Helping Individuals Who Have Been Hurt By Others

What is hostile work environment sexual harassment?

On Behalf of | Feb 23, 2024 | Sexual Harassment

Most people are at least somewhat familiar with the concept of sexual harassment. They know it’s illegal and that they should be able to ask their employers to stop it. Many employers require training about sexual harassment and have specific workplace policies about how to report harassment.

However, the training that people receive and depictions in popular culture often focus on quid pro quo sexual harassment. Quid pro sexual harassment occurs when someone offers workplace benefits or threatens workplace penalties when requesting romantic or sexual favors from another person. Usually, there is an uneven power dynamic in quid pro quo sexual harassment situations that makes the person facing the harassment feel like they have a few options.

Hostile work environment sexual harassment is generally perceived to be more common than quid pro quo sexual harassment. It is also often harder for people to identify when they experience it. What exactly constitutes a hostile work environment for the purposes of sexual harassment?

The conduct of others affects someone’s work

A hostile work environment can look drastically different from one situation to the next. It may involve workers of the opposite sex, the same sex or a mix of both. Hostile work environments typically involve other employees at the company, possibly someone’s teammates or supervisor, consistently – or egregiously – engaging in aggressive or inappropriate conduct toward an individual.

The unsavory jokes, cruel comments and other forms of misconduct that someone faces on the job are so prevalent and consistent (or egregious) that the conduct of their co-workers can reasonably be considered intimidating, hostile or abusive.

Hostile work environments go beyond simple bullying to create a truly unsafe work environment. Someone exposed to a hostile work environment may experience not just diminished job performance but may also develop secondary mental health issues.

Fighting a hostile work environment usually begins with documentation. Going to management or state authorities to end the harassment is usually a good idea, but a victim must first be able to prove that it has occurred. Oftentimes, those who feel uncertain about whether their situation constitutes sexual harassment or not may need to discuss the case with someone familiar with employment laws to evaluate whether they have grounds to take legal action.

Ultimately, fighting back against workplace harassment can potentially protect the career of the person experiencing it and improve the overall work culture at a company.