JS Tip 27: From the Sexual Harassment Workshops: Understanding the Law, Part II

According to the law, sexual harassment has two forms:

·      Quid pro quo

·      Hostile work environment

Last week, we explored quid pro quo; in this discussion, we’ll explore 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 be responsible for 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.