Sexual Harassment

What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is sexual misconduct. It can include verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct that:

  1. Is sexual in nature (sexual advances, requests for sexual favors).
  2. Is unwelcome.
  3. Continues after the recipient has made clear that the conduct is unwelcome.
  4. Denies or limits an individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the university’s education programs, employment or professional opportunities, affects an individual’s work or academic performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or educational environment.

In cases of overt physical sexual contact, a blatant threat if sexual favors are not given, or promised reward in exchange for sexual favors, no notice that the conduct is unwelcome shall be necessary and a finding of sexual harassment may be based on a single occurrence. Sexual violence or assault is also a form of sexual harassment.

Sexual harassment is characterized as either “quid pro quo” or “hostile environment”:

  • Quid pro quo means “this for that” or “something for something” where employment or educational decisions or expectations (e.g., hiring, promotions, pay increases, shift or work responsibilities, performance standards) are based on the employee’s or the student’s willingness to grant or deny sexual favors. An example of quid pro quo sexual harassment would be a proposition or demand for sexual favors in exchange for a promotion, a raise, a good grade or evaluation; or any threat to deny or inhibit a promotion, a raise or a favorable evaluation, if sexual favors are not exchanged.
  • Hostile environment is present when an unwelcome severe, pervasive or repeated verbal or non-verbal behavior or object in the workplace or educational setting adversely affects or unreasonably interferes with work or academic performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work or educational environment.

Forms of sexual harassment

Sexual harassment can take different forms depending on the harasser and the nature of the harassment:

  • Sexual harassment frequently occurs between people of unequal power or authority. In these cases, a person may abuse power to intimidate, coerce or humiliate someone.
  • Sexual harassment can be carried out by employees, students, and non-employee third parties, such as campus visitors. Although the majority of victims are women harassed by men, both male and female individuals can be victims of sexual harassment, and the harasser and the victim can be of the same sex.
  • Sexual harassment can occur in any workplace setting, university program or activity and can take place in the classroom, office, university facility, or university transportation/vehicle, or at an off-campus location, such as a university-sponsored or attended event, conference or professional development activity or program.

What is sexual violence?

Sexual violence is synonymous with sexual assault and/or sexual misconduct. It may include any form of sexual activity or sexual contact, including sexual harassment, which is unwanted, that occurs as a result of intimidation, threat of force, use of force, or other coercive behavior or occurs without consent. Examples include but are not limited to circumstances where consent is expressed but ruled invalid due to coercion; and/or, circumstances where consent is expressed but ruled invalid due to incapacitation and/or physical helplessness.