Despite all of the attention that it has gotten in the media recently, sexual harassment continues to plague workplaces. All too often, men and women are subjected to degrading behavior that leaves them feeling uncomfortable and vulnerable in their places of employment. In some instances, reporting sexual harassment can lead to a hostile work environment and even negative employment actions, such as demotion or termination. Therefore, you need to know the hallmark signs of sexual harassment and how to address it.

What is quid pro quo sexual harassment?

Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when a coworker, usually someone who is in a more powerful position, promises positive employment actions, like a promotion or raise, in exchange for a sexual favor. Quid pro quo sexual harassment can also occur when a coworker threatens negative employment actions if there isn’t compliance with a sexual request. This type of harassment is far too common, but victims often feel powerless to stop it out of fear of retaliation.

Proving quid pro quo

Quid pro quo sexual harassment doesn’t have to be severe to be actionable. Instead, you only need to show that some sort of employment action was taken based on your refusal to comply with a sexual demand. Once you’ve done that, the burden then shifts to your employer to demonstrate that the employment action in question stemmed from something other than your refusal to consent to the sexual harassment.

Be prepared to defend yourself

This means that you have to be prepared to not only put forth evidence of quid pro quo sexual harassment, but you also have to be prepared to defend your employment record. Employers will often fling mud during these cases, trying to paint the victim as nothing more than a disgruntled employee who failed to live up to expectations and is now looking to get even. Don’t let yourself be portrayed in that way. Keep the focus where it should be: on illegal sexual harassment that has disrupted your career and maybe even your emotional wellbeing. Addressing sexual harassment can be a brutal fight, but you can have a legal advocate on your side helping you fight for what is right and just.