FEDweek

Sexual Harassment

Sexual 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 constitute sexual harassment when 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.

• 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 also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.

Title VII does not proscribe all conduct of a sexual nature in the workplace. Only unwelcome sexual conduct that is a term or condition of employment constitutes a violation. EEOC guidelines provide that “unwelcome” sexual conduct constitutes sexual harassment when “submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment.”

EEOC’s guidelines define two types of sexual harassment: “quid pro quo” (this for that) and “hostile environment.” The Supreme Court’s decision in Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 106 S. Ct. 2399, 40 EPD 36,159 (1986). established that both types of sexual harassment are actionable under section 703 of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a), as forms of sex discrimination.
“Quid pro quo harassment” occurs when submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual. A “hostile environment” may be created by actions such as discussion of sexual matters, touching,