Sexual harassment in the workplace is a complicated issue. People are often confused about what the difference is between generally boorish behavior and something that is legally actionable.
This is what everyone should know about sexual harassment in the workplace.
1. Actionable claims come in one of two forms
A lot of different acts fall under two distinct types of sexual harassment.
Quid pro quo harassment occurs anytime an employee's reaction to sexual advances is used as a basis for workplace decisions. The classic example is when a boss offers an employee a promotion as a trade for sexual favors.
A hostile work environment results from actions that are so severe and pervasive that they impact the victim's ability to work effectively. A classic example is a woman being subjected to degrading comments about her physical attributes and gender on a daily basis.
2. Victims do not have to suffer economic damages to have a claim
If you were sexually harassed, it isn't necessary to show that you also suffered financially to have a case. While many victims of harassment do suffer economic harm if they refuse to go along with someone's advances, it's an irrelevant issue when it comes to filing a claim. As a victim, your right to equal treatment is being affected.
3. Harassment does not necessarily come from above
Sexual harassment at work can be actionable even if it didn't come from your manager or someone else in authority. A co-worker could be instrumental in creating a work environment that's hostile. For that matter, it's even possible for customers to do so! For example, servers in a bar could be subjected to unwanted advances from customers on a regular basis -- to the point that it becomes a pervasive problem.
Isolated incidents, like a single pass from a co-worker or a single vulgar remark usually won't be enough to create a truly hostile environment -- although there may be exceptions. If you've been victimized, an experienced sexual harassment attorney can help you determine if you have an actionable case.