Sexual harassment is any kind of behavior that is unconsented, unwelcome and/or inappropriate for the workplace because of its sexual or offensive nature. The offensive behavior does not have to involve touching and does not have to be tangibly detrimental to the job (e.g. wage loss/passed promotion) to be considered sexual harassment.
The law classifies sexual harassment claims into two categories: “quid pro quo” and “hostile work environment.” “Quid pro quo” is Latin for “this for that.” This type of harassment occurs when an employer demands sexual favors in exchange for job benefits, such as promotions, raises or even job retainment. “Hostile work environment” includes abusive or offensive conduct that substantially interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
A single incident may be sufficient to establish a “quid pro quo” sexual harassment claim, but typically a pattern of conduct is required to establish a hostile work environment. Conduct which may give rise to a sexual harassment claim includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and/or verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. Depending upon the circumstances, an employer may be liable for conduct of non-employees over whom it exercises some level of control. An employer has the duty to take appropriate corrective action to end sexually harassing conduct.