Sexual Harassment: Things You Should Know
Is Sexual Harassment Against the Law?
Yes, it is!
According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity
Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment is a form of sex
discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil
Rights Act of 1964." (www.eeoc.gov)
When investigating charges of sexual harassment the
EEOC examines each accusation on a case by case basis.
All of the circumstances, such as the nature of the
advances, the context in which the alleged incidents
occurred, and if the incidents happened at work, they
also look at the person's work record. Your employer
can be held liable between co-workers if they knew or
should have known about the harassment.
What constitutes Sexual Harassment?
Sexual Harassment can be any number of unwanted
behaviors or conducts that make you feel intimidated,
victimized, uncomfortable, embarrassed, and
threatened. Whether the threat is genuine physically
or perceived as a threat to your well being, ability
to effectively work, go to class or just walk down the
street. Sexual harassment can and does occur any
place and occurs between male and females (sometimes
the females are the harassers), males and males,
females and females, there is no gender bias in
harassers. Consider this: Our children and children
all over the world are being Sexually Harassed!
Sexual Harassment is taking place in elementary
schools as well as at the University level. There are
videos that have been produced for instructors to use
at the schools that involve the students in order to
educate them on exactly what is sexual harassment, how
it happens and what they can do to stop it.
"WGBY, TV, Public Television for Western
Massachusetts partnered with Nan Stein, Ed. D. from
the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women to
produce this award winning, informative program on a
topic no student, teacher, administrator or school
staff person can afford to ignore. The program
consists of three short modules and is specifically
designed for use in 6th through 10th grade
Sexual Harassment Conduct/Behavior
Besides the obvious sexual misconduct of unwanted
sexual advances, touches, requests for sexual favors,
there is a list of other behaviors that can be
considered sexual harassment, compiled by Martha
Langelan in her book:
Back Off! How to Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment
Some of the behaviors are:
- Sexually explicit gestures
- Sexual innuendo
- Leaning over and invading a person's
- Hooting, sucking, lip-smacking and
- Sexist jokes and cartoons
Sexual harassment is unwelcome, rude and demeaning
behavior and is usually about the abuse of power.
According to the National Council for Research on
women, "women are 9 times more likely than men to quit
their jobs, 5 times more likely to transfer, and 3
times more likely to lose jobs because of harassment".
(The Webb Report, June 1994) Although sexual
harassment has no gender bounds, the majority of the
time, the victims are women. There have been
instances where a woman's job has been jeopardized
because she is fired by trying to arrange her schedule
to avoid the harasser. The 1994 Merit Systems
Protection Board Study of sexual harassment noted that
a woman in a traditionally male-dominated occupation
such as construction, policing, and the military (see
information on Tailhook) are more likely to be
harassed. Other studies have also found that
harassment is more commonly found in female-dominated
workplaces where the majority of women earn low wages
and the management is predominantly male.
Preventing Sexual Harassment: In the Workplace
Remember: your employers are responsible for the
conduct of their supervisors and managers. They also
have a responsibility to set up a comprehensive and
effective sexual harassment policy that stresses the
fact that sexual harassment is against the law! When
the policy is finalized and distributed to all
employees with a copy posted in a prominent location,
the employer should also schedule workshops and
seminars to promote company-wide knowledge of the
If you are harassed at work, Martha Langelan
recommends taking the following steps:
- Do the unexpected. Name the behavior. Whatever
he's just done, say it, and be specific. For example:
Why did you brush up against by breast?
- Hold the harasser accountable for his actions.
Don't make excuses for him; don't pretend it didn't
really happen. Take charge of the encounter and let
people know what he did. Privacy protects harassers,
but visibility undermines them.
- Make honest, direct statements. Speak the truth (no
threats, no insults, no obscenities, no appeasing
verbal fluff and padding). Be serious,
straightforward, and blunt.
- Demand the harassment stop.
- Make it clear that all women have the right to be
free from sexual harassment. Objecting to harassment
is a matter of principle.
- Stick to your own agenda. Don't respond to the
harasser's excuses or diversionary tactics.
- His behavior is the issue. Say what you have to
say, and repeat it if he persists.
