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Sexual Harrassment

DefinitionSexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex. In Oncale v. Sundowner, the US Supreme Court decided just this month unanimously ruling that same sex complaints are covered by the law.The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee. The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome. It is becoming increasingly rare to find the traditional “quid pro quo” claim of sexual harassment. The current trend is that of a “hostile work environment” which can be much more difficult for the employer to address. The EEOC considers the following factors in determining whether or not an environment is sexually hostile:Whether the conduct was verbal or physical or bothHow frequently it was repeatedWhether the conduct was hostile or patently offensiveWhether the alleged harasser was a co-worker or supervisorWhether others joined in perpetrating the harassment, andwhether the harassment was directed at more than one individual.No one factor controls but an assessment is made based upon th...

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