What is Sexual Harassment?
A Plain Language Guide
Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that broadly encompasses unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that explicitly or implicitly affect an individual’s employment or academic decisions, unreasonably interfere with an individual’s work or academic performance or create an intimidating, hostile or offensive work or educational environment.
Examples of sexual harassment:
- Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault.
- Unwanted pressure for sexual favors.
- Unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over, cornering, or pinching.
- Unwanted sexual looks or gestures.
- Unwanted letters, telephone calls, or materials of a sexual nature.
- Unwanted pressure for dates.
- Unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions.
- Referring to an adult as a girl, hunk, doll, babe, or honey.
- Whistling at someone.
- Cat calls.
- Sexual comments.
- Turning work discussions to sexual topics.
- Sexual innuendos or stories.
- Asking about sexual fantasies, preferences, or history.
- Personal questions about social or sexual life.
- Sexual comments about a person’s clothing, anatomy, or looks.
- Kissing sounds, howling, and smacking lips.
- Telling lies or spreading rumors about a person’s personal sex life.
- Neck massage.
- Touching an employee’s clothing, hair, or body.
- Giving personal gifts.
- Hanging around a person.
- Hugging, kissing, patting, or stroking.
- Touching or rubbing oneself sexually around another person.
- Standing close or brushing up against a person.
- Looking a person up and down (elevator eyes).
- Staring at someone.
- Sexually suggestive signals.
- Facial expressions, winking, throwing kisses, or licking lips.
- Making sexual gestures with hands or through body movements.
Who can be a harasser or a victim on campus?
On campus, sexual harassment situations can involve:
- Faculty and student
- Faculty and staff
- Supervisor/superior and employee
- College employee and student
- Student and student
- Other relationships among colleagues, peers, and coworkers, including vendors and business partners.
It is important to know that the victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man, and that the victim does not have to be of the opposite sex. However, the majority of victims of sexual harassment are women, and often they are individuals who are vulnerable.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. For information about EEOC, or how to file a charge of discrimination with EEOC, please visit www.eeoc.gov