What is sexual harrassment?

Can using foul language in the office setting fall under sexual harrassment?

Asked on May 21, 2009 under Employment Labor Law, Texas

Answers:

E.H., Member, Calfiornia Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's (EEOC) Guidelines define two types of sexual harassment: "quid pro quo" and "hostile environment." The Guidelines provide that "unwelcome" sexual conduct constitutes sexual harassment when "submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment," 29 C.F.R § 1604.11 (a) (1). "Quid pro quo harassment" occurs when "submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual," 29 C.F.R § 1604.11(a)(2). 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11(a)(3). The Supreme Court's decision in Vinson established that both types of sexual harassment are actionable under section 703 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a), as forms of sex discrimination.

Although "quid pro quo" and "hostile environment" harassment are theoretically distinct claims, the line between the two is not always clear and the two forms of harassment often occur together. For example, an employee's tangible job conditions are affected when a sexually hostile work environment results in her constructive discharge. Similarly, a supervisor who makes sexual advances toward a subordinate employee may communicate an implicit threat to adversely affect her job status if she does not comply. "Hostile environment" harassment may acquire characteristics of "quid pro quo" harassment if the offending supervisor abuses his authority over employment decisions to force the victim to endure or participate in the sexual conduct. Sexual harassment may culminate in a retaliatory discharge if a victim tells the harasser or her employer she will no longer submit to the harassment, and is then fired in retaliation for this protest. Under these circumstances it would be appropriate to conclude that both harassment and retaliation in violation of section 704(a) of Title VII have occurred.

Distinguishing between the two types of harassment is necessary when determining the employer's liability.

The below site will give you some examples, including those when the use of foul language was not considered sexual harrassment. That being said, yes, foul language can fall under sexual harrassment. It all depends on you and also the situation.

 

http://www.eeoc.gov/policy/docs/currentissues.html


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