You might think you will know sexual harassment when you see it. Yet, if you wish to take legal action to defend yourself against it, it is essential to understand how the law sees things.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act allows you to take action when one of two things occurs.
Hostile work environment
A hostile work environment means the harassment has reached the point where you no longer feel comfortable at work. Typically it results from a series of events. For example, a colleague has been making lewd comments about how you dress.
Quid pro quo
Quid pro quo can be a single event. For example, your manager calls you into the office and asks how much you want that promotion and what you are willing to do for it. You begin to reel off a list of extra projects you are keen to take on until you realize that is not what they are talking about. What they really mean is what are you willing to do for them in return for the promotion.
Can something fall into both categories?
Let’s say your manager has been “noticing” how you dress and making comments about how particular blouses or jumpers make your breasts look. Then the same manager calls you into the office, eyes glued to your breasts and suggests you could use them to get yourself a pay rise. In that case, you could argue that the sexual harassment they subjected you to has met the requirements for both categories.
Sexual harassment is sexual harassment, whatever form it takes. Yet that is not how the law works. You need to justify a case based on specific grounds. The requirements to prove quid pro quo are different from those required to prove a hostile work environment.
Having help to determine how best to present your case will increase your chances of a successful conclusion.