Sexual harassment basics

In general, it is unlawful to harass an individual, either an applicant for a job or an employee, on the basis of that person's sex. By definition, sexual harassment can include sexual harassment, or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and verbal or physical harassment that is sexual in nature. In addition, harassment is not limited to harassment that is sexual in nature.

Prohibited harassment can also include offensive remarks about an individual's sex. As an example, harassing a woman by making offensive comments about women in general is prohibited and is illegal. Both the victim and the harasser can be either a man or a woman and the victim and the harasser also do not need to be of the opposite sex and may be of the same sex. The harasser can be a variety of different parties in the workplace including the victim's supervisor, the victim's supervisor in another area, the victim's co-workers or a party such as a client or customer.

Harassment is considered illegal when its frequency and severity creates a hostile or offensive work environment. It is also considered illegal when the harassment results in a negative employment decision such as the victim of the harassment being fired or demoted. It is important that employees are protected in the workplace and have a safe place in which to work.

Employers are required to provide a safe place, free from illegal sexual harassment, for employees to come to everyday and legal protections are in place to ensure they do so. A sexual harassment claim may help victims of sexual harassment enforce their rights to a workplace free from sexual harassment and other forms of harassment.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Sexual Harassment," Accessed Oct. 2, 2017

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