August 21, 2019

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Sexual Harassment Law

Typically occurring in the workplace, sexual harassment includes a variety of conduct either about sex or based on gender. If you have been sexually harassed, you should seek the advice of an Employment or Sexual Harassment Attorney to ensure you protect your rights. View qualified Employment Law Firms in your area to find Sexual Harassment Lawyers if you believe you have been the victim of Sexual Harassment or a Hostile Work Environment.

Types of Harassment

Sexual harassment can be divided into two categories:

  • Hostile work environment
  • Quid pro quo

Hostile Work Environment

Although adults are expected to tolerate a fair amount of rude or offensive behavior, when a pattern emerges based on sex that a reasonable person would find abusive, the workplace is considered hostile and includes the following:

  • Gender-based harassment – where the harassment is not sexual, but directed at persons of one sex
  • Vulgar gestures
  • Offensive physical contact
  • Sexual topics, jokes
  • Discussing physical qualities
  • Using traditionally belittling nicknames (kitten, baby-doll)
  • Imposing demeaning and traditionally subservient job duties only on persons of one sex (such as fetching coffee)

A number of things must be shown to prevail on a hostile work environment claim, including that the conduct was:

  • Frequent – did it occur daily or weekly?
  • Pervasive – were many people involved and could the employee “get away” from it?
  • Humiliating
  • Offensive – and was there any physical contact?
  • Threatening
  • Severe
  • Interfering with the harassed employee’s work performance
  • Causing psychological damage

Quid Pro Quo

Otherwise called tit for tat, this form of harassment occurs when a supervisor demands sexual favors in exchange for either:

  • Promotion
  • Pay raise or other benefits
  • Keeping a job

Sexual Harassment Claims

The victim of sexual harassment must make his/her claim within a very short period of time from the offensive behavior. Typically, most file (either alone or with a state claim) with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and those must be made within as little as 180 days. For states with anti-discrimination laws, the claim typically must be filed within 300 days. The agency will investigate the claim.

Typically, claimants will obtain the services of an Employment Discrimination Attorney and will request the agency wrap-up its investigation and allow the victim to sue the employer in traditional court. The victim then must file within a certain period of time of receiving the right-to-sue letter from the agency (for EEOC right-to-sue letters, 90 days).


Victims who are fired or otherwise suffer an adverse employment action after making a claim may add another count for retaliation. As with the initial claim, a retaliation claim must also begin with the equal employment agency. If a claim is pending, it may be amended to include the retaliatory actions. If not, a new claim typically must be filed, again within the applicable deadlines.

Related areas:

Employment Discrimination, Civil Rights, Litigation