Workers un-affectionally embracing

Defining Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

When watching a TV show or movie, you may have an understanding of what sexual harassment looks like. But like many things, what you see in the media isn’t always true.

If you believe you have been sexually harassed in the workplace, you need an attorney who will fight for justice. That’s where Bullman Law Firm comes in. No matter how small or large your legal needs are when it comes to workplace discrimination, our office is here to help.

What is Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), more than 6,500 sexual harassment claims were filed by employees in 2020. The EEOC defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, verbal or physical threats that are of a sexual nature, requests for sexual favors from another, or generally offensive comments or harassment made about an overall gender. This could look like several scenarios, for example:

  • Sending suggestive messages to a co-worker;
  • Verbally telling a co-worker that they have to perform a sexual act or they will either not be promoted or treated fairly; and,
  • Inappropriate touching.

While thousands of sexual harassment claims are filed with the EEOC each year, it’s believed that many more cases are not filed. This is because employees may think there could be retaliation or other consequences if they discuss what happened to them. Additionally, in many scenarios, sexual harassment is acted upon by a supervisor which puts the employee in a tough position. Not all companies have a human resources department or enough management support that an employee could feel comfortable going to someone else and sharing what happened.

Types of Sexual Harassment

In the workplace, there are two main categories of sexual harassment:

  • Quid Pro Quo
  • Hostile Work Environment

Quid Pro Quo

Quid pro quo harassment is literally defined as, “something for something.” This means that when a person demands an act, they promise the other person something in return. Quid pro quo is usually not consensual — the person demanding an act is generally not looking out for the best interest of the other person. Rather, in their mind, they are trying to justify the actions by saying the other person will get something in return.

Examples of quid pro quo harassment include:

  • An employer withholding a job or promotion to someone if that person does not perform certain acts for the employer;
  • A superior saying a subordinate will be reprimanded if they do not perform a certain act of sexual nature; and,
  • An employer made unwanted sexual advances and told the employee there would be repercussions if they discussed the matter with anyone else.

Hostile Work Environment

Quid pro quo and hostile work environment are similar, except in a hostile work environment, there is nothing the initiating party is saying will happen in return. Instead, in a hostile work environment, an employer makes an employee feel uncomfortable based upon that employer’s actions or unwelcome advances.

Examples of a hostile work environment include:

  • Someone making unwanted comments about a person’s physical appearance;
  • Displaying pictures that are sexual in nature;
  • Making inappropriate gestures to another employee; and,
  • Discussing sexually based acts, fantasies, or jokes with others.

What to Do if You Are Being Sexually Harassed

As shared above, some may feel uncomfortable going to a supervisor or a manager sharing details of the sexual harassment or there may not be a person in the company whom the employee is able to go to at all. That’s why, if possible, it’s crucial for the employee to make some type of documentation of the incidents taking place. Even if it’s simply making note of the date and what actions occurred, having some form of documentation could help a case.

It is also important to note that an employee should communicate either verbally, in writing, or both, that they do not want the unwelcome advances. This is also key to document should you need to take your case further.

If the unwelcomed advances or actions are still occurring, that’s when it’s time to contact . Let us help you explore your legal options with a free case review. Fill out our online form or contact our office today (503) 987-5000.

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