Definition of Sexual Harassment

Definition of Sexual Harassment

The definition of sexual harassment starts with...

. . . Any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when ...

. . . Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly a term or condition of an individuals employment

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The Definition of Sexual Harassment: The Submission or Rejection That Results in Employment

... or, Submission to, or rejection of, such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual.

... or, Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individuals work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.


Definition of Sexual Harassment - EEOC

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - also known as the EEOC is the governmental agency that enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and investigates allegations of complaints based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. Complaints of sexual harassment to the EEOC must be filed within 300 days of the date the last discrimination or harassing act occurred in order to be considered timely.

Good Leadership Skills For Life Fast Fact:

Three senior police officers cost their police force $100,000 in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

I would include wording in my employee handbook that covers this policy.

Definition of Sexual Harassment

Definition of Sexual Harassment - Conduct is Unwelcome

The basis for sexual harassment law are that the conduct is unwelcome. If the conduct is welcome, there is no basis for claiming sexual harassment.

However, even when the conduct started as being welcome but due to circumstances one of the individuals decides that it is no longer welcome, and the other individual does not stop, the conduct can then be considered as sexual harassment.

Good Leadership Skills For Life Fast Fact:

A Juvenile Detention Center employee was awarded $146,000 in a sexual harassment lawsuit where she claimed inappropriate sexual conduct by her supervisor.

Also, a third party can be offended by consensual sexual behavior or comments in the work area even where the parties participating in the conduct consent.

The harassing conduct must be severe and occur often enough as to create an offensive and hostile workplace. The less severe the conduct, the more it needs to happen in order to create a legal claim. The more severe the conduct, the less often it needs to occur to create illegal behavior.

The harassment must create an atmosphere to the point that the victim can no longer perform their job.

Most of the time a sexual harassment claim takes repetition of the offensive conduct.

In other words the harassment is generally judged by how severe the conduct is and how often it occurred.

Definition of Sexual Harassment - Reasonable Person Standard

The reasonable person standard is used to determine whether or not the conduct was offensive. What would a reasonable person have done.

The courts look at how the victim perceived the conduct, what the victim's response was, and how the employer handled the incident.

Good Leadership Skills For Life Fast Fact:

A hotel agrees to pay $175,000 to four employees for sexual harassment.

Included in the mix is that different individuals handle sexual conduct differently. The courts may consider the person's background and culture when considering whether the conduct was reasonable.

I have provided more information on the definition of sexual harassment and some sexual harassment examples on the following links...

You Be the Judge!

Does this meet the Definition of Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is a very serious issue and can ultimately destroy company morale.

The same can be said if the charge of sexual harassment is brought forward with very questionable facts. We have a tendency to believe the individual bringing the sexual harassment charge forward; however, it still requires great patience and through fact finding skills.

This takes a special talent to investigate the charges, while respecting everyone's rights.

There can be a lot at stake, such as, marriages, careers, and other personal relationships. A false claim can change everything for someone being wrongly accused.

You Be the Judge!

Does this meet the Definition of Sexual Harassment?

Try going home to your spouse and telling them you were wrongly terminated for sexual harassment!

Let me tell you of a sexual harassment story that I was involved in several years ago!

A young twenty three year old waitress came into my office one morning crying and claiming she had been raped by one of our restaurant chefs.

You can imagine that my jaw dropped down and I could hardly believe what I had just heard!

You Be the Judge!

Does this meet the Definition of Sexual Harassment?

I asked for the Chefs name and she gave it immediately, and again my jaw dropped even further!

So before she could go any further I asked her if we could have a female manager join us. My purpose for this was twofold. First I wanted to have a witness and second r was trying to create an environment that would make this young waitress feel more comfortable.

Once the female manager joined us I began to hear a story that was out of some weird movie somewhere.

You Be the Judge!

Does this meet the Definition of Sexual Harassment?

She began by telling us that she' was invited to come up to the Hotel where we all worked by this Chef would was acting as the Manager on Duty for that night.

When she agreed the Chef asked her to bring something along to drink. i.e., an alcoholic beverage of some type.

She showed up to his room with of beer about an hour or so later.

You Be the Judge!

Does this meet the Definition of Sexual Harassment?

When he answered the door to let her in, she could immediately tell that he had already been drinking.

Once in the room they both sat on the bed while talking and drinking.

A lit bit later one thing led to another and they had sexual relations. She claimed during this that he tore her buttons off her shirt in the process.

After they had sexual relations they both took a bath.

After the bath they had sexual relations again.

They both slept through the night until the next morning.

They had sexual relations again and took another bath together.

After he was relieved of his Manager on Duty assignment they both drove in his car to a place to eat breakfast.

At breakfast is when she realized that she had been raped.

This all happened three days before she walked into my office to report that she had been raped.

You Be the Judge!

Does this meet the Definition of Sexual Harassment?

I asked her if she had reported it to the Police and she had not.

I asked her if she had reported it to anyone else and she had not.

What would you do?

Was this rape?

Was this sexual harassment?

Was this anything more than a person who regretted doing something she ought not to have?

After interviewing him he did admit to having consensual sexual relations with the waitress, and drinking alcohol on duty.

After a careful review of our policies we knew that several had been violated;

An employee was not permitted to possess or consume any alcoholic beverage on duty or off duty while on company property.

When an employee is not scheduled to work they must notify a management official when they come onto the property.

You Be the Judge!

