Sexual harassment in the form of a “hostile environment" consists of words, signs, jokes, pranks, intimidation or physical violence which are of a sexual nature, or which are directed at an individual because of that individual’s sex. Sexual harassment also consists of any unwanted verbal or physical advances, sexually explicit derogatory statements, or sexually discriminatory remarks made by someone in the workplace which are offensive or objectionable to the recipient, which cause the recipient discomfort or humiliation, or which interfere with the recipient’s job performance.
A type of sexual harassment known as “quid pro quo” harassment occurs when a person in authority tries to trade job benefits for sexual favors. This can include hiring, promotion, continued employment or any other terms conditions or privileges of employment. Only supervisors and managers are deemed to engage in this kind of harassment, because co-workers do not have the authority to grant or withhold benefits. Sexual harassment can occur between males and females, or between persons of the same sex. Sexual harassment that occurs because the victim is transgender is also unlawful. A single incident of inappropriate sexual behavior may be enough to rise to the level of sexual harassment, depending on the severity of such incident. The law requires that the behavior be severe or pervasive, so that one joke or comment may not be enough to be sexual harassment. However, the courts have held that a single incident could be considered sexual harassment, depending on the circumstances.