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What is sexual harassment?

Dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace can make your job so unpleasant, you may not want to go to work. Fortunately, there are ways to make the offensive behavior stop. You may even have a legal claim against your employer if the behavior constitutes illegal sexual harassment.

Not every instance of office behavior you find offensive constitutes illegal sexual harassment. To pursue a successful sexual harassment claim against your employer, you will likely need the guidance of an experienced employment law attorney.

There are two types of illegal sexual harassment:

  • Quid pro quo (this for that): Examples of quid pro quo are a supervisor offering to advance your career in exchange for sex-or threatening to fire you if you don't engage in sex.
  • Hostile work environment: Examples a hostile work environment include a co-worker or supervisor making unwanted sexual advances, offensive touching, vulgar comments, lewd gestures or other offensive behavior.

To qualify as harassment, the behavior must continue despite your objections. A boss asking you out for a date does not constitute sexual harassment unless the behavior continues after you ask him or her to stop.

Both men and women can be victims of illegal sexual harassment. The harassment can take many forms, and may include such behavior as making repeated comments about your sexual orientation or your physical appearance.

The distinctions between what is legal and what is illegal behavior in the workplace can be subtle, and only an experienced employment lawyer can advise you if it makes sense to proceed with a harassment claim.

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