Quid Pro Quo vs. Hostile Work Environment Harassment

Both state and federal laws prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment can take many forms, and each employee’s experience can have unique circumstances. In fact, some employees might not even realize when they have been the victim of sexual harassment, and they might not recognize that they have important legal rights. It is important to have a basic understanding of sexual harassment in a work environment, so you can better identify when this unacceptable conduct is directed toward you.

There are two different types of sexual harassment recognized under the law, and the following is a brief description of each type. If you believe that you have been the victim of unlawful sexual harassment, contact a California employment lawyer who can protect your rights as soon as possible.

Quid Pro Quo Harassment

“Quid pro quo” can translate to “something for something,” and this applies to quid pro quo sexual harassment. In this situation, someone with authority from your work makes sexual favors or conduct a condition of employment. This can take two distinct paths, which are:

● A supervisor or boss offers you a promotion or another employment benefit in exchange for sexual conduct
● A supervisor or boss threatens termination or another type of adverse employment decision if you refuse to engage in sexual conduct

Either way, someone with authority makes your decision whether to engage in sexual relations directly impact your career path, which is against the law. When quid pro quo harassment occurs, your employer can be automatically liable for the unlawful conduct. You do not have to give your employer the chance to stop the conduct – if you are put in this situation, you might have the right to seek damages from your employer for any loss of income, emotional distress, or other losses you suffered as a result of the harassment.

Hostile Work Environment Harassment

Sexual harassment does not have to come from a supervisor, and it does not have to put your job on the line to be unlawful. It can also involve sexually-related conduct that is so pervasive or offensive that it creates what a reasonable person would consider to be a hostile work environment.

There are many types of conduct that can lead to a hostile work environment, including:

● Making sexually-related comments
● Making sexual advances
● Telling offensive jokes or inappropriate stories
● Displaying or emailing photos or videos
● Unwanted touching

Generally, such conduct has to happen multiple times to create a hostile work environment, though a single incident might be so offensive that it, alone, is enough to qualify as this type of sexual harassment.

If you believe you are working in a hostile work environment due to sexual harassment, you should report the issue right away to a supervisor (as long as they are not the harasser), human resources, or someone else in charge. If your employer fails to take the necessary steps to stop the offensive and harassing conduct, you can take action to hold your employer accountable for sexual harassment.

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