Generally, two forms of sexual harassment exist: “quid pro quo” sexual harassment and “hostile work environment sexual harassment.”
Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when an employer conditions employment opportunities on entering into a sexual or social relationship. Hostile work environment sexual harassment arises when an employer makes unwarranted and unwanted sexual advances to an employee that adversely effect the employee’s psychological well being.
An employer does not have to actually perform the sexual harassment to be liable. The employer may be vicariously liable for an employee’s conduct. Vicarious liability will almost always exist for a supervisor’s quid pro quo sexual harassment.
An employer may insulate itself from liability stemming from sexual harassment claims based on the existence of a hostile work environment by implementing an expressed policy prohibiting sexual harassment. This program must clearly establish that sexual harassment is prohibited and provide employees with an effective means of enforcing the policy. These requirements are satisfied by a policy that:
- Encourages the potential victims of sexual harassment to come forward
- Adequately investigates the allegations
- Takes effective remedial measures to address violations of the policy
Contact an employment law attorney to develop a meaningful safeguard today.