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What You Should Know About Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Title VII, one of the laws that the Employment Litigation Section enforces, prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. 

Sexual harassment can include a variety of behaviors, including unwelcome sexual advances or unwanted touching, offensive remarks about a person's sex (such as making offensive comments about women, for example), or requests for sexual favors.  Any person, regardless of sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation, can be a harasser or a victim of sexual harassment.  A harasser can be a supervisor, co-worker, or even a third-party who is not employed by the employer, such as a customer or client.

Some examples of conduct that courts have found to violate Title VII, either by itself or when paired with other actions, include:

  • threats of sexual violence
  • unwanted touching, such as hugging, kissing, groping, fondling, or digital penetration
  • asking about a person's sexual fantasies and sexual preferences
  • making lewd gestures
  • frequent jokes of a sexual nature or using stereotypes about a person’s sex or gender
  • using offensive or crude words or phrases, such as gender-based slurs or offensive terms
  • stalking, sending unwanted letters or notes, placing unwanted phone calls or emails, or repeatedly asking a person out on a date, even after that person has declined, or
  • spreading rumors about a person's sexuality or sex life.

If you believe that you have been sexually harassed in violation of Title VII, you must file a complaint with the appropriate agency right away.  We are including information to help you identify the right place to file a complaint, but it is up to you to file a complaint with the right agency within the appropriate time limits.

Updated May 6, 2024