Employee Relations -
Equal Employment Opportunity
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal and
physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
- submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or
implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment/academic
- submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual
is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individuals;
- or such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially
interfering with an individual's work performance, creating an intimidating
hostile or offensive work environment.
The threat takes the
form of ongoing harassment that interferes with work or school by making the
atmosphere intimidating and unpleasant. The actions are generally repeated.
The atmosphere is made hostile or abusive by the
unequal treatment of the sexes or individuals.
The harassment is "sufficiently severe or pervasive as to
alter the conditions of the victim's employment" or academic performance, and
creates an abusive work or educational environment.
A person is denied the equal employment or equal educational
opportunities guaranteed by law and the Constitution.
What to Do if You Are in a Consensual Relationship
- Consult your institution's policy immediately.
It is important to know where it stands on the subject.
- Determine if you are in violation of the
policy. Be aware, however, that regardless of the institution's policy or lack
of one, the fact that a relationship was, at one time, consensual is no
defense in the event of subsequent charges of sexual harassment or
- Determine whether an ethical conflict of
interest exists. You may have a direct conflict of interest if you are in a
Hire or fire the person;
Recommend or refuse to recommend the person for a job, promotion, etc.
Give or withhold credit for a project;
Evaluate the person's work performance
- If a direct conflict of interest does not
exist, determine whether there is any sort of indirect conflict which could
result in a similar ethical dilemma as that presented by the direct conflict.
There may be an indirect conflict of interest if you are in a position to:
Influence coworkers on behalf or against the person; or
Cause others to feel disadvantaged because of your actions on behalf of the person.
- Act to remove the conflict of interest
immediately. This may be accomplished in a number of ways, including
withdrawing from the supervisory position over the person, if possible, or
ending the relationship.
If your institution's policy requires it, report the relationship to a
supervisor or administrator to ensure that all conflicts have been adequately
What Everyone Needs to Know About Handling Sexual Harassment
Take the report seriously. Assure the person that the complaint or problem
is being taken seriously and that the institution will respond to the problem
Listen, sympathize, but don't judge. Listen to what the person has to say,
sympathize, but make no judgment or commitment regarding the allegations or how
the investigation will be conducted. Do assure the person that the institution
takes sexual harassment seriously and will not tolerate it.
Don't delay. If you are not the individual designated to process sexual
harassment complaints, tell the complainant who is responsible and offer to help
contact that person. If that person is not immediately available, tell the
complainant you will follow through immediately after this interview. Then do it
as soon as possible. Delays of even a few days can make investigations difficult
or send a signal to the complainant that the institution is not taking the
complaint or problem seriously.
Respond to Concerns. If the complainant expresses or indicates fear, assure the
person that the institution will do everything in its power to ensure
confidentiality (but make no promises), prevent retaliation and stop further
harassment. If you are the person designated to process complaints or
investigate them, answer any questions about the complaint process that will not
jeopardize the investigation. If you are not the appropriate person to process a
complaint, assure the complainant that his or her questions will be answered by
the appropriate person.
Document. Write a detailed summary of what the complainant told you,
including your observations of the person's demeanor. Submit it to the
individual who will be processing the complaint.
Follow up on the complaint. Check with the complainant the next day to ensure
that he or she is getting needed assistance.
Avoid using "Danger Words," such as "It's just teasing - no big deal."
Sexual Harassment Investigation Checklist for Managers
- Name of
Complainant (at least first name, if the person wishes to remain anonymous)
- What happened? (questions for
- Who harassed you? (No name is needed yet, but the role of the person is an
important element, for example, supervisor or fellow employee.)
- HOW did the harassment take place? (Try to get a very explicit description
of the alleged harassing action. This is sometimes quite difficult because the
victim is often embarrassed by the event.)
- WHERE did it take place?
- WHEN did it take place? (date and time, if possible)
- If more than once, HOW OFTEN?
- How did you FEEL about it? What was your RESPONSE?
- In what way does the alleged harasser have POWER over the success (or other
well-being) of the harassed?
- Were there any WITNESSES? If YES, WHO?
- Did you tell anyone about your experience after the incident?
Do you think there might be OTHER VICTIMS?
Do you have, or think that you can discreetly obtain, KNOWLEDGE OF OTHER
INCIDENCES of sexual harassment by the alleged harasser?
Do you know of (or perceive) any CONSEQUENCES or effects of your response?
- If YES,
- WHAT DID YOU TELL HER OR HIM?
- WHAT WAS HER OR HIS RESPONSE?
If some time has elapsed since the incident, have any CONSEQUENCES occurred?
What would you like to have DONE?
- Were they explicitly stated? How?
- Implied? How?
Key decisions (for investigators)
- For you?
- For others?
- With respect to the alleged harasser?
- Has sexual harassment occurred? (If yes, continue;
if no, go to "Options to proceed from here.")
- How severe is the harassment?
What is the potential for retaliation?
Can I protect the complainant? (be
- Does it warrant emergency action?
- Does the matter seem suitable for
What options is the complainant willing to pursue?
- How can the complainant protect her- or
- Consultation/referral/instructions (to the complainant)
Options to proceed from here
- If there is no harassment-How to counsel the employee
- If there is likelihood of harassment
Internally: what can employee do independently;
what are the company's third-party processes?
Externally: legal options outside the
organization, I.E., EEOC, State Human Rights/Civil Rights Commissions.