Sexual harassment is one of the most difficult situations for employers to handle, and, unfortunately, one of the most pervasive problems in the workplace. Sexual harassment is defined as unlawful employment discrimination based on one’s sex. There are two types of sexual harassment. The first, called quid pro quo sexual harassment, is where an employer conditions employment on unwelcome sexual advances, sexual favors or other physical or verbal sexual contact, i.e. promotions or job conditioned on intimate relations with your employer.
The other form of sexual harassment is knows as “hostile working” environment, and is likewise illegal. Hostile working environment includes exposure to unwanted sexual advances, physical contact, sexual remarks, sexual photographs or other types of intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environments. To prove sexual harassment based on a hostile work environment, a pattern of sexual harassment must be established, i.e. an isolated incident will not do unless it is a very severe incident.
Sexual harassment is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and applies whether the person being harassed is a man or a woman or even if both the harasser and victim are of the same sex.
What you may not know, however, is that an employer can be held accountable for the sexual harassment by supervisors and other employees whether or not they knew it was happening.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission governs sexual harassment as a form of sexual discrimination. And, sexual harassment does not apply to only women – men, and so far in very limited circumstances, gays and lesbians are protected by sexual harassment laws.