The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature…when…submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions…or such conduct has the purpose or effect of…creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.”
Thus, sexual harassment consists of two types of prohibited conduct: quid pro quo – where submission to harassment is used as the basis for employment decisions; and hostile environment – where harassment creates an offensive working environment.
Only individuals with supervisory authority over a worker can engage in quid pro quo harassment, since it requires the harasser to have the authority to grant or withhold job benefits.
Hostile environment harassment occurs when an employee is subjected to comments of a sexual nature, offensive sexual materials, or unwelcome physical contact as a regular part of the work environment.
Generally speaking, a single isolated incident will not be considered hostile environment harassment unless it is extremely outrageous and egregious conduct.