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Sexual harassment: Quid pro quo and hostile work environment

Sexual harassment continues to make headlines as more victims speak out about their experiences of sexual misconduct in the workplace. The world is beginning to see that sexual harassment occurs across all industries. It is important to be well-versed on what sexual harassment looks like so that you can combat it if it happens to you.

You may be aware of the terms "quid pro quo" and "hostile work environment," but what do those actually mean? Take a look below to learn about the differences between these types of sexual harassment at work.

Quid pro quo

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, quid pro quo harassment occurs when a supervisor makes decisions based on how an employee reacts to unwelcome sexual conduct. An example is your boss offering you a promotion if you will perform a sexual act. Another example is facing threats of demotion or firing if sexual demands are not met. Just one instance of this type of harassment is illegal.

Hostile work environment

On the other hand, there may be consistent or pervasive sexual conduct in the workplace that creates a hostile work environment. Behaviors or actions that may lead to a hostile environment include:

  • Unnecessary physical contact
  • Discussing sexual experiences
  • Displaying sexual pictures
  • Persistently asking for dates
  • Telling sexual jokes

Unlike quid pro quo, this type of harassment generally must be recurring and unwanted in order to create an unlawful situation. For example, if someone at your job makes a sexual joke or asks you out on a date once but does not persist, it probably does not constitute a hostile work environment. However, your employer should take corrective action to stop inappropriate situations whenever they arise. 

With so many stories of sexual harassment making the news, it is important for you to recognize whenever it takes place. If you are the victim of harassment at your workplace, make sure you consider your legal options and stand up for yourself.  

 

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