Workplace sexual harassment is illegal between employees, between a supervisor and an employee, and often between an employee and an outside contractor or vendor. The EEOC recognizes two types of sexual harassment. The first is known as “quid pro quo” harassment, or “this for that” harassment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an employee is offered an employment benefit in return for sexual favors. The second type of sexual harassment is known as “hostile work environment” harassment. A hostile work environment occurs when an employee is exposed to a pattern of unwanted sexual behavior, comments, or visual displays – such that the employee begins to fear coming to work. The employee must show that he or she has complained about the behavior to his or her direct supervisor and that managers have failed to take action to stop the harassment from occurring.
Because an employee’s record of complaint is key to proving a charge of hostile work environment harassment, it is important for employers to establish, publish, and distribute a clearly worded complaint procedure for employees to follow. It is similarly important for employers to keep records showing they take action in response to any complaints of sexual harassment.