According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), there are two primary times of sexual harassment. Some circumstances fall into both categories, but most will clearly either involve the creation of a hostile work environment or quid pro quo harassment.
Understanding what workplace behavior falls into which category of sexual harassment will be important for those who think they may have to take action against their employer.
Quid pro quo harassment involves career benefits for personal favors
Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that translates to this for that. In society, quid pro quo has become a phrase that describes mutually advantageous agreements. Quid pro quo arrangements involve both parties to an agreement performing some kind of beneficial favor for one another.
In a workplace environment, quid pro quo sexual harassment could involve an employer offering to overlook misconduct for certain favors. It might also involve promises of raises, promotions or other career benefits for romantic or sexual favors. Sometimes, the inverse situation occurs, where an employer threatens someone with negative workplace consequences if they don’t perform certain favors.
Hostile work environments arise from all kinds of situations
Unlike quid pro quo harassment, which typically involves supervisors, managers, clients, customers or other people in positions of workplace authority, hostile work environments often develop because of the behavior of lower-ranking workers. There also won’t need to be any kind of attraction or sexual advances involved.
When someone’s coworkers become aggressive or negative toward them, it can be very difficult for that person to achieve career success or even to manage their current position. Malicious rumors, intentional workplace exclusion and sharing inappropriate or offensive material on the job or with coworkers could all lead to a hostile work environment.
In both kinds of harassment, it is necessary for the victim of harassment to speak up. Their employer has an obligation to protect them from abuse. If the company does not provide a safe way to report misconduct or if they ignored complaints, then workers will likely need to consider initiating legal action against the company.
Being able to identify common forms of workplace sexual harassment can help you stand up for yourself when facing mistreatment from your coworkers or supervisor.