Sexual harassment is a type of discrimination that’s based on gender/sex, sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity. Anyone, regardless of gender, can be a harasser or a target of harassment. Contrary to popular belief, sexual desire is not always the motivation for sexual harassment. In California, two forms of sexual harassment exist – hostile work environment harassment and quid pro quo harassment.
What Exactly is Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment?
This type of sexual harassment happens when a supervisor, whether suggestively or expressly, requires a lower-ranking employee to give in to their sexual advances by intimidating the employee with an unfavorable employment action. Such actions include getting terminated, being demoted, or giving them a negative review.
For instance, a supervisor who’s forcing an administrative assistant to go on a date or have sex with them in exchange for a promotion will have committed quid pro quo sexual harassment. This kind of harassment only applies to employers and employees (managers, supervisors, etc.) who are in a unique position to take adverse employment actions against their victims.
This means that a coworker who demands sexual favors from or engages in some kind of sexual harassment tactic against another coworker with an equal position isn’t guilty of quid pro quo sexual harassment. They may, however, be guilty of causing a hostile work environment.
What Exactly is Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment?
While quid pro quo sexual harassment only applies to employers and higher-ranking employees, hostile work environment sexual harassment applies to all employees. With this kind of harassment, the perpetrator engages in unwanted sexual-based conduct, which makes the workplace hostile, offensive, or intimidating to any reasonable individual.
It’s important to note that you can be subjected to this kind of harassment even if the hostile conduct wasn’t directed towards you. The conduct must be pervasive or severe to be considered unlawful, and even a single incident of harassment can be adequately severe to be considered unlawful.
Employer Responsibilities and Liability
All employers are legally responsible for taking reasonable steps to prevent and immediately address harassing and discriminatory conduct and ensuring that the workplace is free of sexual harassment. If you complain about sexual harassment to your employer and they fail to do what’s required of them under the law, you can hold them liable for their actions.
In some cases, employers can likewise be held liable for sexual harassment by non-employees, such as a customer or client, of their employee or any individual that provides the employer services.
If you’ve been pressured or forced to suffer unwanted sexual advances or to engage in any kind of sexual conduct to keep your job, avoid upsetting a superior or getting in trouble, whether implicitly or explicitly, at work, or receive an employment benefit, you might have a claim for sexual harassment.
Additionally, if you are being subjected to any kind of intimidating, hostile, humiliating, or offensive behavior, you might likewise have a claim for sexual harassment. Reach out to a skilled sexual harassment lawyer to learn more about the options specific to your case.