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Sexual Harassment: Quid Pro Quo vs. a Hostile Work Environment

Sexual harassment in the workplace is never a good thing. It creates tension between employees and their superiors, which lowers productivity and can cause irreparable damage to a victim’s career. When asked, many people reply that they know how to recognize sexual harassment in the workplace, but they might not realize that sexual harassment goes far beyond the narrow definition that they understand.

Sexual harassment can be overt or subtle. It can be committed against an individual or a whole group, from an individual or from a group. Both men and women can commit acts of sexual harassment against members of their same sex or the opposite sex, regardless of their sexual orientation. Although it can be difficult to believe, it is possible for a perpetrator to not realize that he or she is sexually harassing others.

The broadest way to categorize workplace sexual harassment is into the following categories:

  • Quid pro quo and
  • Hostile work environment.

These refer to the overall nature of the harassment. If either type of sexual harassment is happening in your workplace, you have the right to file a claim with your Human Resources department. If this does not cause the harassment to subside, contact an experienced employment lawyer.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo is Latin for “something for something.” In the context of workplace sexual harassment, it refers to a supervisor offering preferential treatment, such as a raise, an easier work schedule, or immunity from an upcoming round of layoffs to an employee in exchange for sexual favors from the employee. Requests for nonsexual forms of affection, such as requests for dates or nonsexual physical affection, can also be considered quid pro quo sexual harassment when sought in exchange for favorable treatment.

Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

A hostile work environment refers to any workplace where the victim or group of victims is subjected to any of the following:

  • Degrading remarks about their sex life, preferences, or sexual past;/li>
  • Invasive, inappropriate questions about their sex life, preferences, relationship status, or sexual past;/li>
  • Crude or sexually explicit conversations, photographs, or messages between employees;/li>
  • Singling out an individual based on his or her sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation; and
    Unwanted physical contact.

Unlike quid pro quo sexual harassment, a hostile workplace can be created by an individual at any level of an organization.

Work with a La Cross Employment Attorney

If you are a victim of either type of sexual harassment in your workplace and you are unable to resolve the issue internally, contact our firm of experienced employment attorneys at Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. to schedule your initial legal consultation with our firm. We can determine whether you would benefit from filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and if so, help you file the claim and represent your case throughout the investigation. You deserve a harassment-free workplace – take the steps you need to take to achieve it.

Published May 3, 2016
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