Most managers and supervisors have heard about fines and lawsuits brought against companies that ignore sexual harassment. While managers and supervisors are the first lines of defense in preventing sexual harassment incidents, many don't know what constitutes harassment, or what they should do if it occurs. This is the same thing with employees, in that most have heard the term "sexual harassment" but don't know exactly what it means? More importantly, they may not be aware that some of the things they do might be considered sexual harassment. While most reported cases do involve females being harassed by males, people of both genders, of any age and of any sexual orientation, can be victims. Complicating things is that recognizing sexual harassment can be difficult. Conduct that might appear harmless to one person could be harassment to others. Our training products on "Preventing Sexual Harassment" look at behaviors and actions that can constitute sexual harassment, discuss why managers, supervisors and employees must pay particular attention to what they say and do, as well as learn how to recognize sexual harassment in the workplace.
WHAT IS SEXUAL HARASSMENT - Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government. 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 helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop.
- The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.