There are two kinds of sexual harassment.
Hostile Work Environment sexual harassment happens when unwelcome sexual conduct occurs in the workplace in a way that is frequent enough, or outrageous enough, to make the work environment hostile. This conduct often includes sexual comments, suggestions, jokes, email, pictures, gestures, and offensive touching. There is no “magic number” of events needed to justify a lawsuit, but fewer instances are required when the conduct is more offensive (especially when touching is involved). Courts consider whether an employer knew about the problem and failed to fix it, such as when an employee complains. If you complain about sexual harassment, you should do so in writing to a supervisor or human resources department and keep a copy of the complaint to protect yourself. People who complain are sometimes viewed by employers as “problem employees” and targeted with efforts to force them to quit, but it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against you for making such a complaint. You should be very suspicious if the employer reprimands you, cuts your pay, changes your duties or work schedule, or fires you in the weeks or months following your complaint.
Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment happens when a supervisor makes sex or a romantic relationship a condition of employment, such as when a supervisor tells an employee, “Go out on a date with me if you want that pay raise,” or “Sleep with me or you’ll be fired.” (“Quid Pro Quo” means “one thing given in exchange for another”). A lawsuit for quid pro quo sexual harassment can be justified where this kind of “deal” is proposed even one time.