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Practice Definitions - Sexual Harassment
Sexual Harassment
Sexual Harassment is a form of sex discrimination, which violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in employment settings and under Title IX of the 1972 Education Act where it relates to sexual harassment occurring in schools or other educational settings. The Fair Housing Act provides for protection against sexual harassment, and quite a few states have statutes pertaining to this offense. Sexual harassment is any unwanted and unwelcome sexual behavior, which can include verbal (e.g., derogatory comments, tales of sexual exploits) and/or physical harassment (e.g., leering, inappropriate touching, asking for sexual favors), displaying derogatory posters or art, and other advances or inappropriate conduct. In order to be considered illegal, the conduct must be unwelcome and offensive to the victim. Sexual harassment can come in many forms, including:
  • The victim and harasser can be male or female.
  • The victim may or may not be the opposite sex of the harasser.
  • In an employment setting, the harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area or department, a co-worker, or even a non-employee (e.g., client or vendor).
  • The victim may not be the person directly harassed, but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • The victim may or may not have been discharged or otherwise economically injured by the harasser.
  • The sexual harassment act may not even be employment related. Landlords and building supervisors can be charged with sexual discrimination under the Fair Housing Act. Sexual harassment lawsuits have even been filed against schools, educational systems and other non work-related entities.
Should I hire a lawyer?
If you feel you are a victim of sexual harassment, the first thing you should do is to let the harasser know in person that his/her conduct is unwelcome and must be stopped. It is also wise to document the date and time it happened, including any conversations that took place, photos of pornography or other derogatory items displayed and other evidence that support your claim, in case the harassment doesn't stop. If the harassment continues, and the available internal complaint or grievance process does not yield satisfactory results, you should consult a licensed lawyer specializing in sexual harassment cases.

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