Legal protections for victims of sexual harassment

The legal process protects victims of sexual harassment who experience sexually harassing behavior in the workplace. Victims need to be aware of what is considered sexual harassment in the workplace.

The law generally recognizes two broad categories of sexual harassment that are prohibited in the workplace.

The first type of sexual harassment is referred to as quid pro quo harassment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a superior in the workplace misuses their authority to require sexual favors. This can include withholding a promotion or a raise or refraining from punishing the employee, such as limiting their hours or firing them, in exchange for sexual favors.

The second category or sexual harassment includes hostile work environment sexual harassment. In some circumstances, sexually inappropriate behavior may be so pervasive in the workplace that it creates what the legal process considers a hostile work environment. Examples can include sexual jokes, photos or threats that create a hostile work environment for the victim that is both intimidating and pervasive.

There are several factors used to determine if the workplace is a hostile work environment, including:

  • The frequency of the inappropriate behavior
  • The severity of the inappropriate behavior
  • The conduct of the victim
  • The context of the inappropriate behavior
  • The size and nature of the business the employee works for
  • If a reasonable person in the same situation as the victim would think the work environment was hostile.

Victims of sexual harassment must be familiar with the different types of sexual harassment and protections against them. It is also essential for workers to feel safe and protected in the workplace and be familiar with the protections available to ensure a safe workplace free from sexual harassment.

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