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Sexual Harassment

Unwelcome behavior of a sexual nature is known as sexual harassment. This type of harassment may create unpleasant working conditions or make sexual favors the basis for employment. Sexual harassment is more than just bad manners or unacceptable work behavior. Sexual harassment is against the law.

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Two Types of Harassment

Sexual harassment falls into two categories: "hostile environment" and "quid pro quo."

  • A hostile environment results from ongoing behavior that's offensive, such as an employee blocking a coworker's path or making sexual comments.

  • Quid-pro-quo (this-for-that) harassment occurs when an employer or supervisor offers an employee a job, promotion, or benefit in exchange for sexual favors. One instance of quid-pro-quo harassment is enough to take legal action.

Recognizing Sexual Harassment

Although it is often an intentional abuse of power, harassment may simply be due to poor communication skills or insensitive behavior. It doesn't matter where harassment occurs. Unwelcome sexual behavior remains unwelcome whether it's at work or offsite.

Verbal harassment is spoken. It includes unwanted pressure for dates, sexually oriented comments, and jokes based on gender, such as linking behavior with PMS or testosterone. Catcalls and whistles are also forms of verbal harassment.

Visual harassment is based on materials displayed in the workplace. This includes calendars, posters, and computer software showing men or women in states of undress. Behaviors such as sexual gestures and leering are also visual harassment.

Physical harassment involves invasion of personal space. It includes cornering, leaning over, brushing against, touching, or pinching a coworker. Sexual assault and rape are also forms of physical harassment.

Publication Source: University of California, San Francisco, Human Resources

Online Source: University of California, San Francisco, Human Resources

Date Last Reviewed: 2005-11-20T00:00:00-07:00

Date Last Modified: 2002-07-09T00:00:00-06:00

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