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Examples of Sexually Harassing Behavior

The examples below illustrate the range of behavior that may be considered sexual harassment. These examples are intended as illustrations only; they are by no means inclusive.

Part 1 of the Definition: Certain behavior constitutes sexual harassment when “submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment or academic advancement”:

Tony, an instructor for a large introductory course, uses sexual stereotype references and depictions and often makes jokes about sex. He has suggested that the better looking a woman is, the more help she will get. Sandra is a student in Tony’s class who needs extra help. She is deeply offended by the instructor’s attitude and refuses to see him outside of class.
Part 2 of the Definition: Certain behavior constitutes sexual harassment when “submission to rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions or academic decisions affecting such individual”:
Mary is an assistant professor completing her sixth year of teaching at the university. Her department head has been confiding details of his personal life to her and recently has begun pressuring her for sex. When she refuses, he threatens to see that she is not promoted. Because of this status at the university, she feels nobody would believe her if she were to complain.
Part 3 of the Definition: Certain behavior constitutes sexual harassment when “such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or academic environment”:
Judy is a newly hired electrician. Her co-workers regularly leave pornographic pictures where she will find them. She dreads going to work and is finding it harder and harder to keep herself motivated because of the situation.

Students in a graduate seminar know that the professor is in a sexual relationship with one of their classmates. Although professor and student try to be discreet about their relationship, the other students notice the special attention their classmate receives. They feel their classmate has an unfair advantage and they resent it.

Sexual harassment of the type outlined in the third part of the definition can be as devastating as harassment of the first or second type. Victims often feel reluctant to go to work or class. They may become irritable, not just with the persons(s) causing the problem, but with classmates, co-workers, family, and friends. They may have trouble concentrating, which could affect their work or academic performance and could contribute to accidents. Health problems, including tension headaches, and stress-related complications to existing illnesses, sometimes result.