Sexual Harassment Contains These Two Elements

  1. Sexual harassment is behavior that is unwanted and unwelcome.
  2. Sexual harassment is behavior related to the gender, sexual identity, or sexuality of the person.

Sexual harassment is behavior that is unwanted and unwelcome by the recipient. Because sexual conduct only becomes unlawful when it is unwelcome, it is important to note that most courts have not considered intent relevant in determining whether sexual harassment has occurred. Acquiescence is not evidence of consent. Acquiescence, especially to a person with authority to give or withdraw such things as employment or grades, or when the two individuals have unequal power, should not be considered evidence that the behavior is welcome.

Sexual harassment often occurs in situations where one person is in a position of power or authority over another, but it can occur where there is no evident power differential. Both women and men can be harassed, and harassment can be same-sex harassment.

Gender harassment is sex-based behavior that is non-sexual in nature. Gender harassment does not involve sexual compliance but its effect is to dominate or degrade an individual or group of people. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines recommend that the “totality of the circumstances” be considered in determining whether sexual harassment has occurred. Thus, the appropriateness or legitimacy of behavior or objects is largely determined by the context and purpose of their presence in a particular situation.

Harassment may be verbal, visual, or physical. Verbal harassment may include comments on one’s appearance or body; questions about one’s intimate relationships; graphic, obscene, degrading comments or jokes. Suggestive sounds, ridicule, written or oral invitations and advances that are inappropriate and unwelcome may be harassment.

Visual conduct that can be harassing includes such actions as leering, staring at certain body parts, displaying sexual objects, offensive posters or pictures.

Physical harassment includes any unwelcome hugging or touching, and certainly pinching, fondling, or kissing. Forced sexual contact, the most extreme of which is rape, is clearly physical harassment.

Approved by the General Faculty Assembly and the Board of Trustees, October 2011.