It is likely that you are familiar with the term sexual harassment but may wonder what it technically refers to. In general, it is not lawful to harass an individual because of the individual's sex. Sexual harassment can include different types. One type of sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or verbal or physical harassment that is sexual in nature.
Another type of sexual harassment is considered behavior that creates a hostile work environment. Offensive remarks related to an individual's sex can also be considered sexual harassment. It is unlawful to make offensive comments to a woman about women in general which can be considered harassment. The frequency and severity of the harassment can serve to determine if it creates and offensive or hostile work environment. In addition, harassment can be considered unlawful sexual harassment if an employee suffers a demotion or firing as a result of the harassment.
The harassment can come from a number of parties, including the victim's supervisor, another supervisor, a co-worker or a client or a customer. Victims of sexual harassment may fear reactions and retaliation which is why it is important for victims to be familiar with their rights in the workplace. Victims may have legal options when suffering unwelcome sexual advances, the creation of a hostile work environment or have suffered an adverse employment decision because of sexual harassment.
It is important to properly document sexual harassment patterns and to determine what the victim's goals are. The goals of the victim may be related to job security or may relate to recovery of financial compensation for the harm suffered. Because each situation is unique, it is important to understand the circumstances, as well as the goals of the victim, and the specific legal options that can protect the victim and help the victim achieve a positive outcome.
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Sexual Harassment," Accessed Aug. 11, 2015