Sexual harassment is one type of sex discrimination, which is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Even though this federal law was established decades ago, sexual harassment is still a major problem in workplaces across the country. In fact, it was recently reported that an estimated one in three women experience sexual harassment at work.
But sadly, the actual number of sexual harassment victims is most likely much higher. This is because many victims choose not to report sexual harassment. Some victims may not come forward out of fear of retaliation, whereas others aren’t sure whether or not what happened to them qualifies as sexual harassment.
If you work in the state of Indiana, it’s important to understand how the law defines sexual harassment so you can protect your workplace rights.
What Are the Two Types of Sexual Harassment?
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there are two types of workplace sexual harassment:
- Quid Pro Quo
- Hostile Work Environment
Both types of sexual harassment are prohibited by federal law. If you are a victim of either type of sexual harassment, you may have the right to recover compensation from your employer.
What is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?
“Quid pro quo” is a Latin term that means “something for something.” This type of sexual harassment occurs when a manager or other authority figure offers an employee some type of work-related benefit if they agree to submit to unwanted sexual advances.
For example, if a manager promises to hire a candidate as long as she goes on a date with him, this is quid pro quo sexual harassment. Other types of work-related benefits that could be offered in a quid pro quo include pay raises, reassignments, and promotions.
Sometimes, the quid pro quo involves a negative consequence that the employee could face if they refuse to submit to the sexual advances. For instance, a manager may threaten to fire an employee unless she submits to his sexual advances. In this example, the work-related benefit that the victim is offered is the opportunity to keep her job.
The authority figure does not need to explicitly make an offer in order for this behavior to qualify as a quid pro quo. Even if the offer is only hinted at, it can still be considered sexual harassment. Furthermore, the offer does not need to be mentioned or hinted at more than once to qualify. Even if it only happens once, it is sexual harassment.
What is Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment can take many forms, including:
- Unwelcome physical or verbal sexual advances
- Requests for sexual favors
- Sexually explicit comments or jokes
- Sexually explicit gestures
- Sharing sexually explicit photos with others
- Unwanted touching
- Discussing topics that are sexually explicit in nature
The law specifically states that minor, isolated incidents or one-off jokes are not serious enough to qualify as harassment. However, this behavior does qualify as sexual harassment when it occurs frequently or is so severe in nature that it creates a hostile work environment. A hostile work environment is one that a reasonable person would find offensive, intimidating, or extremely uncomfortable. The atmosphere of a hostile work environment is so intimidating, offensive, or uncomfortable that an employee may find it difficult to perform their job duties.
For example, if a manager makes sexually offensive comments about a female employee’s appearance on a regular basis, this could be considered sexual harassment. However, if a co-worker makes a single inappropriate joke that is sexual in nature, this is not serious enough to create a hostile work environment, so it will not qualify as sexual harassment.
Managers and other authority figures are not the only ones who can create a hostile work environment. Anyone—even co-workers and clients—can engage in behavior that creates a hostile work environment.
In addition, the victim does not necessarily have to be the employee who is targeted by the harasser. The victim can be anyone who is exposed to the behavior and forced to work in a hostile work environment as a result of the harassment. If you are affected by sexual harassment, you are a victim regardless of whether or not you were directly sexually harassed.
Seek Legal Representation From Our Experienced Sexual Harassment Attorneys
If you have been sexually harassed, it’s important to protect your rights with the help of the sexual harassment attorneys at Beeman Heifner Benge P.A. Let us hold your employer accountable for violating your workplace rights.