Sexual harassment law defines sexual harassment as verbal, physical or sexual behavior directed at an individual because of his or her gender. Sexual harassment consists of any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. Both men and women are protected by sexual harassment law.
Sexual harassment includes verbal conduct (for example, epithets, derogatory comments, slurs or unwelcome comments about physical appearance), as well as physical and visual insults. Sexual harassment also includes physical contact such as assault, impeding or blocking movement, or any physical interference with normal work or movement, visual objects such as posters, cartoons, or drawings, sexual favors, and unwanted sexual advances.
In addition to standard cases of sexual harassment, there are two additional theories under which sexual harassment claims may be brought on to sexual harassment attorneys. Those theories include 1) Quid Pro Quo and 2) Hostile Workplace.
Quid pro Quo is Latin for "something for something," and essentially that describes quid pro quo harassment in the workplace. This form of harassment occurs when a supervisor requires submission to sexual conduct (not necessarily sex itself) in exchange for raises, benefits, or just continued employment. The harassment may involve sexual propositions, graphic discussion of sexual acts, and commentary on the employee's body and the sexual uses to which it could be put.
If a term of employment is expressly or impliedly conditioned on acceptance of a supervisor’s unwelcome sexual advances, the employee subject to the advances may bring a claim for sexual harassment under the quid pro quo theory. For example, if a supervisor suggests that the employee may receive a raise if the employee accepts the supervisor’s sexual advance, the employee may have an action.
Under the hostile workplace theory of sexual harassment, an employee does not need to allege any sexual advances whatsoever. Rather, the critical element is that an employer created a hostile environment for an employee because of that employee’s sex.
An employee may claim a hostile work environment where the harassment is sufficiently pervasive so as to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive work environment. Sufficiently pervasive harassment requires a pattern of harassment of a routine or general nature.
The alleged misconduct does not have to seriously affect the employee’s psychological well-being. As long as the environment reasonably would be perceived, and is perceived, as hostile or abusive, there is no need for it also to cause psychological injury.
Wherever the harassing conduct occurs, it must occur in a work-related context and have a sufficient connection to the employment relationship.
If you think that you may have been sexually harassed or subject to a hostile workplace environment, please contact the attorneys at the law offices of Michael P. Sousa at 858 453-6122 for a full evaluation of your sexual harassment claim.
Employers seeking to reduce their risk of being sued for sexual harassment are well advised to provide an employee handbook that sets out the company policy prohibiting sexual harassment as well as provide annual training to all employees about how to prevent harassment in the workplace.
If you are an employer and wish to have your company employee handbook reviewed or updated, or would like to have sexual harassment training provided at your workplace, please contact the Law Offices of Michael P. Sousa at 858-453-6122 so that we may meet your sexual harassment prevention needs.