What You Need to Know About Hostile Work Environment Sexual Harassment

b2ap3_thumbnail_hostile-work-environment-claim-form.jpgSexual harassment is a form of sex-based employment discrimination, and it against the law. In general, there are two primary types of workplace sexual harassment: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment. Both can be damaging to not only the victim’s career but also to their physical and emotional well-being.

“Quid pro quo” is a phrase taken from Latin that means “something for something.” In the context of sexual harassment, it refers to a worker being offered benefits—including continued employment—in exchange for sex-related favors. A manager who promises a raise to a worker if the worker agrees to go on a date with him is probably guilty of quid pro quo harassment. Quid pro quo harassment is often fairly overt and easy to recognize, but this is not always the case with the other type of sexual harassment.

A Hostile Work Environment Can Develop Quietly

Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when the atmosphere in the workplace is such that a reasonable person would find it abusive. A situation may also be considered hostile work environment sexual harassment if the harassment interferes with the victim’s performance of his or her job. This type of harassment is often more subtle than quid pro quo harassment, and the types of behavior involved often give perpetrators what they think is “plausible deniability.”

Overt types of hostile work environment harassment include sexually suggestive—or even explicit—images posted in common areas or shared throughout the workplace, direct comments about a person’s appearance or sexuality, and actual sexual advances. Unfortunately, there are many other forms that are much less obvious, such as:

  • Leering or staring at a coworker
  • Standing unnecessarily close to colleagues or “inadvertently” touching them, especially in sensitive areas
  • Making comments about a coworker’s physical appearance
  • Questions or suggestions about a coworker’s sex life or dating habits
  • Unsolicited comments about sex in general
  • Regularly sharing sexually charged jokes or stories

It is important to understand that one or two isolated incidents of such behavior will not usually be considered sexual harassment. The behavior must be chronic and create an environment in which it is difficult for a reasonable person to work.

Tell Someone

Before you are able to file a formal complaint of sexual harassment with an outside entity like the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you need to notify someone in your organization about the existence of a problem. If your managers or supervisors do not know there is a problem or that you have an issue with your work environment, they cannot do anything about it. If you do notify your employer and nothing is done about the problem, then you should file a formal complaint. Similarly, if you report the problem and you are fired, demoted, or treated badly in the future, your formal complaint should include a claim of retaliation—another behavior that is against the law.

Call an Illinois Workplace Discrimination Lawyer for Help

To learn more about the best way to handle suspected sexual harassment in the workplace, contact an experience DuPage County sexual harassment attorney. Call 630-665-7300 for a confidential consultation at MKFM Law today. Our compassionate team understands the challenges that sexual harassment victims face, and we are equipped to help you take action.



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In honor of the passing of our founder, Joseph F. Mirabella, Jr., our offices are closed Friday, January 31, 2020.I Agree