The Types of Sexual Harassment at Work

The Types of Sexual Harassment at Work

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. The essence of a sexual harassment claim is that members of one sex are exposed to disadvantageous terms or conditions of employment to which members of the other sex are not exposed. Do not allow fear and intimidation hold you back from taking advantage of California’s generous rights and protections.

Two Types of Sexual Harassment Claims

Sexual harassment can take the form of either:

  1. Quid Pro Quo: Latin for “in exchange for” or “this for that.” Quid pro quo sexual harassment arises where granting or denial of job benefits, such as a promotion or a good performance review, is contingent on acquiescence to sexual advances or other sexual inappropriate misconduct; or
  2. Hostile Work Environment: This type of sexual harassment is evident when sexual conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with your work performance or creating an intimidating or offensive work environment.

A victim may experience one or both types of sexual harassment in the workplace.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

A key feature of quid pro quo sexual harassment is that a supervisor or another person with authority relies on his or her apparent or actual authority to extort sexual consideration from an employee. It is one form of abuse of power.

This type of coercion may be expressed or implied. The supervisor’s requests for sexual favors do not have to be expressed in every case. In some cases, depending on the circumstances, it may be enough that a supervisor makes unwelcome sexual advances and a link to favorable treatment may be inferred from the circumstances.

Requirements necessary to establish quid pro quo sexual harassment:

  • Employee was subject to unwelcome advances, conduct or comments by a supervisor;
  • Harassment complained of was based upon sex; and
  • the employee’s reaction to the harassment complained of affected tangible aspects of the employee’s compensation, terms, conditions, privileges or employment.

Examples of Quid Pro Quo

  • Threatening to terminate a job if the victim declines sexual advances
  • Keeping a pay raise at bay until the victim agrees to sexual acts
  • Asking for sexual favors in exchange for a promotion or other opportunities
  • Voluntary nature of relationship does not mean harassment was welcome
    • Submission to sexual advances does not deprive you of your right to bring a sexual harassment claim so long as the sexual advances themselves were not welcome. Where a victim submits to a voluntary relationship out of fear of losing her job and financial pressure, he or she may still be able to bring a claim for harassment.

Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

A hostile work environment is evident when sexual harassment is either “severe” or “pervasive.” The more incidents of harassment, the less severe they have to be and vice versa, to give rise to a legal claim. In determining whether conduct was “severe” or “pervasive” Courts consider circumstances such as:

  • The nature of the conduct (physical assault may be viewed as more severe as opposed to verbal conduct);
  • How often, and over what period of time, the conduct occurred;
  • The circumstances under which the conduct occurred;
  • Whether the conduct was physically threatening or humiliating.

Three ways hostile work environment may manifest itself:

  • Physical: Unwanted touching may give rise to a sexual harassment claim when there are no sexual advances or propositions. In these cases, the victim is subjected to unwanted touching such as when a supervisor or coworker intentionally and repeatedly rubs or touches the victim in an offensive and unwelcome manner. Physical conduct may more likely give rise to “severe” hostile work environments.
  • Verbal: Verbal harassment may create a hostile work environment even in the absence of physical touching when for example males use gender-specific, derogatory comments about women such as “whore,” “bitch,” and vulgar discussions of female anatomy. Taunting a male employee because of his effeminate mannerisms mocking him for walking “like a woman” or calling him “faggot” or a “she” may also suffice.
  • Visual: Visual harassment may be evident where there are displays of pornographic images or other sexually explicit material at work.

Sexually Harassing Conduct Need Not Be Motivated by Sexual Desire

If the environment itself is hostile because of the victim’s sex, it does not matter why the harassment was perpetuated. Sexual interest? Misogyny? Personal vendetta? It may be all three or none of the above. In many cases, there is no sexual desire at all but rather an intent to make life difficult for the victim because of his or her sex.

A Single Incident May Be Sufficient

  • For purposes of quid pro quo sexual harassment, a single sexual advance by a supervisor continent on employee benefits may give rise to a claim without further evidence.
  • Under the theory of hostile work environment harassment, a single incident may also support a claim if it is severe. Physical assault or threat thereof may be considered sufficiently severe depending on the circumstances.
  • Where a single incident does not fall within the above categories, Courts look at the frequency of less severe incidents. While on their own they may not give rise to a claim, when viewed together they may paint a picture of a hostile work environment.

Sexual Harassment by a Supervisor vs. Coworker

Behavior by a supervisor is judged more harshly. While a single act by a co-worker may not always give rise to a claim, the same act by a supervisor may give rise to liability.

Sexual Harassment by Non-employees

Your employer must also protect you from sexual harassment by non-employees, including employer’s clients. Where the employer is aware of the harassment and fails to take appropriate corrective action, the employer may be held liable.

You May Be a Victim of Either Quid Pro Quo or Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment Even if it is Not Directed at You

A person who is not personally subjected to offensive comments or touching and instead the harassment is directed at others, may nonetheless have a hostile work environment where the sexually harassing conduct permeates the workplace. To bring such a claim, you must show that the harassment directed at others was in your immediate work environment and that you personally witnessed it.

We Fight Back Against Workplace Sexual Harassment

  • We provide free and confidential consultations at all stages, meaning that you do not have to wait until the situation gets out of hand to reach out to us for help.
  • We offer solutions such as guidance to neutralize hostility and we can resolve conflicts informally and confidentially without filing a lawsuit. In situations where those avenues are not feasible, we will aggressively advocate on your behalf in Court.
  • We provide compassionate and attentive representation. We will support you throughout your journey to give you the confidence to stand up for yourself.

Contact the Employee Rights Attorney Group today for a free and confidential consultation with a sexual harassment attorney in Los Angeles. We look forward to helping you, no matter what your case is. We represent victims throughout California, including Los Angeles County.

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To take advantage of your legal rights, contact us today.
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