In general, sexual harassment is illegal in the workplace. However, it’s important to know exactly how it is defined and categorized when it occurs. There are two main types to consider.
First off, sexual harassment may create a hostile work environment. Typically, this type of harassment comes from co-workers. It could include things like unwanted contact, sexual jokes or insults being made on a regular basis
The second type of harassment is known as quid pro quo sexual harassment. This is when a person abuses his or her authority in some fashion. For example, a supervisor could tell a worker who is up for a promotion that they need to sleep together or the worker won’t be given the promotion.
One of the big differences here is that a hostile work environment is more of an ongoing condition. If someone makes a sexual joke one time, you can’t immediately start a case against them. If you ask them to stop and they continue, setting up a pattern of behavior, then the environment is said to be hostile.
The same is not true with quid pro quo sexual harassment. You can have a case after one event. This is because of the difference in positions of power, which complicates the situation. Obviously, you can also start a case if there is a pattern of behavior with a supervisor, but you don’t have to wait for it to materialize.
Knowing your rights in the workplace is incredibly important, especially when sexual harassment is in the equation. Always know your legal options when you feel the law is being broken.
Source: FIndLaw, “Types of Sexual Harassment,” accessed Sep. 28, 2016