted and pervasive enough to make a person’s work environment a hostile one, meaning that an isolated incident is typically not enough to constitute hostile work environment sexual harassment although there are certainly exceptions to this rule. Hostile work environment sexual harassment will not require employment benefits to be at risk.
Hostile work environment sexual harassment is not connected to threats or promises of job actions. It is possible that coworkers could create a hostile work environment by actions for other parties who were not the targets of their behaviors.
Employers can be liable for hostile work environment sexual harassment between co-workers when employers either should have known or knew about the harassment but failed to take steps to prevent it. The hostile work environment is unique in that any person could contribute to the creation of a hostile work environment, so this type of claim is not limited to interactions between supervisors and subordinates.
An employee who experiences inappropriate behavior should make it clear to a liable party that their conduct is not welcome and then tell management about the situation. When a company fails to intervene, a person should seek the help of an employment law attorney.
If you believe that a quid pro quo or hostile work environment / sexual harassment situation has occurred, you are going to want to be sure that you retain legal counsel as soon as possible so you can achieve the most favorable outcome to your case. Steinberg Law handles all kinds of labor law concerns, including sexual harassment as well as wrongful termination, employment discrimination, and retaliation.
Our firm’s founder has presented cases before the United States Supreme Court, so you can know that we are prepared to take your case the distance. You can call (818) 855-1103 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.