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2 Types of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

With all the recent headlines regarding sexual harassment, companies may want to take a fresh look at their anti-harassment policies. The best weapon against harassment in the workplace is preventing the conduct. Requiring all employees to complete anti-harassment training can educate employees on what constitutes harassment and the contents of the company’s policy.

What is harassment?

Harassment is a form of employment discrimination that violates state and federal laws. Unwelcomed conduct based on certain protected characteristics is considered harassment. Federal laws that protect against harassment include:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008

These laws protect employees from unwelcomed conduct based on a person’s race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information. However, certain unwelcomed conduct does not rise to the level of harassment; minor insults, irritations and isolated occurrences – unless extremely serious – generally will not rise to the level of unlawfulness. Further, abusive conduct not based on protected characteristics will not be considered harassment.

Types of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment is a type of discrimination against sex, which is a protected characteristic in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Two types of sexual harassment exist:

1. A hostile work environment

When speech or conduct is so severe and persistent that it creates an intimating or demeaning work environment, the first type occurs. This type of sexual harassment could occur if employees at a company repeatedly make sexual jokes or display offensive pictures to co-workers.

2. Quid pro quo

Quid pro quo, a Latin phrase which means “something for something,” involves demanding sexual favors in exchange for a benefit or to avoid punishment in the workplace.  An example of this would be a supervisor offering to promote their subordinate if the employee agrees to a date.

Is anti-harassment training required?

Although federal law does not have specific anti-harassment training requirements, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission encourages this practice. Unlike federal law, some states – including California, Connecticut and Maine – do require anti-harassment training. Educating a workforce on harassment basics and the company’s policy on reporting incidents can help reduce occurrences.

A learning management system – such as Paycom Learning – can assist employers seeking to implement anti-harassment training consistently and efficiently on a companywide basis, regardless of employee head count or physical location. Paycom Learning now comes built-in with a basic package of compliance-related trainings to fit any size business.

In a recent episode of Paycom’s HR Break Room podcast, we spoke with founder, Jessica Miller-Merrell, and McAfee & Taft attorney Tony Puckett about how organizations can learn from recent headlines. Click here for the takeaways.

Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.