Definition of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other harassment of a sexual nature. It is unlawful to harass a person—including a job applicant or existing employee—because of that person’s sex. 

There is no bright line defining sexual harassment but it always includes unwelcome behavior.

Harassment does not have to be of an overtly sexual nature and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, making offensive comments about women in general can be considered harassment. The same applies to people who are gay, lesbian, or transgender.

Sexual harassment can be obvious or subtle.

Sexual harassment does not have to be ongoing to create a hostile environment.

Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing or offhand comments, frequent or severe behavior of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or offensive work environment is sexual harassment. This definition also applies when it results in an adverse employment decision, such as the victim being fired or demoted for complaining about it or not joining in the “fun” and being deemed a “poor team player.”

A single event can be considered harassment when it is severe. Keep in mind that there is no bright line that defines sexual harassment. 

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

Sexual harassment charges can cause workplace havoc regardless of the accuser’s reputation or the believability of the allegations. These charges can cost an employer a lot of money and business disruption. Do not take such charges lightly. They must be investigated and addressed.

If you are facing a sexual harassment situation, please contact our office for a consultation.