- Reinforce your statements with strong,
self-respecting body language: eye contact, head up,
shoulders back, a strong, serious stance. Don't smile.
Timid, submissive body language will undermine your
- Respond at the appropriate level. Use a combined
verbal and physical response to physical harassment.
- End the interaction on your own terms, with a
strong closing statement, "You heard me. Stop
At that time, it would be wise to file an internal
complaint through the appropriate avenues offered by
the organization's policy. If the victim is a union
member, reporting the incident to the union steward
may also help. The Union has strict rules and limits
on filing grievances: Grievances have to be filed
within 6 months of the date of the incident you are
complaining about. If the union seems to be
uncooperative, within that six month period you can
file a complaint with the National Labor Relations
Documentation is the keyword. You should:
- Photograph or keep copies of any offensive
- Keep a journal with detailed information on
instances of sexual harassment. Note the dates,
conversations, frequency of offensive encounters, etc.
- Tell other people, including personal friends and
co-workers if possible.
- Obtain copies of your work records (including
performance evaluations) and keep these copies at
There are also legal remedies if you decide to file
a complaint with an outside agency. Those procedures
are also outline for you on the information for the
feminist organization. The Url will be listed at the
end of this paper for your information and use. I do
want to reiterate that harassers can be of any gender
and harass any gender. These suggestions are geared
toward the protection of the female because of the
unequivocal fact that most victims of harassment are
female. If the harassment involves another gender,
the statements will work just as effectively for a
Preventing Sexual Harassment: In School or University
"Sexual Harassment in schools is illegal under Title
IX of the 1972 Education Act. This law applies to
schools, colleges, and universities that receive any
amount of federal funding. Title IX allows the U. S.
Department of Education to investigate complaints,
order remedies and withhold funding for any
educational institution in violation of Title IX. The
Enforcement is administered by the Department's of
Education's Office of Civil Rights."
(www.feminist.org, pg. 7)
In the 1993 American Association of University Women
(AAUW) study "Hostile Hallways", "85% of all girls and
76% of boys reported having been sexually harassed at
school. But the impact on girls is far more
devastating." (www.feminist.org, pg. 7) Although most
of the harassers are other students, 18% of the
students in the survey said they had been sexually
harassed by school employees. Children and young
adults have a difficult time discerning the difference
between flirting and sexual harrassment. This article
has a checklist for them to consider.
If the harassment occurs in an elementary, middle
school or high school the incident should be reported
first to the Principal, if possible, if not the
Vice-principal. Many young girls would die rather
than to talk to a male under these circumstances;
perhaps they can go to a trusted female teacher or
counselor if one is available. If not, the suggestion
would be for them to go to a female adult that can
then go with them to see the person in charge. In
college and university situations, the students and
staff should consult their handbooks. The procedures
outlined by the schools, colleges and universities for
filing grievances should then be adhered to. If the
problem has not been resolved satisfactorily within a
reasonable amount of time, the victim should then
report the harassment to the U. S. Department of
Education's Office of Civil Rights at (202) 260-7250
(this is the phone and fax number). If criminal
behavior has occurred, rape, sexual assault, it should
be reported to the police as soon as possible.
Although this organization only shows four (4) help
centers in the State of Missouri, there are many
others listed in the phone book.
Suggested Readings and Web Sites To Obtain Further
2.22 Specific Prima Facie Burden to Be Included in
G. Sexual Harassment: Hostile Environment (11/99)
Sexual Harassment law approved in Brazil
Thursday, 19 April, 2001, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
NY Times Article: Marine Pleads Guilty to Sexual
By the Associated Press
UANTICO, Va., April 13
Sexual Abuse Rife in Schools
The Nation (Nairobi)
April 9, 2001
Facts About Sexual Harassment
The U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
This page was last modified on January 15, 1997.
The U. S. Navy's biggest embarrassment since Pearl
What To Do If You Or Someone You Know Is Sexually
Feminist Majority Foundation.
Flirting or Hurting?
Sexual Harassment in Schools
Sex Roles: A Journal of Research, Nov. 1998
- McKinney, K. (1994). Sexual Harassment and college
Deviant Behavior, 15, 171-191.
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