What is a hostile work environment in sexual harassment cases?

On Behalf of | Jan 15, 2024 | Sexual Harassment |

If you experience sexual harassment at work, there are two primary legal grounds upon which you can file a claim. The first is “quid pro quo,” if someone insisted that you give sexual favors by offering something in exchange, this situation applies to you. For example, they said they’d give you a pay raise or help you keep your job if you acceded to the sexual action they wanted.

The other, which is more common – probably because it is usually less blatant – is that you can claim you’ve experienced a hostile work environment.

It’s a negative work environment based on protected characteristics

Many people do not enjoy going to work because one or more people they work with say mean things to them, talk badly about them or laugh and joke about them with others. While those things can make going to work mightily unpleasant, they are not necessarily illegal.

If, however, the mistreatment is based on things such as a person’s gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, color, religion or disability, then the situation could be illegal. Those are known as protected characteristics, and harassing or discriminating against someone based on them is against the law.

What you’ll need to prove

One lewd comment or relatively inappropriate action does not make for a hostile work environment – at least not in terms of the law. Instead, you need to prove either a particularly egregious incident or a pattern of behavior or series of events that have combined to make your workplace objectively abusive, intimidating or hostile.

When can you say enough is enough and claim you have experienced a hostile work environment? It’s something you can best determine by seeking personalized legal guidance.

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