Does this meet the Definition of Sexual Harassment?

Our sexual harassment policy clearly stated that employees who have a romantic relationship must seek approval by a management official.

A management official is not permitted to have a romantic relationship with a non management official under any circumstances.

After reviewing the policy and checking with our legal department we terminated both individuals for willfully violating company policy.

I encourage her to pursue her rape charge with the local Police Department if she felt strongly about it.

You Be the Judge!

Does this meet the Definition of Sexual Harassment?

The definition of sexual harassment includes a hostile work environment. The following is an example and you be the judge to whether you believe it is or is not a hostile working environment based on an individual's sex. The names have been changed to insure confidentiality.

For years the Howard Construction Company had been made up of all male employees until March of 2009. It was in that month that they hired a female plumber who had excellent skills.

Understanding that this would be a new adventure for this very large Regional Company they instituted a sexual harassment training program and required everyone to attend. Although it was met with some friction everyone did attend within a two month period.

The new plumber got along real well with her fellow coworkers and her work performance was extremely superior to other plumbers they had in the past. When the male employees dished out there normal jokes and raw language she played right along with them.

You Be the Judge!

Does this meet the Definition of Sexual Harassment?

Approximately six months later the jokes and language became more and more crude directly referencing female body parts and sexual situations. Although she continued to laugh along with them she stopped dishing it back out to them.

During one such session there was a reference to a sexual situation and one of the male employees commented that the plumber probably would get into that. She fired back and at him with guns a blazing by telling him to knock it off and that it was starting to get very offensive to her.

The male employee apologized and everyone stopped the joking and crude language respecting her wishes.

You Be the Judge!

Does this meet the Definition of Sexual Harassment?

About a month later the Plumbers performance began to go downhill to a point where the Foreman had to issue her a written warning.

It continued to slide to a point where the Foreman finally had no choice but to terminate her employment.

Shortly thereafter, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) notified the Construction Company that the Plumber had filed a charge of a Hostile Work Environment based on her sex.

She was alleging that her performance had gone downhill as a result of the hostile work environment to the point where she could not even concentrate anymore.

In this particular example it is my opinion that the plumber has a legitimate claim of a Hostile Work Environment. Whether she played along or not the behavior was not appropriate and created a Hostile Environment solely based on her being a female. What made this situation worse is that she was the only female, not that two or more would have made it any different. But because there was only the Plumber it made it even more personal.

You Be the Judge!

Does this meet the Definition of Sexual Harassment?

Another factor not mentioned above would be whether the Foreman knew or should have known. My guess it would be easy for someone to show that they should have known. This places more emphasis on the Company's responsibility to have stopped it as soon as possible. But because the Plumber assumed the Foreman knew she probably felt as though nothing would be done.

Keep in mind that I am not an attorney and you should check with your legal representative whenever you have a serious situation, such as the one above.

You Be the Judge!

Does this meet the Definition of Sexual Harassment?

Is it always sexual harassment if it involves a manager having romantic relations with a subordinate? This goes back a few years but I remember a situation where the lines of sexual harassment were not as clear as I would have liked them to be. In fact, being charged with sexual harassment was not as common back then. So I guess the question would be if it would meet the definition of sexual harassment today?

The situation begins with a fifty-four year old Sales Director that oversaw thirteen salespersons being accused of sexually harassing one of his twenty-two year old female employees.

The female employee initiated the charge by reporting it to the Human Resources Department. Here is her version of the facts.

She reported that when she was interviewed for the job two years ago that her current supervisor, the Sales Director, asked her some very personal questions that made her uncomfortable. He had asked her if she was a free spirit and through caution to the wind in certain types of situations. He had also asked her if she was in an existing relationship.

You Be the Judge!

Does this meet the Definition of Sexual Harassment?

When asked why she did not report it she explained that he seemed nice enough and after all she got the job and didn't want to make waves.

After being hired he personally trained her and although he didn't do anything specific she felt like he was spending way too much time with her and ignoring all the other salespeople.

About six months later she received a very nice wage increase and really wasn't sure why since her sales were pretty much the same as everyone else's. She didn't complain though since the extra money came in very handy.

About two months later he invited her to lunch along with two other female employees that reported to him. She agreed to go and they all enjoyed a very nice lunch that the Sales Director paid for.

You Be the Judge!

Does this meet the Definition of Sexual Harassment?

About a month later he invited just her to lunch and had told her that he needed to talk with her about some things.

After ordering and beginning their lunch he began to tell her that he was attracted to her and was interested in starting a romantic relationship.

Although she was very uncomfortable she reluctantly nodded in agreement. She explained that she was worried about losing her job. They finished their lunch and as he they were walking to the car he asked if he could give her a hug. She said she reluctantly agreed and so they hugged.

That afternoon he asked if she would like to go to dinner that night. She again agreed and said it was in fear of losing her job.

You Be the Judge!

Does this meet the Definition of Sexual Harassment?

When Human Resources questioned the Sales Director he confirmed her story with the exception that she was a willing participant during the entire relationship. In fact she even brought up the topic of marriage and children. Since he recognized that they had a significant age difference and children were not in his future he decided to end the relationship.

The Human Resources Department did not have a policy on Sexual Harassment.

Does this meet the definition of sexual harassment or not?

In this situation the Sales Director was issued a written warning for using poor judgment to have a romantic relationship with an employee that he was directly responsible for.

The female employee stayed in the department but reported to a different supervisor.

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