What Are the Types of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace?

In today’s professional environment, it is crucial to understand and recognize sexual harassment in all its forms. This knowledge empowers workers to protect themselves and their colleagues from inappropriate and unlawful behavior. This blog aims to explain the different types of sexual harassment that can occur in the workplace.

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

Quid Pro Quo, Latin for “this for that,” refers to situations where employment decisions such as promotions, raises, or job security are based on an employee’s submission to sexual advances or requests.

Consider the case of Emily White, a highly competent and dedicated employee at a well-established financial firm in New Jersey. Emily has consistently demonstrated her commitment to her profession, hoping to advance her career within the company. However, her professional journey took an unexpected turn when she encountered an instance of quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Emily’s supervisor, Mr. Thomas, had been observing Emily’s hard work and dedication. One afternoon, he requested Emily’s presence in his office for a private discussion. Initially, Mr. Thomas complimented Emily on her excellent performance and dedication to her role. However, his comments soon took an inappropriate turn as he began making unwarranted remarks about Emily’s personal life and physical appearance.

The situation escalated when Mr. Thomas explicitly told Emily that he would recommend her for a much-desired promotion if she agreed to date him. Emily was taken aback and felt violated. She had devoted countless hours to her professional growth, only to be propositioned by her supervisor in this manner.

This scenario is a clear example of quid pro quo sexual harassment. Emily was put in a position where her career progression was directly tied to her willingness to submit to her supervisor’s unsolicited advances. This incident created a hostile work environment, leaving Emily feeling intimidated and violated.

Hostile Work Environment

A hostile work environment exists when an employee experiences frequent or pervasive unwanted sexual comments, advances, requests, or other similar conduct. It can involve anyone in the workplace, from co-workers to clients or customers. The behavior must be severe and pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

Consider the case of Jane, a graphic designer at a mid-sized advertising firm, who regularly receives emails from her manager, Tom, containing inappropriate jokes of a sexual nature. Despite Jane clearly expressing discomfort and requesting that he stop, Tom continues. He even escalates his behavior by leaving lewd comments on her social media posts and making suggestive remarks during meetings.

This behavior is pervasive and constitutes a hostile work environment. Jane’s ability to carry out her duties is impaired, not because of a decline in her professional capability but due to the distress and anxiety caused by her manager’s constant sexual innuendos and actions. This kind of environment is intolerable and constitutes sexual harassment, impeding Jane’s rights to a respectful and safe workplace.

Third-Party Sexual Harassment

Third-party sexual harassment occurs when an employee is harassed by someone other than a co-worker or supervisor, such as a client, customer, or vendor. The employer can be liable if they knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.

Imagine the case of Laura, a sales representative for a bustling tech supply company. Laura regularly meets with representatives from their clientele to discuss product needs and manage accounts. However, during several meetings with a particular client, Mr. Jones, Laura encounters unwanted advances. Mr. Jones starts with seemingly innocent comments about Laura’s appearance, but gradually, his words become uncomfortably suggestive, and his behavior is intrusive, such as unwarranted touching under the guise of friendliness. Despite Laura’s attempts to keep interactions strictly professional, Mr. Jones persists, blatantly ignoring her discomfort.

This behavior exemplifies third-party sexual harassment. Laura finds herself dreading these encounters, which affect her sense of safety and her job performance as she navigates the distress caused by Mr. Jones’s conduct. Although he is not an employee, the company is responsible for addressing the situation to ensure a harassment-free working environment for Laura. Failure to act upon Laura’s complaints would signify negligence on the company’s part and could have legal repercussions.

Cyber Sexual Harassment

With the rise of digital communication tools, cyber sexual harassment has become increasingly prevalent. It can include sending explicit emails, messages, or images, making inappropriate comments on social media, or using technology to stalk or intimidate an employee.

Mark, a senior software developer, is known to be a proficient coder with a decade of experience. In recent months, however, Mark has begun sending inappropriate messages and suggestive emojis to his coworker, Anna, through the company’s messaging platform. Although Anna indicated that she is uncomfortable with his behavior and wants all communication to remain professional, Mark continues ignoring her requests.

He begins to comment on her social media posts during work hours, leaving clearly personal and not work-related remarks. The persistent digital harassment creates an oppressive atmosphere for Anna, affecting her focus and emotional well-being. This is a textbook case of cyber sexual harassment—it utilizes digital means to create a pervasive sense of intimidation. It violates the standard of respect that should be upheld in any professional environment.

Our South Jersey Employment Lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC Will Help You if You Experienced Workplace Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in any form is unacceptable and unlawful. It is important to recognize its different types and understand your rights. If you believe you are a victim of sexual harassment in your workplace, take immediate action. Speak with our South Jersey employment lawyers at The Law Offices of Leo B. Dubler, III, LLC. Call 856-235-7075 or contact us online to schedule your free consultation. With offices in Mount Laurel and Atlantic City, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients in South Jersey, including Cherry Hill, Burlington County, and Camden County.