Victims of sexual harassment do not have to be told what it is, however, it is helpful to understand how the law defines sexual harassment and to be familiar with the legal protections victims of sexual harassment have. There are generally two types of sexual harassment prohibited by the law and in the workplace and victims should be familiar with both of them.
The first type of prohibited sexual harassment is referred to as quid pro quo harassment. This type of sexual harassment generally occurs when someone in a position of power or authority, such as a supervisor, requires sexual contact in exchange for not taking punitive actions against the employee, such as firing them or limiting their hours, or in exchange for benefits such as preferential treatment, hours, promotions, raises and other possible benefits to the employee.
The second type of sexual harassment prohibited in the workplace is referred to as a hostile work environment. This type of sexual harassment takes place through the use of demeaning materials, sexual materials, jokes that are sexual in nature or threats. The inappropriate sexual behavior or conduct needs to be so pervasive that it creates a hostile work environment for the victim to work in. Both of these different types of sexual harassment are prohibited in the workplace and may be actionable.
Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace may have different legal protections available to them at the state and federal levels. As a starting point, victims should be familiar with what types of behaviors and conduct are considered sexual harassment and how they can stand up for their rights in the workplace.