Briefly, the law recognizes two types of sexual harassment…

  • The first falls under the category of quid pro quo, or one thing in exchange for another. A person in authority demands sexual favors of a subordinate as a condition of getting or keeping a job or benefit. Allegations of such incidents account for only 5 percent of sexual harassment complaints filed with the EEOC in recent years.
  • The second type, normally referred to as a “hostile environment” scenario, occurs when verbal and/or physical conduct creates an intimidating or offensive atmosphere. The behavior in question must be shown to be not only sexual, but also severe and pervasive, offensive and unwelcome – the last criterion being a subjective consideration on the part of the person on the receiving end.

Indirect harassment can be alleged. If employees are talking to each other in crude terms and within earshot of somebody who’s offended, that person could make a complaint of sexual harassment.

And it’s incorrect to think that someone offended by certain behavior must confront the perpetrator in order to mount a viable complaint. The offended worker need only tell a supervisor or manager.

An employee does not have an obligation to educate a harasser about the behavior that is inappropriate.

See also…

Job Discrimination and Harassment