Step 6: Third Party—Types of Sexual Harassment


Most people do not know that they do not have to be the actual victim of a "sexual harasser" to be harmed by sexual harassment. People who are not the target of sexual harassment but who work (or go to school) in environments where sex harassment is occurring can file "third party" and "bystander" harassment suits. These types of claims can be filed by men or women.

As you have seen in our training so far, there are two types of sexual harassment claims: "quid pro quo" (this for that) or hostile environment.


How can Quid Pro Quo affect a third party - someone other than the employee giving the sexual favor? Simple - when the employee who is not harassed loses a job benefit or opportunity to someone who is less qualified that submitted to the sexual harassment. Example - The supervisor in a department had a sexual affair with his administrative assistant. The supervisor gave his "girlfriend" extra bonuses, time-off without using leave, flexible schedules, etc., that weren't available to other administrative assistants in the department. Another administrative assistant realized that she was losing out on job opportunities and benefits (she was much more qualified than the "girlfriend" for the job) because of the affair. She realized that unless she slept with the supervisor, she would not get ahead. This is a classic form of third party "quid pro quo" sexual harassment.

Hostile Environment - Consider the same scenario above - if one employee who grants sexual favors is given preferential treatment, the motivation and work performance of other employees may be negatively affected. This is a tough case to prove - not because it doesn't happen or there isn't evidence of it, but because you will have to prove the harassment was excessive and pervasive = meaning that essentially, that the harassment was severe enough that it would shock the conscience of an average person, it occurred over a significant period of time, and the negative effects were unmistakable and long-lasting.