What It Is

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. It includes quid pro quo (something for something) harassment, which occurs when an authority figure, such as a manager, suggests that he or she will provide something to a person in exchange for sexual favors. It includes offering to promote an employee, threatening to fire or reprimand the employee for not complying, or hiring or not hiring an applicant based on acceptance or rejection of sexual advances. Sexual harassment is not limited to quid pro quo harassment. It also includes the creation of a hostile work environment. This occurs when there is physical or verbal conduct that is so severe and pervasive that it creates an intimidating, offensive, or hostile work environment. This usually does not include one-off remarks or simple teasing. It can include:

Offensive remarks about a person’s gender
Sexual remarks – Comments made in a joking manner
Unwanted touching of any part of a person’s body

What You Should Know

Sexual harassment of any kind is illegal. You have the right to work in an environment that is not hostile. Your employer is required to ensure that you are not being harassed at work.

The harasser can be a manager, coworker, subordinate or even a customer. The victim and the harasser do not have to be opposite genders or sex. You may be a victim of sexual harassment even if the harassment was not directed towards you but you witnessed it occurring.

What You Should Do

What You Should Do First, you should keep a journal. Every time you are harassed, write down who said what, where you were, what time it was, who else was there, what you did in response, and anything else that you think is important about the harassment. In most situations, you should talk to your employer. Most employers have a system in place to report sexual harassment. If you do not speak to your employer about the harassment, you could be prevented from bringing a lawsuit in the future.

You should talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you decide what you need to tell your employer and how you should do it. If you have been terminated or fired because of sexual harassment, a lawyer can explain what options are available to you. Also keep in mind that there are statutes of limitations and administrative filing requirements that can be as short as 180 days. If you do not take action before the appropriate filing deadlines, you may not be able to take any action at all.