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Helping You Navigate Workplace Issues in California

Learning More About Harassment in the Workplace

Two Types of Harassment in Your Place of Employment

When we hear that someone is filing a workplace harassment lawsuit, what do they mean? And are there different forms of workplace harassment, or is it defined in a more limited way? According to a fact sheet from the U.S. Department of Labor, there are two basic types of harassment that can occur in the workplace that are illegal: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment. If you believe you have been subject to workplace harassment, you should learn more about filing a lawsuit by speaking with an experienced Florida labor attorney.

Quid Pro Quo Harassment at Work

As the fact sheet explains, there are two basic forms of harassment for which an employee can file a lawsuit, and the first is quid pro quo harassment. This literally means “this for that” harassment, and it is behavior that involves a “tangible employment decision based upon the employee’s acceptance or rejection of unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors.” In some cases, as the U.S. Department of Labor points out, it can also be of a religious nature. In most cases, this form of harassment is committed by a person who is in some kind of position of authority. For example, quid pro quo harassment often is committed by a manager, a supervisor, or anyone else who can make decisions about hiring, firing, and promotion.

What are some examples of quid pro quo harassment? The following represent some common examples of scenarios in which this form of harassment might occur:

  • A supervisor informs an employee that he will give her a promotion if she engages in a sexual act with him. When the employee refuses, the supervisor fires her or refuses to give her a promotion for which she may be due simply because she refused to engage in a sexual act with the supervisor.

  • A supervisor offers to treat an employee better or to provide the employee with more preferable work if the employee agrees to engage in sexual activity with the supervisor.

  • A supervisor offers preferential treatment to an employee if the employee agrees to convert to the supervisor’s religion.

  • A supervisor requires a subordinate to convert to a particular religion or to engage in specific religious activities. When the subordinate employee refuses to do so, the supervisor fires the employee or refuses to promote the employee.

Harassment that Creates a Hostile Work Environment

Unlike quid pro quo harassment, hostile work environment harassment can result from the behaviors of nearly anyone at a place of employment—it need to be committed by a supervisor or another person who has the power to terminate or demote employees. In short, a hostile work environment results from “the unwelcome conduct of supervisors, co-workers, customers, contractors, or anyone else with whom the victim interacts on the job.” In addition, that unwelcome conduct must “render the workplace atmosphere intimidating, hostile, or offensive.”

To rise to the level of illegal harassment, employees must be able to prove the following of the harassment:

  • Unwelcome;

  • Based on the protected status of the employee/victim;

  • Subjectively abusive to the employee/victim; and

  • Objectively so severe and pervasive that a reasonable person would consider the conduct to be hostile or abusive.

Proving a harassment case can be difficult, but an experienced West Palm Beach harassment lawyer can help. Contact Scott • Wagner and Associates for more information about filing a claim.

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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