JS Tip 458: Understanding the Law about Sexual Harassment, Part II

From the Sexual Harassment Workshops: Recognizing Sexual Harassment, Part II

We teach workshops on recognizing and preventing sexual harassment.

According to the law, sexual harassment has two forms:

·      Quid pro quo

·      Hostile work environment

    Last week, we talked about quid pro quo. 

    This week, we’ll talk about hostile work environment.

    A hostile work environment occurs when an employee must endure unwelcome sexual comments, contact, or materials.

    Anyone in a work area—a supervisor, a co-worker, or even a customer—can provoke a hostile work environment. If a customer makes unwelcome sexual comments to an employee, and the company does nothing to stop the offensive behavior, the company becomes responsible for the customer’s behavior.

    Similarly, anyone in a work area—supervisor, worker, male, or female—can be a victim of a hostile work environment.

    Two factors define the offense: seriousness and frequency. A single outrageous episode may qualify as sexual harassment (hostile work environment); several less-outrageous episodes may also qualify.

    As with quid pro quo, hostile work environment violates Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

    No one should have to endure a hostile work environment. Life is too short. 


    Mark Brooks