A successful hostile work environment sexual harassment claim must show that the harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the victim’s environment into one what is hostile and abusive. The hostile work environment sexual harassment may be either severe or pervasive or both.
With respect to the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, courts have held that an employee generally cannot recover for harassment that is occasional, isolated, sporadic, or trivial; rather, the employee must show a concerted pattern of harassment of a repeated, routine, or generalized nature. Repeated use of foul sex-based terms on a routine basis is generally considered sufficiently pervasive to constitute a hostile work environment. Similarly, frequent use of derogatory and insulting terms relating to women generally when addressed to female employees may serve as evidence of a hostile work environment. Sexual harassment has been found where female employees were given sex-based nicknames, where Playboy centerfolds were displayed and misogynistic verbal attacks were repeatedly made. Repeated requests for sexual favors can also be sufficiently pervasive to create a hostile work environment, but in contrast, requests for dates a few times over a few months will not be considered sufficiently pervasive.
Ultimately, the court or jury decides whether conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive to constitute a hostile work environment.