Sexual Harassment the Epidemic: Recognition and Prevention

Sexual harassment creates confusion because it blurs the boundary between professional roles and personal relationships. The victim and/or harasser can be a woman or a man and does not have to be the opposite sex. Sexual harassment is a legal term, created for the purpose of ending maltreatment and discrimination against men and women in the workplace. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), the number of sexual harassment charges increased from 6,883 in 1991 to 15,618 in 1998. The most commonly reported sexual harassment complaints are: an employee being fired or denied benefits for refusing sexual favors, an employee resigns to escape an offensive work environment, and retaliation against employees reporting unwanted sexual advances.
Sexual harassment includes use of sexist terms, comments about body parts, sexual advances, unwanted touching, gestures, taunting, sexual graffiti, and rumormongering about a coworker’s sexual identity or activity. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. Court decisions have also found that certain types of offensive visual displays in the workplace, such as pornography, can be considered sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is not only harmful, it’s costly. Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. Good policies and procedures provide an effective means for promptly and appropriately responding to sexual harassment complaints. A policy against sex discrimination, particularly one that specifically addresses sexual harassment, is an extremely important method for preventing sexual harassment. This policy should also prohibit retaliation against any person who brings an accusation of discrimination or sexual harassment or who assists with the investigation or resolution of sexual harassment. Find in depth, information and resources for both employees and employers about sexual harassment at

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