“Have sex with me or you’re fired!” Such threats or comments are illegal under the law. Supervisors cannot condition terms of your employment on where or not you have sex with them or acquiesces to their sexual advances or flirting. Moreover, even if you happened to have given in and engaged in a sexual relationship, the supervisor’s behavior may nevertheless be unlawful.
It is unlawful for a supervisor or employee to harass an employee or applicant because of that individual’s sex, gender, or sexual orientation. In general, sexual harassment involves any “unwanted sexual advances” or any sort of conduct which negatively affects an individual’s employment.
What is the difference between quid pro quo and hostile work environment?
There are two types of sexual harassment: 1.) hostile work environment sexual harassment and 2.) quid pro quo sexual harassment.
A hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when an employee is subject to unwelcome sexual conduct that creates an unpleasant, intimidating, or offensive business atmosphere at his or her place of employment. Such conduct may unreasonably interfere with his or her job performance.
Examples of actions that may cause a hostile work environment include:
- offensive comments,
- inappropriate materials or graffiti,
- sexually suggestive innuendos,
- jokes that are sexual in nature,
- sexual social media posts,
- sexual gestures and/or unwanted physical touching.
In situations involving sexual harassment as a hostile work environment, an employee or group of employees must prove that the following conditions were met:
- The victim of the unwelcome harassment was a member of a protected class
- The conduct was sexual in nature
- The conduct affected a term, condition, or privilege of employment
- The conduct was severe and pervasive
- The employer was or should have been aware of the harassment and did not take necessary remedial action (the employer took no action at all, took insufficient action, or exacerbated the problem)
Moreover, for those living in New York City, the law provides additional scrutiny for the acts or supervisors, whether the supervisor causing the unlawful conduct was or was not the victim’s supervisor.
Quid pro quo is a Latin term that translates to “something for something.” Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a supervisor, manager or other authority figure offers or merely hints that he or she will give the employee something—like a raise or a promotion—in return for that individual’s satisfaction of a sexual demand.
Quid pro quo sexual harassment is a theory of sexual harassment that is actionable under Title VII’s anti-gender discrimination provision. Under Title VII an employer is liable for sexual harassment when a supervisor, manager, or other authority figure bases job benefits. Job benefits includes benefits such as a promotion, or increased screen time, on whether the employee acquiesces to the authority figure’s request for sexual favors.
Comments of quid pro quo sexual harassment can come in the form of innuendo or be outwardly vulgar and be blatant or covert.
For example, quid pro quo sexual harassment includes:
- Your are offered a job in exchange for sex with the authority figure
- Your co-worker repeatedly asks you for dates or sex
- Your boss offers you a promotion or increase in pay in exchange for sex
- A subordinate offers sexual favors in exchange for special treatment
- Your supervisor threatens to demote or fire you for not sleeping with him or her
- A boss asking you, “Let’s grab a drink after work to discuss this project,” and then request sex later that night
An individual may claim quid pro quo sexual harassment even if he or she accepts or submits to the sexual advances and suffers one or more employment-related consequences. For example, if an employee is denied a promotion, or was fired upon refusal of a date, one or more requests for a sexual favor, or other sexual advances, or an employee received a raise, or bonus only after fulfilling certain sexual requests, both qualify as workplace sexual harassment under New York State and New York City law.
If you feel like you have been a victim of unlawful discrimination or sexual harassment, call the experienced attorneys at the Derek Smith Law Group, PLLC. Our New York and Philadelphia sexual harassment attorneys work diligently to protect the civil rights of our clients in both the workplace and in the classroom. Whether you are in New York City or Philadelphia, our attorneys have settled cases with large corporations and major universities, and they may be able to help you too. Please give us a call at (800) 807-2209 for a free consultation.