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In the Workplace

Updated: March 29, 2021

What are the different types of sexual harassment?

There are two types of sexual harassment:

  1. Quid pro quo is when your employment benefits, such as getting a raise, not getting fired, etc., are tied to giving into your supervisor’s unwelcome sexual advances. Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that basically means “one thing in return for another.” For example, your supervisor may tell you that you will get a promotion if you kiss him/her. Quid pro quo only applies in cases where the harasser is a supervisor, because a supervisor has the power to grant or withhold employment benefits. Note: Even if you agree to do what the supervisor asks, it could still be considered sexual harassment as long as the sexual advances were “unwelcome.”1
  2. Hostile work environment is where an employee has to deal with offensive sexual comments, unwelcome physical contact, or is exposed to offensive sexual materials as a regular part of the work environment. Generally, a single isolated incident will not be considered sexual harassment unless the behavior was extremely outrageous. The hostile work environment can be created by supervisors, managers, co-workers, or customers. Employers may be responsible for the sexual harassment committed by any of these people if the employer does not take steps to stop the harassment once the employer becomes aware of it. Also, the employer could be liable for the harassment of managers or supervisors if s/he does not take appropriate steps to prevent and then correct this behavior.1

1 See American Bar Association’s website