Harassment claims fall into one of two categories: “quid pro quo” or "hostile work environment." All harassment claims are investigated by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). They will look into the actual event or action that took place and the context of the situation into account while they review your claim. Read on to learn more about these types of harassment, what you can do, and what potential challenges lie ahead.
Quid Pro Quo Harassment
Quid pro quo is Latin for “this for that.” This type of harassment occurs when a superior, such as a manager or supervisor, solicits you for sexual favors in exchange for higher pay, a promotion, or other enticing offers. Their goal is to coerce the victimized person, who is legally protected from such actions. It could also come with a threat that the victim will be demoted or lose their job if they turn down their sexual request.
Hostile Work Environment
When the verbal, physical, or visual harassment and demeaning become so severe that it negatively affects a person’s or a targeted group’s job performance, then it is a hostile work environment. Anyone regardless of where their position is on the company hierarchy can be culpable for creating the tense and perhaps even situation.
What to Look Out For
Harassment can be verbal, nonverbal, visual, or physical, and can be a mixture of sexual, sexist, racist, etc. Sometimes the action is egregious, such as groping or touching a coworker in a sexual nature. But other times it might be very difficult to spot. Sometimes people like to give the benefit of the doubt or make excuses for nonverbal harassment such as winking or making obscene gestures. Visual harassment can come in the form of photographs or posters at one’s desk, computer screensavers or wallpaper, and email or text attachments. These behaviors are all intended to make the victim feel humiliated, uncomfortable, or unsafe.
It’s important to understand your company’s sexual harassment policy, and know when to file a report. You must file a report if you want to seek damages, and your attorney will ask for a copy of your notification to your employer or Human Resources department explaining the events that caused you to file the report. If you notice a pattern of behavior from someone that makes you uncomfortable, then write down the date, time and what was said.
An employer is automatically liable for harassment committed by employees in supervisory positions that leads to another employee’s termination, denial of promotion, demotion or lost wages. The employer can also be liable for harassment committed by non-supervisor employees and independent contractors if the employer knew about or should have known about the harassment was going on, and if they didn’t follow the proper procedure to rectify the situation upon being made aware of it.
Why You Need an Employment Attorney
What the defense might try to argue is that the employer did, in fact, try to correct the harassing behavior. Or they might try to argue that you did not accept the reasonable offer for corrective opportunities. If you hesitated and did not file your report as soon as you had sufficient evidence, then they will claim this was a fabrication to get something out of the company. But if you hire a competent employment lawyer with a track record of success, then you improve your chances of winning your case and receiving damages.