Sexual Harassment Defined

"Sexual harassment is illegal. It is defined by law as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, visual, or physical contact of a sexual nature."

In practical terms, there are two kinds of sexual harassment:

Quid Pro Quo:

Where employment decisions or expectations (e.g. hiring decisions, promotions, salary increases, shift or work assignments, performance expectations) are based on an employee's willingness to grant or deny sexual favors. Examples:

  • Demanding sexual favors in exchange for a promotion or a raise.
  • Disciplining or firing a subordinate who ends a romantic relationship.
  • Changing performance expectations after a subordinate refuses repeated requests for a date.

Hostile Environment

Where verbal, visual, or physical behavior in the workplace: 1) focuses on the sexuality of another person or occurs because of the person's gender; 2) is unwanted or unwelcome; and 3) is severe or pervasive enough to affect the person's work environment.

The following are examples of behaviors that can create a hostile environment if they are unwanted and uninvited:

  • Off-color jokes or teasing, sexual innuendos
  • Comments about body parts or sex life
  • Repeated requests for dates
  • Excessive attention in the form of love letters, telephone calls or gifts
  • Suggestive pictures, posters, calendars or cartoons
  • Offensive emails, screen savers, computer material
  • Leering, stares or gestures
  • Invading another person's "space"
  • Touching - brushes, pats, hugs, shoulder rubs or pinches