Workplace Sexual Harassment: FAQs

As employment lawyers, we get a lot of questions about workplace sexual harassment from clients and potential clients. Below, The Trabosh Law Firm answers some of the most frequently asked questions about workplace sexual harassment.

Q: Does workplace sexual harassment have to involve sex? 

A: Workplace sexual harassment does not have to involve sex. Sexual harassment can involve other forms of physical contact, such as unwanted sexual touching. It can involve other behavior that is of sexual nature, such as sending a person pornographic photos and videos and making lewd remarks. Sexual harassment can also involve behavior that is not of a sexual nature. According to the EEOC, making offensive remarks about a person’s sex is sexual harassment. For instance, harassing a woman by making offensive comments about women in general is considered sexual harassment. 

Q: What are the types of workplace sexual harassment?

A: There are two types of workplace sexual harassment. The first is called “quid pro quo.” The term “quid pro quo” means to grant someone a favor in return for something. This form of sexual harassment arises when an employee receives sexual demands in exchange for some benefit at work, such as a pay rise or promotion. The other type of workplace sexual harassment is “hostile work environment” harassment. This form of harassment arises when a person’s actions or words become severe and pervasive to the extent that they create an intimidating or demeaning work environment. 

Q: If a supervisor sexually harasses an employee, who is legally responsible for the harassment?

A: If a supervisor sexually harasses an employee and the harassment results in a negative employment action such as failure to promote or termination, the employer is automatically liable. If a supervisor harasses an employee and creates a hostile work environment for the employee, the employer can only avoid liability by proving that;

  • it took reasonable steps to try to prevent and correct the behavior
  • the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of preventive opportunities that were provided by the employer

An employer is also legally responsible for harassment by non-supervisory employees if it knew about the harassment or should have known about it and failed to act promptly and correct the behavior. 

Q: Can workplace sexual harassment be committed by people I do not work with?

A: Yes. Workplace sexual harassment offenders can include people an employee does not work with, such as clients or contractors. 

When it comes to liability in cases where sexual harassment is committed by a person an employee does not work with but who the employer has control over, the employer will be liable for the harassment if it knew about the harassment or should have known about it and failed to act promptly and correct the behavior. 

Q: Am I entitled to recover compensation for workplace sexual harassment?

A: If you have been sexually harassed at your workplace, you may be qualified to file a compensation claim and recover damages for, among others, lost wages and pain and suffering. If you are a victim of sexual harassment, talk to an employment lawyer.

Contact The Trabosh Law Firm

If you have questions about workplace sexual harassment or are a victim of workplace sexual harassment, contact our New Jersey employment lawyer at The Trabosh Law Firm.