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Sexual Harassment

Definitions relevant to sexual harassment:

Civil lawsuit: Seeking personal damages, usually monetary, from a court of law as a result of personal injury.

Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC): State agency that investigates complaints against unfair labor practices. Operates similarly to the EEOC on the state level.

Hostile Environment: A condition created when someone engages in unwelcome behavior that creates an offensive, hostile, or intimidating working or learning environment.

Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education: Federal agency where a formal complaint of discrimination or harassment under Title VII or Title IX can be filed.

Quid pro quo: “This for that”. When someone, usually in a position of power, asks for sexual favors in exchange for some form of employment benefits, such as a promotion or, in the school environment, better grades or passing an exam.

Same-sex harassment: Harassment between members of the same sex (woman to woman or man to man).

School: Any institution that formally educates people; elementary and high schools, colleges, and graduate and professional schools are included in this group.

Sex discrimination: Unequal treatment based on gender. This can occur in all aspects of society: the family, the workplace, educational institutions, social functions, and religious organizations, among others. For women in the workplace, some examples include lower pay than a man in the same job, not being promoted because you are a woman, and/or job discrimination due to pregnancy.

Sexual harassment: According to Judith Berman Brandenberg, in Confronting Sexual Harassment, “may be defined as unwanted sexual attention that would be offensive to a reasonable person and that negatively affects the school or work environment. The critical element in almost all definitions of sexual harassment is unwanted sexual attention. Sexual harassment includes a wide range of behaviors from verbal innuendo and subtle suggestions, to overt demands and abuse, including rape and child abuse. Unfortunately, definitions of sexual harassment and their concomitant behaviors vary throughout literature, policies, and procedures. Several categories of behavior, including gender harassment, harassment based on sexual orientation, and sexual abuse, are sometimes included in the general definition of sexual harassment and sometimes considered separately”.
Sexual harassment is defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” (Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, sex. 703 [1604.11]). There are generally two forms of sexual harassment recognized by courts of law: quid pro quo and hostile environment.

Title IX: Under the Education Amendments of 1972, a federal law that prohibits different treatment of girls and boys in school settings. Any school or institution receiving federal aid, including financial aid, is bound by Title IX. Every school or region has a Title IX officers who can investigate complaints of harassment. No attorney is needed to file a complaint under Title IX. Same-sex harassment is also covered.

Title VII: Federal law that, among its provisions, prohibits employment discrimination based on sex. It covers employees, including student employees. Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII has been used to file complaints of sexual harassment. No attorney is needed to file a complaint under Title VII, but approval from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is needed to file a lawsuit. The local EEOC can provide information about the appropriate procedures.

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC): Federal agency that investigates complaints of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, sex, disability, age, and/or religious affiliation. The EEOC enforces Title IX compliance by companies and educational institutions receiving federal aid.

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