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Why is sexual harassment case law so inconsistent?

While sexual harassment might seem like a straightforward scenario -- particularly if you are the victim -- that isn't always the case in court. Sexual harassment can be broken into two major categories: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment. The latter is sometimes harder to prove in court.

As we've previously discussed in the past, quid pro quo sexual harassment involves someone demanding sexual favors of someone else in exchange for something. That something could be a raise, promotion or job offer, but it could also be silence about a certain thing that might interfere with your career.

Hostile work environment harassment occurs when behaviors -- physical, spoken or otherwise -- are sexual in nature, are overt and unwanted and are causing distress or interference with work. This might seem like a simple definition, but when you begin applying this definition to the facts of a case, it can become complex. This is especially true since case law isn't consistent on these matters -- courts have handed down very different decisions in cases with seemingly similar facts.

For example, someone might feel like they are faced with a hostile work environment because someone else posted a pornographic image on a cubicle. One court might agree that this is harassment while another decides that one image isn't enough to create a hostile working environment.

Because of these discrepancies, you might want to work with a legal professional to make your case. An experienced lawyer can help you understand what evidence might be required and what your options for remediation might be.

Source: FindLaw, "Sexual Harassment: What is it?," accessed June 10, 2016

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