Category: Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment has long been a problem in the American workplace. In recent years, victims of harassment have been brave enough to step forward and speak about their experiences. This has prompted many employees to evaluate the atmospheres and behaviors within their own places of employment. As a result, real conversations about sexual harassment and how to stop it have become quite common.

Despite these conversations, many employees still find that it’s difficult to know whether or not they’ve experienced sexual harassment in the workplace. It’s important for you to be able to understand what sexual harassment is and how it can be identified. Understanding the difference between quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment is a great place to begin.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

There are two primary ways in which sexual harassment can occur in the workplace. The first is known as “quid pro quo” sexual harassment. This occurs when conditions of a job are contingent on sexual favors. In other words, your job ultimately depends on giving into to your boss’s sexual advances or demands.

These conditions can be negative or positive.

Quid Pro Quo Harassment Generating Negative Conditions: Negative quid pro quo harassment occurs when your job is threatened if you refuse or fail to comply with sexual demands. Examples could include:

  • Demotion
  • Docked pay
  • Negative performance reviews
  • Unfavorable shift assignments, or
  • Termination.

For example, let’s say that your boss threatens to demote you and dock your pay if you refuse to have sex with him. This is a prime example of quid pro quo harassment.

Quid Pro Quo Harassment Extending Job Benefits: Positive quid pro quo harassment doesn’t mean that it’s good. Instead, it simply refers to the fact that you reap certain benefits for complying with your boss’s sexual demands. Examples could include:

  • Promotion
  • Pay raise
  • Glowing performance reviews
  • Favorable shift assignments
  • Job recommendations, or
  • Extra benefits, vacation days, or sick days.

For example, let’s say that your boss agrees to promote you to a job that you rightfully deserve, but only if you agree to let him touch you in sexually explicit ways. This would be an example of quid pro quo harassment.

Proving Quid Pro Quo Harassment

As a victim of quid pro quo sexual harassment, you have the right to file a complaint under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. For your claim to be successful, you’ll have to prove:

  1. You experienced unwanted sexual advances or comments
  2. Those comments were made by someone at your work in a supervisory role; and
  3. Rejecting those sexual advances would have adverse consequences in your employment.

It can be hard to prove that rejecting sexual advances would have a negative impact on your job. It can help to keep a journal of your interactions with your supervisor, speak with others who have experienced similar harassing behavior, and gather any evidence to support your case.

Hostile Work Environment Harassment

Sexual harassment doesn’t always have to be quid pro quo. A second type of sexual harassment, known as hostile work environment harassment, exists. Hostile work environment harassment means that your employer’s actions or behaviors are so inappropriate that they create an abusive work atmosphere. The employer’s conduct must be either severe or pervasive. It can include physical actions as well as derogatory or hurtful comments.

Examples of behaviors that could create a hostile work environment include:

  • Touching an employee inappropriately
  • Making sexual jokes
  • Commenting on an employee’s sexual appearance
  • Repeatedly asking an employee to have sex or go out on a date
  • Cornering an employee and preventing them from moving freely
  • Sharing or displaying sexually explicit materials, or
  • Sharing stories or dreams about sexual conquests.

Unlike quid pro quo harassment, the behavior that creates a hostile work environment does not have to be targeted at a specific employee. Rather, this type of harassment simply requires an employer to engage in pervasive conduct that creates an uncomfortable and abusive environment for one or more employees. Additionally, hostile work environment harassment doesn’t need to involve a supervisor. Anyone in your place of work can be guilty of this type of harassing behavior.

Proving Hostile Work Environment Harassment

As a victim of hostile work environment sexual harassment, you have the right to file a complaint under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. For your claim to be successful, you’ll have to prove:

  • Your employer, or someone in your place of work, engaged in inappropriate behavior
  • This behavior was severe or pervasive, and
  • It created an abusive or hostile atmosphere for at least one employee.

It can help to keep a journal of your employer’s inappropriate behavior and log your own experiences. This can help to establish a pattern of abusive behavior and serve as proof down the line.


Have you experienced sexual harassment at work? Contact the Briski Law Firm to learn about your legal options. Our experienced attorneys are here to help you assert your rights. Call today to schedule a free consultation and learn more.