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The Two Types of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment is a reality that many individuals face in their workplaces. Sexual harassment can be subtle or overt, aimed at men or women, and it can be instigated by an individual of any gender or sexual orientation.

Sexual harassment is also a type of workplace discrimination. It can be extremely harmful to a victim’s career, causing him or her to suffer from anxiety or physical or emotional harm and miss out on promotion opportunities and other means of advancing his or her career. If you are unsure about whether you are experiencing sexual harassment in your workplace, read the descriptions below to see if either sounds like your work environment. If so, speak with an experienced employment attorney about taking action to make it stop.

Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

This type of sexual harassment is fairly broad and can include any of the following:

  • Exposure to sexually-explicit images, discussions, or reading material;
  • Invasive questions about your sexual preferences, current relationship, or previous sexual experiences;
  • Unwanted physical contact from others, even if this contact is not on areas of the body that are traditionally considered to be sexual. For example, a colleague repeatedly stroking your arm without your consent is a form of unwanted physical contact and may be considered to be sexual harassment;
  • Persistent requests for dates, physical affection, or other contact of a romantic or sexual nature; and
  • Exposure to crude humor and sexual banter despite vocally protesting it.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo means “this for that.” In the context of sexual harassment, it refers to the type of harassment that employees sometimes receive from their superiors offering favorable treatment in the workplace in exchange for a relationship or sexual favors. For example, promising an employee a promotion in exchange for a sexual relationship, offering a raise or a more desirable work schedule in exchange for sexual contact, or playing “favorites” with one’s employees based on their physical attractiveness and willingness to go along with one’s sexual requests are all types of quid pro quo sexual harassment. Similarly, firing an employee or treating him or her poorly for refusing to cooperate with one’s sexual requests is also a form of quid pro quo sexual harassment, because it is using negative reinforcement for a supervisor to seek sexual gratification from an employee.

Quid pro quo sexual harassment can go in one direction: from a manager or supervisor to his or her employee. Unlike a hostile workplace, which can be created by anybody in a company and does not necessarily need to have a specified victim, quid pro quo sexual harassment is more direct and hinges on the imbalance of power in a manager/employee relationship.

Work with a Winter Park Employment Attorney

If you are facing either type of sexual harassment in your workplace, you have the right to file a sexual harassment claim against your employer. To learn more about exercising this right, speak with one of the experienced employment lawyers at Hornsby Law. Contact our firm today to schedule your initial legal consultation with a member of our team.

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