There are generally two categories of sexual harassment that are prohibited including quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile work environment sexual harassment. It is helpful for workers to know what is considered sexual harassment and how they are protected from it.
Examples of sexual harassment can include:
- When conditions of employment or advancement are based, either explicitly or implicitly, on sexual favors.
- Being pressured to engage with someone sexually.
- Requests for sexual favors.
- Unwelcome sexual advances.
- Physical acts of sexual assault.
- Unwanted touching or physical contact.
- Verbal harassment that is sexual in nature such as jokes referring to sexual acts or sexual orientation.
- Unwanted sexually explicit photos, emails and text messages.
- Discussing sexual relationships, stories or fantasies at work or school or in other inappropriate settings.
It is important to understand that all of these behaviors are examples of sexually harassing behaviors. When sexual harassment is pervasive enough that it creates a hostile workplace environment, it may be actionable and is prohibited. In addition, quid pro quo sexual harassment, such as when an employer requires sexual favors in exchange for favorable treatment at work on not taking unfavorable action against the employee, is also prohibited.
Sexual harassment in the workplace can make it difficult to go to work every day and may make it impossible for the employee to do their job. Workers do not have to tolerate sexually harassing behaviors in the workplace and should be aware of how employment law protects them.