Sexual harassment in the workplace is prohibited as a form of unlawful discrimination in Hawaii and around the country. Despite this prohibition, it continues to be a pervasive problem in workplaces throughout the state. Sexual harassment can take one of two forms, including quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment.
What is quid pro quo sexual harassment?
Quid pro quo sexual harassment involves situations in which a person in a position of authority over an employee conditions job benefits or threatens adverse job actions based on the employee’s acceptance of the supervisor’s sexual advances. In this type of harassment, the employee can be a victim even if he or she gives in to the advances. Others who witness what occurs may also have grounds to file a claim when the conduct interferes with their jobs.
What is hostile work environment sexual harassment?
Hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when someone is targeted on the basis of his or her sex by co-workers, customers, clients, or supervisors for harassing conduct. The harassment can include obscene jokes, pornographic displays, unwanted touching, leering, and other similar behavior. To qualify as hostile work environment harassment, the conduct must be pervasive or severe enough that it creates a hostile work environment that prevents the victims from being able to perform their job duties.
People who believe they have been the victims of sexual harassment at work should start by filing an internal complaint within their companies. They should review their company’s sexual harassment policy and follow its reporting requirements. If the company does not investigate and take action to correct the behavior or retaliates against the person for complaining, the victim may then want to talk to an experienced employment law attorney for help with filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.