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Recognizing Subtle Signs of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

 Posted on July 12, 2018 in Workplace Sexual Harassment

Pittsburgh Sexual Harassment LawyersSexual harassment is a form of sex-based employment discrimination, and it against the law. There are two basic types of workplace sexual harassment: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment. Both can be damaging to not only the victim’s career but also to their physical and emotional well-being. 

“Quid pro quo” is a phrase borrowed from Latin that means “something for something.” In the context of sexual harassment, it refers to a worker being offered benefits—including continued employment—in exchange for sex-related favors. A manager who promises a raise to a worker if the worker agrees to go on a date with him is probably guilty of quid pro quo harassment. Quid pro quo harassment is often fairly overt and easy to recognize, but this is not always the case with the other type of sexual harassment.

A Hostile Work Environment Can Develop Quietly

Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when the atmosphere in the workplace is such that a reasonable person would find it abusive. A situation may also be considered hostile work environment sexual harassment if the harassment interferes with the victim’s performance of his or her job. This type of harassment is often more subtle than quid pro quo harassment, and the types of behavior involved often give perpetrators what they think is “plausible deniability.”

Overt types of hostile work environment harassment include sexually-explicit images posted in common areas or shared throughout the workplace, direct comments about a person’s appearance or sexuality, and actual sexual advances. Unfortunately, there are many other forms that are much less obvious, such as:

  • Standing unnecessarily close to colleagues or “inadvertently” touching them, especially in sensitive areas;
  • Staring or leering at a coworker;
  • Comments about a coworker’s appearance;
  • Questions about a coworker’s dating habits or sex life;
  • Unsolicited comments about sex in general; and
  • Repeated sexually-charged jokes or stories.

It is important to understand that one or two isolated incidents of such behavior will not usually be considered sexual harassment. The behavior must be chronic and create an environment in which it is difficult for a reasonable person to work.

Tell Someone

Before you are able to file a formal complaint of sexual harassment with an outside entity like the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), you need to notify someone in your organization about the existence of a problem. If your managers or supervisors do not know there is a problem—or that you have an issue with your work environment—they cannot do anything about it. If you do notify your employer and nothing is done about the problem, then you should file a formal complaint. Similarly, if you report the problem and you are fired, demoted, or treated badly in the future, your formal complaint should include a claim of retaliation—another behavior that is against the law.

Call Us for Help

To learn more about the best way to handle suspected sexual harassment in the workplace, contact an experience Pittsburgh sexual harassment attorney. Call 412-680-7877 for a free consultation at Colianni & Leonard LLC today.



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