Sexual harassment occurs when an applicant or employee is treated less favorably because of the person’s sex. Harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.
There are generally two types of sexual harassment: (1) quid pro quo harassment; and (2) hostile work environment.
What Is Quid Pro Quo Harassment?
“Quid pro quo” is a Latin term meaning “something for something,” or, in other words, “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” In terms of sexual harassment, it means that the participation in unwanted sexual acts becomes a condition of the employee’s employment.
For example, a person’s employer might request or demand unwelcome sexual conduct in exchange for an improvement in working conditions or benefits (e.g. promotion, raise, etc.). Alternatively, when an employee refuses to engage in sexual conduct, the employer might terminate the employee or remove a job benefit (e.g. demotion, pay decrease, etc.). The acceptance or refusal must be conditioned on a substantial change in the terms of employment.
What Is Hostile Work Environment?
A hostile work environment exists when an employee is subject to verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that is unwelcome and that is severe or pervasive enough to alter the conditions of employment (e.g. termination, demotion, etc.) and create an abusive work environment.
A hostile environment can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex, such as making offensive comments about women in general, or it can include unwanted sexual advances or comments about the person’s body, appearance, or sexual activity or proclivities. The law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not serious; however, the cumulative effect of a series of minor incidents can create a hostile environment.
Both the victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man and they can be the same gender. It is illegal for anyone involved with a person’s employment–a supervisor, manager, co-worker, or even a customer–to harass a person because of his or her gender.
Victims of sexual harassment should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available before filing a complaint; otherwise, remedies may be limited.
Which Employers Are Subject to Laws Prohibiting Sexual Harassment?
Employers can be held responsible for sexual harassment if they have 15 or more employees who worked for the company for at least twenty calendar weeks (this year or last).
DOES NEVADA LAW ALSO PROHIBIT SEXUAL HARASSMENT?
Yes, Nevada law has very similar prohibitions against sexual harassment.
WHAT CAN I DO IF I AM THE VICTIM OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT?
To learn about what action you can take, go here.
- Sexual Harassment at Work: Why It’s Not Okay and How to Stop It
- How Can I Provide Sexual Harassment Training for My Employees?