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Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  Sexual harassment is any unwanted or unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, and can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature that affects an individual’s work environment.

Sexual harassment is unlawful and against University policy.

There are two types of sexual harassment:

1.  Quid pro quo Sexual Harassment

Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when an employee is confronted with sexual demands in return for some benefit to the employee, like a raise or a promotion.

  • Conditioning employment decisions such as hiring, firing, pay, promotion or job assignment on the granting of sexual favors or tolerance of other forms of sexual abuse.
  • Sending a “this for that” message of sexual nature.
  • Offering or withholding work-related rewards in exchange for sexual favors.
  • Communicating a sense of “you do this for me and I’ll do that for you” when it is of a sexual nature.
  • The behavior could be either implicit or explicitly a condition of employment.

2.  Hostile Work Environment

In a hostile work environment sexual harassment occurs when unwelcome sexual conduct interferes with an employee’s job performance and/or creates a work environment considered hostile, intimidating or offensive.

To be unlawful, conduct must rise to the following:

  • Employee is subject to sexual advances or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
  • The conduct is unwelcome.
  • The conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment.

“Severe and pervasive” – when the work environment is so uncomfortable that is creates a barrier for an employee to perform his or her work.

When evaluating the environment, courts look at the totality of the circumstances.  While a joke or comment may not create a hostile work environment, one instance of inappropriate touching or physical contact may.

Sexual comments and inappropriate conduct need not be directed at a certain employee to create a hostile work environment.  Anyone who is subject to inappropriate behavior, even as a bystander, can claim hostile work environment sexual harassment.

Even though the conduct may not rise to the level of a hostile work environment, it could still violate the University’s Shared Values.

Examples of Hostile Work Environment:

  • Unwanted advances such as leering, staring or making sexual gestures and elevator eyes.
  • Uncomfortable physical contact (such as touching, grabbing, kissing or pinching).
  • Coercion or pressure of a sexual nature.
  • Sexual pictures, magazines, posters, T-shirts or other clothing.
  • Sending and forwarding sexually suggestive emails, texts or voice mails.
  • Off-duty conduct (Facebook, conferences, socializing that spills into the workplace).

Reporting Sexual Harassment

Persons who believe they have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment should report it to their supervisor or the Affirmative Action/Equal Employment Opportunity Office.  The AA/EEO Office will conduct a prompt and thorough investigation of the complaint.  Appropriate corrective action will be taken if necessary.  Please refer to the Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policy #1060 for more information.

No Retaliation

It is unlawful to take any adverse action against an employee who complains of sexual harassment, or any other employee who participates in the investigation of such complaint.

Retaliation can include, but is not limited to, poor work assignments, change in schedule, discipline for issues previously not addressed or not addressed consistently, and avoidance.

Any complaints of sexual harassment or related notes must be retained in a separate file to avoid the appearance that any disciplinary action was based on the complaint.

If you need to discipline an employee who has brought a sexual harassment complaint forward, please contact Employee Relations within Human Resource Services.

Original:  July 25, 2013
Updated:  May 17, 2013