Sexual harassment in the workplace occurs when an employee is subjected to unwanted advances of a sexual nature, unwanted comments or physical conduct or is requested to perform sexual favors by a supervisor or co-worker. Such conduct constitutes harassment when it affects the victim's employment, creates a hostile or offensive work environment or interferes with their performance.
Sexual harassment can fall into one of two categories: hostile work environment or quid pro quo. Hostile work environment harassment is present when an employee encounters unwanted comments or contact of a sexual nature, or is exposed to offensive sexual materials. Such harassment typically excludes isolated incidents, but rather contemplates such actions becoming a regular part of the workplace environment. Quid pro quo harassment, on the other hand, occurs when an employee's employment status is contingent on subjecting themselves to the sexual advances of a supervisor.
Regardless of the type of sexual harassment allegedly occurring, employees should understand that they have certain forms of recourse at their disposal to stop or report the conduct. Employees may communicate their disapproval to the harasser, record details of the conduct, report the harassment to a supervisor or file a formal complaint, among other actions. Additionally, complaints may be brought to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission under certain circumstances, or a claim may be brought against the employer for permitting or promoting such conduct.
Employees must understand that they are entitled to a workplace free of harassment. If they feel that this right is being violated, there are many remedies at their disposal.
Source: WomensLaw.org, "Sexual Harassment in the Workplace," Accessed Sept. 27, 2015