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Quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environments

California employees might be the victims of two different but related types of sexual harassment in the workplace at the same time. Hostile workplace harassment may involve creating a difficult work environment for a person through comments or behavior while quid pro quo harassment refers to a worker suffering a consequence such as demotion or firing after refusing a supervisor's sexual advances.

In a case in Oklahoma, a truck driver's suit was dismissed by a lower court that held that the driver did not give enough notice that he was alleging quid pro quo harassment. When a hostile environment is alleged, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will sometimes look into whether quid pro quo harassment was involved as well because the two are related. In 1998, the Supreme Court ruled that the two are related, and in this case, a divided U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit ruled that the lower court had erred.

The case dealt with a truck driver who says his supervisor, who was also a company shareholder, told him that the last person in his position had provided her with sex and that he had to do so as well. He was fired when he refused. The man's attorney said he confirmed the story with the man who was previously in the same position.

The first step for an employee who is facing sexual harassment at work might be trying to talk to a supervisor or going through other workplace channels to report the issue. However, the employee may still want to talk to an attorney first. The attorney might be able to review the employee's rights and discuss how the harassment may best be documented as well as the best strategy for approaching the company.

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