Topic - Sexual Harassment

UWRF Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment:  What You Need to Knowdocument

Sexual harassment at work occurs whenever unwelcome conduct on the basis of gender affects a person's job, It is defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • submission to the conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, or
  • submission to or rejection of the conduct by an individual is used as a ,basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or
  • the conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

The U.S. Supreme Court has simplified matters somewhat by explaining that there are two basic types of unlawful sexual harassment. The first type involves harassment that results in a tangible employment action. An example would be a supervisor who tells a subordinate that he or she must be sexually cooperative with the supervisor or he or she will be fired, and who then indeed does fire the subordinate for not submitting. The imposition of this crude "put out or get out” bargain is often referred to as quid pro quo ("this for that"). This kind of unlawful sexual harassment can be committed only by someone who can make or effectively influence employment actions (such as firing, demotion, and denial of promotion) that will affect the victimized employee.

A second type of unlawful sexual harassment is referred to as hostile environment. Unlike a quid pro quo, which only a supervisor can impose, a hostile environment can result from the gender-based unwelcome conduct of supervisors, co-workers, customers, vendors, or anyone else with whom the victimized employee Interacts .on the job. The behaviors that have contributed to a hostile environment have included:

  • unfulfilled threats to impose a sexual quid pro quo.
  • discussing sexual activities;
  • telling off-color jokes;
  • unnecessary touching;
  • commenting on physical attributes;
  • displaying sexually suggestive pictures;
  • using demeaning or inappropriate terms, such as "Babe";
  • using indecent gestures;
  • sabotaging the victim's work;
  • engaging in hostile physical conduct;
  • granting job favors to those who participate in consensual sexual activity;
  • using crude and offensive language

These behaviors can create liability only if they are based on the affected employee's gender and are severe or pervasive, as explained in the next section. Nonetheless, even If unwelcome conduct falls short of a legal violation, employers have moral and organizational reasons as well as legal incentives to address and correct that conduct at its earliest stages. The conduct constituting sexual harassment is not always sexual in nature. One court held that a man's violent physical assault on a woman was sexual harassment because the assault was based on the woman's gender, even though there was nothing sexual about the assault itself. Suppose, for example, that men sabotage the work of a female co-worker because she is a woman. Even if the men don't engage in sexual behavior, such as telling off-color jokes or displaying pornographic photos on the walls, their behavior is sexual harassment because the behavior is based on the woman's gender.

 

These links may also be helpful

UWRF - Faculty and Academic Staff Handbook: Sexual Harassment

UWRF - Student Rights and Responsibilities: Sexual Harassment Policies and Resources

EEOClink - Sexual Harassment

Virtual Pamphlet Collectionlink (topics compiled from top college counseling centers)

 

Page updated January 2013 by Mark Huttemier, MA, LPC. Personal Counselor in Student Health and Counseling at University of Wisconsin – River Falls


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