Employees and employers might thing they know exactly what sexual harassment is, but the legal definition of this type of harassment might be more expansive than you think. In movies and television, sexual harassment is often portrayed as someone asking for sex in exchange for something else in the workplace. This is definitely a form of sexual harassment, known as quid pro quo sexual harassment, but it is not the only form sexual harassment takes.
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment includes requests for favors, but it also includes unwanted advances of a sexual nature and other physical or verbal contact in this vein. The EEOC adds additional definitions, saying that sexual harassment occurs if the employee's work status could be impacted by his or her acceptance of the advance. Harassment is also considered present if the actions of another create an intimidating, offensive, or hostile environment in the workplace.
That last type of harassment is sometimes called hostile environment harassment. In such an environment, you are subjected to a regular stream of contact that is sexual in nature and unwanted. It can have an adverse impact on your ability to do your job and create emotion, mental, and physical struggles.
One thing to note is that the guidelines published by the EEOC can be somewhat subjective in nature. This means that the way the information is presented can sway how a supervisor, jury, or even a judge sees the situation. If you believe you are dealing with sexual harassment from an employer, then working with an experienced lawyer can help you present your case in the most productive manner.
Source: Dummies.com, "How to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Work Place," Max Messmer, accessed March 23, 2016