Recognizing types of sexual harassment: hostile work environment

Posted in Quid Pro Quo,Sexual Harassment on May 3, 2013

Last week, we started a discussion about the various kinds of sexual harassment that occur in the workplace. Although this is a complex subject, sexual harassment can generally be broken down into two categories.

The first category is what we talked about last week: “quid pro quo.” This occurs when your boss or superior propositions you for sex or otherwise acts in a sexually inappropriate manner and makes your job status or working conditions contingent on how you respond to these advances. The other broad category of sexual harassment, which we will discuss today, can be summed up with the term “hostile working environment.”

With very few exceptions, one’s work environment should be free from sexual comments, sexual tension and nearly anything else that is personal and doesn’t relate to work. A hostile work environment is created when individuals subject their coworkers or subordinates to unwelcome sexual conduct. This can include:

  • Inappropriate and crude jokes
  • Inappropriate comments about your body or a coworker’s body (even if they are framed as compliments)
  • Unwelcome touches and gestures
  • Pornography anywhere in the office, including images sent through email
  • Repeated requests to go on a date with you
  • Behavior that seems like it could turn into stalking

Sometimes the behaviors that create a hostile work environment are blatant, but they may also be subtle. The bottom line is that these behaviors make it hard to work because they make the work environment hostile, abusive, intimidating and/or offensive.
As we wrote last week, women are not the only victims of sexual harassment; nor does sexual harassment occur only between members of the opposite gender. The behaviors we listed today are just a small example of the many actions and comments that can create a hostile work environment.

If you feel uncomfortable at work because of the words or actions of your colleagues, you might be a victim of sexual harassment. For this and other reasons, you may wish to speak to a qualified employment law attorney who can help you understand your rights and options.

Source: Source: Huffington Post, “Sexual Harassment: Know Your Rights,” Jincey Lumpkin, Apr. 17, 2013