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Sexual Harassment

In the Workplace

Sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination when there are unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature is made a condition of employment. It is conduct that interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

There are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo sexual harassment and hostile environment sexual harassment.

  • Quid pro quo sexual harassment occurs when an employer or supervisor demands sexual favors in exchange for raises, promotions, or other perks, or threatens an employee for failure to provide sexual favors. The fact that you may have given in to those demands does not mean that you have no case. The key is that the sexual advances are unwanted, and it is usually in an effort to save his or her job.
  • Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs when the working environment is made hostile because of its sexual nature, such as photos, comments, jokes, or other acts of an offensive sexual nature, including physical touching which make the workplace intolerable.

Because retaliation can be even more serious, employers should treat complaints of sexual harassment carefully. And any retaliation, including the threat of termination, by your supervisor should also be immediately reported.

You have the right to work in an environment free of harassment.

In School

Peer to Peer Harassment
Students are dropping out of school at alarming rates. Many girls and boys report that they drop out because they do not feel safe at school. Studies have found sexual harassment in schools begins early and takes a significant toll especially on girls.

School district officials are legally responsible to guarantee an education for all students in a safe environment which is free from sexual harassment and sex discrimination. Title IX of the Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act is a federal law that is intended to protect students, and prohibit sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, in all educational institutions that receive federal funds. Under Title IX, a school or school district may also be held financially liable for harms arising from teacher-on-student or student-on-student harassment. Courts have held that under Title IX a school district is liable for student to student harassment if the student was deprived of the educational benefits of school, and where school had notice and was deliberately indifferent to the harassment. Sexual harassment can have a significant impact on a student’s educational progress and attainment of future goals and should not be underestimated.

It is important to report these problems. Find your school’s anti-harassment policy and talk to the person who has been designated to deal with complaints of sexual harassment. If you feel uncomfortable speaking with the designated person, go to a teacher or another adult at the school whom you like and trust. It’s okay to bring a friend or parent with you to that meeting.

One recent comprehensive study of sexual harassment in high schools found that 83% of females and 79% of males reported having been sexually harassed in ways that interfered with their lives, with 27% experiencing it often.

In another study of 600 girls between the ages of 12 and 18, of varying racial backgrounds, participants were asked about experiences with sexual harassment and any discouraging comments they received in traditionally male-dominated areas such as math, science, computers and sports.  Ninety percent of girls reported experiencing sexual harassment at least once. Specifically, 67 percent of girls reported receiving unwanted romantic attention, 62 percent were exposed to demeaning gender-related comments, 58 percent were teased because of their appearance, 52 percent received unwanted physical contact and 25 percent were bullied or threatened with harm by a male. 52 percent of girls also reported receiving discouraging gender-based comments on the math, science and computer abilities, usually from male peers, and 76 percent of girls reported sexist comments on their athletic abilities, again predominantly from male peers. The researchers found that girls have different levels of understanding of sexism and sexual harassment, which may affect reporting data. For instance, older girls and those from a lower socioeconomic background reported more sexism than did their peers. (See this article by Science Daily, May 2008. For other information, see this article on ConnectWithKids.com)

You, or your child, have a right to feel safe in school.

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