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Sexual Harassment

History Of Legislation, Judicial Precedent Set By U.s. Supreme Court, Bill Passed Allowing Damages For Victims Of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is one form of sexual discrimination prohibited under federal law. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects employees from sexual harassment in the workplace and established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC's 1980 regulations defined sexual harassment and pronounced it as one aspect of sexual discrimination protected under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC guidelines define sexual harassment:

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

The distinction that the EEOC's guidelines make between two specific types of sexual harassment, as shown above, are often referred to in the first instance as "quid pro quo" and the second as "hostile working environment." An example of sexual harassment that would be considered "quid pro quo" is when a superior in an employment situation seeks sex in exchange for a pay raise, promotion, positive performance review, or even the continuance of employment as before. The conditions attributed to a "hostile working environment" occur when a supervisor, coworker, or client repeatedly acts in an intimidating or hostile manner thereby creating an environment that causes an employee much anxiety. Conduct may include unwelcome flirting, invitations of a sexual nature, the exhibition of pictures of a sexual nature, and use of demeaning language. In this scenario, an employee's salary may not be involved. For one of the above mentioned reasons, the employee's work environment has become poisoned by the offensive behavior.

In determining whether or not sexual harassment has occurred, the question of whether or not the conduct was "unwelcome" is a key issue. If sexual harassment has been found to have occurred, the determination of which type of sexual harassment must be made. If the case is considered "actionable," an individual alleging the sexual harassment can seek legal action. Remedies for sexual harassment cases vary, ranging from filing charges with the EEOC to instituting cases in state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court.

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