Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law which makes it illegal to harass an employee or applicant because of the sex of that person. Sexual harassment, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other physical or verbal harassment of a sexual nature is illegal under Title VII.
Sexual harassment includes offensive remarks about a person’s sex. Both harasser and the victim can be either a woman or a man, and the harasser and victim can be the same sex.
Sexual harassment is illegal when it is so severe or frequent that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment action such as the employee or applicant being demoted, fired, denied training or denied promotion.
The person engaging in Sexual Harassment may be a manager, supervisor, or a co–worker. The person engaging in Sexual Harassment may also be a customer or client of the employer. In essence, the harasser need not be employed by the employer.
There exist, two areas of sexual harassment in the workplace to which an employee or applicant may be subject to:
Quid Pro Quo Harassment – An employee tolerates sexual harassment in order to keep her/his job, raise, or promotion.
Hostile Work Environment Harassment – This form of harassment unreasonably alters or interferes with the employee's work performance, or creates an abusive, hostile or offensive work environment. A workplace environment is considered "hostile", based on the following factors:
- Was the conduct hostile or patently offensive;
- Was the alleged harasser a co–worker or supervisor;
- Was the conduct verbal, physical, or both;
- How frequently the conduct was repeated;
- Did others join in perpetrating the harassment; and
To bring a charge for sexual harassment, the plaintiff must establish that:
- The plaintiff found the conduct to be abusive, offensive, or hostile; and
- A reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position would consider the conduct abusive, offensive, or hostile.