Defining Sexual Harassment

According to New Jersey Employment Attorneys Lenzo & Reis, sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances or requests for specific sexual favors, including physical and verbal conduct of a sexual nature.

Sexual harassment is something covered by a number of laws. Rules apply mostly to places of employment, but it’s not always an employee to employee matter, as it can also involve contractors, visitors, and even customers.

In general, there are two primary kinds of sexual harassment that women sadly experience. The first is classified as hostile environment. The other is known as ‘quid pro quo’.

The hostile environment style of sexual harassment happens when the unwelcome conduct of any sexual nature instigates a working environment that is abusive, threatening, or intimidating to the point of it impacting someone’s ability to work. Cases or patterns of persistent, severe, and pervasive behavior often happen from someone is a power of authority above the harassment victim, but it can also happen on a peer level too. In some instances, a subordinate might harass their superior.

Quid pro quo is Latin, and it translates to ‘this for that’. This kind of sexual harassment happens when it is either implied or outright stated that a decision regarding an employee will depend on whether or not the employee submits to something sexual in nature. Quid pro quo forms of sexual harassment also happen when it’s either implied or stated that a customer has to submit to something of a sexual nature just to get a job in the first place. For instance, a recruiter might imply a job offer would only be made if a candidate goes on a date with them.

The idea of the conduct of any sexual nature can seem very broad and confusing, so it’s helpful to know specific descriptions and examples. The following three categories don’t cover everything, but they give you a good idea of what you should avoid doing yourself and not put up with if they happen to you:

1) Unwanted Sexual Statements: These can be dirty jokes, sexual jokes, spreading rumors about a person’s sex life or performance, talking about your own in front of others, displaying explicit images or written material, and commenting on someone’s physical attributes. This can all happen in person, online, electronically, over the phone, or even in writing.

2) Unwanted Individual Attention: Pressure for sexual favors or undesired personal interaction or dates of a romantic intent can happen through visits, phone calls, letters, and electronic communication.

3) Unwanted Sexual Or Physical Advances: Sexual assault and actual intercourse should be obvious, but other specifics include unwanted fondling, kissing, hugging, touching, or even just touching oneself in a sexual way for others to see.