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The 2 main categories of sexual harassment in the workplace

On Behalf of | Oct 2, 2023 | Employment Law, Harassment, Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can come in many forms, but there are two main categories. The first is a hostile work environment. Catcalling, wolf-whistling and sexually suggestive jokes or remarks are some examples of subtle sexual harassment that constitute a hostile work environment. It is when an employee experiences unwelcome comments or behavior with sexual undertones that affect their work performance and foster an offensive and threatening work environment.

The second primary type of sexual harassment is quid pro quo sexual harassment. It is when a person in a higher position offers workplace benefits to a subordinate, hoping to obtain sexual favors in exchange. They take advantage of their authority to manipulate employees.

Recognizing quid pro quo sexual harassment in the workplace

Quid pro quo is Latin for “something for something.” The victim is an employee who answers to the harasser, meaning they work under them or their supervision. The harasser is someone with the real or perceived authority to offer employee benefits, including the following:

  • A new job or promotion
  • A higher salary
  • A better schedule
  • Positive performance reviews
  • A nicer office
  • An approval of a project the employee is interested in leading
  • A favorable project assignment

By offering these benefits, they make the employee feel they owe them something in return. The employee can refuse to return the favor, but it puts them in an uncomfortable position. Quid pro quo harassment is also when the harasser threatens to remove the benefits if the employee does not reciprocate. It becomes illegal when the person in a higher position or harasser follows through on their threats.

Why employees should be aware of quid pro quo sexual harassment

Employees should know they do not have to consent to unreasonable requests just to get ahead in the workplace. Their hard work should be enough to receive a promotion. If you are an employee in California and believe your manager, supervisor or boss is using their authority to get you to do things you do not want to do, you can get legal help. An experienced California sexual harassment lawyer can help you understand your options and rights against sexual harassment.