What Are the Two Types of Sexual Harassment?

Two types of sexual harassment are recognized under federal law and under the state laws of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. When these forms of harassment happen in the workplace, they are illegal. Workers who have been the victims of either type of prohibited sexual harassment may recover damages for their losses, and the attorneys at Swartz Swidler might be able to help.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo sexual harassment happens in situations in which an employee’s ability to be hired or promoted within his or her job is based on whether or not the employee accepts or rejects sexual advances or other inappropriate sexual conduct. For instance, if an employee is told by a supervisor that she might be likelier to be promoted if she agrees to go on a date with the supervisor, that would be quid pro quo sexual harassment. Conversely, if the employee is told that she will be fired or demoted if she rejects the advances, that would also be quid pro quo sexual harassment.

It is important to understand that submitting to the sexual conduct does not bar the employee from filing a complaint. Because there is a power difference between an employer and an employee, the employee may still have the basis for a complaint.

Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment

Harassment can also happen when the victim’s job is not conditioned on his or her acceptance or rejection of it. Hostile environment sexual harassment happens when a victim’s co-worker or supervisor makes comments or sexual advances that make the work environment offensive and hostile in nature. This type of conduct normally has a negative impact on the employee’s ability to do his or her job. Examples of this type of sexual harassment might include the following:

  • Asking questions about the victim’s sex life
  • Telling vulgar jokes
  • Sexual or degrading physical conduct
  • Displays of sexually explicit material

If an employer knew or should have known about the sexual harassment and failed to take action to stop or prevent it, the employer may be held to be liable.

Indirect harassment

Parties other than the direct targets of sexual harassment may sometimes also be able to file claims against the perpetrators of harassment. An example might include an employee who is passed over for a promotion in favor of a worker who submitted to sexual advances in order to gain a promotion.

When hiring a lawyer is appropriate

The first step after an incident of sexual harassment is to confront the harasser. If he or she continues in his or her behavior, you should then file a formal written complaint with your company that follows the outlined procedures. If your employer fails to respond to your complaint or responds in an inappropriate manner, you should then talk to one of the experienced employment lawyers at Swartz Swidler. If you have already filed a complaint and your employer has done nothing or has retaliated against you, contact us today to schedule your consultation.