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    Sexual Harassment and Hostile
    Work Environments

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    It is unlawful for an employer to sexually harass and/or subject an employee to a hostile work environment on the basis of a legally protected characteristic such as age, color, ethnicity, gender (sex), disability, pregnancy, religion, sexual orientation or certain other characteristics.

    There are two forms of sexual harassment: (1) quid pro quo sexual harassment and (2) hostile environment sexual harassment.

    Quid pro quo harassment occurs when an employer attempts to make the employee’s submission to sexual demands a condition of his or her employment. It involves an implicit or explicit threat that if the employee does not go along with the employer’s sexual demands, he or she will lose her job or suffer other adverse job-related actions, e.g., demotion, suspension, loss in pay, failure to promote, etc.

    Hostile work environment harassment occurs when a supervisor or co-worker harasses an employee because of his/her gender (or other protected characteristic, such as age, race, sexual orientation, etc.) to the point where the work environment becomes hostile. This may include a wide variety of conduct, ranging from displaying pinup posters or pornographic materials, telling obscene jokes, demeaning and/or obscene comments about an individual to physically grabbing or touching another employee.

    In general, to establish a hostile work environment, an employee must show that:

    • The conduct only occurred because of his/her gender (or other protected characteristic, e.g., age, race, sexual orientation);
    • The conduct was unwelcome and severe or pervasive; and
    • The conduct is such that a reasonable person would find that the work environment had become hostile.

    Not all harassment is unlawful harassment. If a supervisor is nasty because of a personality conflict, or is equally nasty to everyone, men and women alike, that is not unlawful harassment.

    The attorney’s at McMoran, O’Connor, Bramley & Burns, P.C. have represented and counseled hundreds of individuals who have been faced with a sexually hostile environment in the workplace. We understand the devastating psychological consequences of having to work in such an environment and are sensitive to the unique issues clients in this situation face. We provide our clients with practical, common sense solutions to the problem and, when necessary, aggressively litigate claims of sexual harassment and hostile work environment.