The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment this way: “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individuals employment; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”
Generally speaking, the EEOC guidelines divide sexual harassment into two different types:
- Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment is the easiest kind of sexual harassment to understand. Quid pro quo is a Latin term that translates as “something for something,” and quid pro quo sexual harassment is simply an employer or other person in a position of power demanding sexual favors in return for advancement or as the basis for some other employer decision. To establish a case of quid pro quo sexual harassment, individual employees must show that they were subjected to conduct of a sexual nature that was unwelcome, unsolicited, and not incited or instigated by the employee; that the conduct was based on their sex; and that the employees’ reaction to the conduct was used as the basis for an employment decision involving compensation, privileges, or conditions of employment. An example of quid pro quo sexual harassment would be a boss demanding his employee to have sex with him in return for a promotion. Quid pro quo sexual harassment is the easiest kind of sexual harassment to prove, but it is also uncommon compared to the other type of sexual harassment.
- Hostile-environment sexual harassment is created in situations in which an employee is subject to unwelcome verbal or physical sexual behavior that is either extreme or widespread. There is no threat to employment in this kind of harassment, but the harassment causes the employee subject to it enough psychological strain as to alter the terms, conditions and privileges of employment. Hostile environment harassment includes such circumstances as hearing sexual jokes, seeing pornographic pictures, and receiving repeated invitations to go on dates. This type of sexual harassment litigation currently is most seen by courts and is the kind most difficult to prove. Most recent Supreme Court and appeals court cases regarding sexual harassment have been hostile-environment cases.