Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that occurs under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when:
- Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment;
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or
- Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance by creating an intimidating hostile or sexually offensive work environment.”
The EEOC goes on to explain that both the victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim does not have to be of the opposite sex. The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not in the same organizational unit, such as an employee in another office, a client or a customer.
The language used in this definition has formed the basis for most state laws prohibiting sexual harassment.
Furthermore, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sexual harassment in education. For more information on prohibition of sexual harassment under Title IX, refer here.
[Last updated in August of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]