Thousands of sexual harassment cases are filed in U.S. courts annually, resulting in millions of dollars in settlement monies. The high number of lawsuits filed in California, and elsewhere, have not stopped this form of harassment.
Types of sexual harassment
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognizes two types of sexual harassment. Both are illegal and can result in severe penalties for perpetrators and workplaces.
Quid pro quo
The first is quid pro quo, or “this for that.” This type of harassment often involves someone in a position of power demanding sexual activity from a subordinate. The abuser may demand sexual acts as a requirement for a job promotion or to avoid being terminated from a job. Either scenario is illegal.
A broader definition is behavior that creates a hostile workplace. In these cases, the conduct of the perpetrator is so extreme that it negatively impacts the victim’s work performance. This form of sexual harassment is much broader. It includes, but is not limited to, unwanted sexual comments, unwanted attention, touching, inappropriate jokes of a sexual nature, and pictures that demean others.
While the context for this type of sexual harassment is much more broad, identifying hostile work environments is not always easy. The perpetrators and the victims can be of either sex and the victim does not have to be the direct target of the harassing employee. For example, sexually offensive content on someone’s desk may victimize a nearby coworker.
Employees in the U.S. have a right to a workplace that is free of sexual harassment. Understanding your rights is the first step to addressing the problem.