Defining Sexual Harassment

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Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome contact or conduct on the basis of gender which impacts a person's job. The legal sexual harassment definition does not limit sexual harassment to conduct that is of a sexual nature.

Types of Sexual Harassment

The first type of sexual harassment is known as quid pro quo or this for that sexual harassment. Quid pro quo sexual harassment involves a threat of some punitive action, such as firing or demotion, if the victim refuses the advances of the harasser. Quid pro quo sexual harassment will only be found if the person making the threats actually has the authority to carry them out.

Hostile Environment

The second category of sexual harassment is hostile environment sexual harassment. Hostile environment sexual harassment consists of any gender-based unwelcome conduct by a supervisor, co-worker, customer, vendor or anyone else with whom the victim may interact in the workplace. There are a number of behaviors which have been found to create a sexually hostile work environment including:

  • Unfulfilled threats to impose a quid pro quo;
  • Discussing sexual acts or other sexually related activities;
  • Displaying pornographic or sexually explicit or suggestive materials;
  • Telling sexually graphic or off-color jokes;
  • Unnecessary touching;
  • Commenting on physical attributes;
  • Using demeaning, degrading, or inappropriate terms, such as “babe” or “honey”;
  • Using crude, offensive, or indecent language;
  • Sabotaging or interfering with the victim's work;
  • Engaging in physically hostile, aggressive, or threatening conduct; and
  • Granting job favors to persons who engage in consensual sexual activity.

Courts consider other factors in determining sexual harassment, including whether a reasonable person would find the conduct so abusive as to constitute sexual harassment.

Sexual Harassment Legal Help

Documenting unwanted sexual advances is critical to protecting your rights and to winning a sexual harassment lawsuit. You should be prepared to present your documentation to your a sexual harassment attorney who will use it, all with other information, to evaluate your case to determine whether you have a valid sexual harassment claim.