Who Can Be a Sexual Harasser According to the Law?

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  • 0:01 Sexual Harassment Defined
  • 0:43 Supervisors & Co-Workers
  • 2:01 Third Parties
  • 2:47 Same-Sex Harassers
  • 3:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Shawn Grimsley

Shawn has a masters of public administration, JD, and a BA in political science.

Workplace sexual harassment can come from all parts of your organization and even from individuals outside your organization. In this lesson, you'll learn who can be a sexual harasser for the purpose of sexual harassment law.

Sexual Harassment Defined

Before jumping into who can be a harasser at work, let's take a moment to quickly review what conduct constitutes sexual harassment. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment includes 'unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.' However, it's important to note that sexual harassment doesn't necessarily have to relate to sex. Offensive or derogatory comments about a person's gender can be sufficient if the conduct is so frequent or severe enough to create a hostile workplace for an employee.

Supervisors & Co-Workers

When you think of sexual harassers, you probably think of the stereotype of a supervisor demanding sexual favors in order for a young female employee to receive a promotion or even keep her job. But who exactly is a supervisor for purposes of sexual harassment law?

According to the EEOC, a person is considered a supervisor under two circumstances. First, a person is your supervisor if the person has the authority from the organization to manage or control your work activities. A person is your supervisor if the person has the authority to make or recommend employment decisions that will affect you. Relevant employment decisions include things like hiring, firing, promoting, receiving benefits, bonuses, and pay raises among other things. This is the case even if the person doesn't have the final say over an employment decision, such as a person in company management or a team leader.

Co-workers can also be sexual harassers. A co-worker is simply a fellow employee who is not a supervisor. Keep in mind that you don't have to actually 'work' with an individual for that individual to be a co-worker. Anyone that works at your organization who is not considered a supervisor is a co-worker.

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