Identifying Sexual Harassment
Under Title VII of The Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is illegal to discriminate against any employee on the basis of his or her race, color, religion, sex or nationality. This means that an employer cannot use a person’s gender as an excuse to treat him or poorly. Sadly, sexual harassment in the workplace continues to be a common occurrence, as a recent high-profile example demonstrates.
In April, the controversial television host Bill O’Reilly was fired from the Fox News Channel after five women claimed that they were harassed by him. O’Reilly allegedly made inappropriate remarks about a woman’s skin color, allegedly made lewd comments to other women, and allegedly even called women on the phone while he was masturbating. The women were allegedly told that if they complained that they would “pay so dearly that [they]’ll wish [they] had never been born.” Reports indicate that O’Reilly and the network have paid out more than $13 million in settlements related to the allegations.
Two Types of Sexual Harassment
There are two main types of sexual harassment that occur in the workplace: “quid pro quo” and “hostile work environment.” The term “quid pro quo” is Latin for “something for something” and implies a trade is being made. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a person of authority harasses a subordinate with the intention that the subordinate must tolerate the harassment in order to keep his or her job or to gain advancement in it. Common examples of quid pro quo harassment include an employer making promotions, work advancements, and salary increases contingent on sexual favors. An employer may even threaten to fire an employee who will not tolerate the harassment. Another form of quid pro quo harassment occurs when an employer “plays favorites” with his or her employees and gives undesirable work to those who refuse his or her sexual advances.
Hostile work environment harassment occurs when an individual or a group of individual’s behaviors creates an intimidating or abusive workplace atmosphere. The harassment can include threatening, intimidating, or inappropriate behavior which is severe enough to interfere with an employee’s ability to do his or her job. This can include verbal comments or actual inappropriate touching, as well as the presence of sexually suggestive or explicit materials. For example, a swimsuit calendar hanging on the wall of a common, public work area could contribute to a hostile work environment.
We Can Help
If you have been made to feel uncomfortable at work, it can be difficult to know for sure if the behavior actually qualifies as sexual harassment. Fortunately, an experienced DuPage County sexual harassment attorney can provide the guidance you need in assessing your case. Call MKFM Law at 630-665-7300 for a confidential consultation today.