Types of Sexual Harassment at Workplace

Sexual harassment is anywhere – at work, at school, on the street, etc. – is not simply about sex. It is about one persone (the harasser) being hostile toward another person (the victim) by abusing power over the victim directed to the victim’s gender.

Published On:
October 24, 2022

Until today, globally there are more men in positions of power than women, in most cases of sexual harassment, the harasser is a man and the victim is a woman. But men can be victims and women can be harassers, too. Of course, sexual harassment also happens in the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. It can also happen between people of the same sex.

Two types of Sexual Harassment at Workplace

Hostile work environment

This type of sexual harassment can happen in two ways:

Sexual Suggestions or Demeaning Comments

Someone you work with makes you the target of unwelcome sexually suggestive or demeaning comments, repeated and unwelcome requests for dates, offensive gestures, offensive touching, jokes or pranks, intimidating behaviors, or pornographic materials. This behavior is directed at you because of your gender status (because you are a woman, a man, or transgender). These offenses must be severe and/or pervasive. This means that the harassment occurs often enough to affect your ability to do your job well OR the level of harassment is so bad that even one incident is enough to affect your ability to do your job well.

You must also show that your employer is responsible for the harassment (either directly or indirectly). This includes conduct by your employer’s customers or vendors. For example, if one of your co-workers or a frequent customer makes offensive remarks, you have to show how your workplace is responsible for allowing their bad behavior.

Examples of overt and covert inappropriate conduct:
  • Repeated compliments of an employee's appearance
  • Commenting on the attractiveness of others in front of an employee
  • Discussing one's sex life in front of an employee
  • Asking an employee about his or her sex life
  • Circulating nude photos or photos of women in bikinis or shirtless men in the workplace
  • Making sexual jokes
  • Sending sexually suggestive text messages or emails
  • Leaving unwanted gifts of a sexual or romantic nature
  • Spreading sexual rumors about an employee, or
  • Repeated hugs or other unwanted touching (such as a hand on an employee's back).

Providing Less Favorable Conditions

The other way hostile work environment harassment occurs is if your employer provides less favorable conditions of employment to you than to your different-sex co-workers, simply because of your gender status. This can include discriminatory hiring procedures, hours, wages, promotions, work schedules, work assignments, vacation or sick leave benefits, job evaluation, discipline, and termination (firing).

Quid pro quo sexual harassment

This happens when a supervisor or someone in a position of power higher than you, asks or demands sexual contact from you in return for employment benefits or promotions. It can still be sexual harassment even if you didn’t say “no.” If you felt pressured to have sexual contact because you were embarrassed to say no, or afraid you would lose your job, or afraid you would be punished at work, then your sexual contact could have been a form of illegal harassment.

Your gender status does not have to be the only reason you were singled out for this unfair treatment, but it must be a large part of the reason you were harassed.

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