Sexual harassment is illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Minnesota Human Rights Act.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.”
Here are some general rules about sexual harassment that employers should know:

  1. The victim as well as the harasser may be either a woman or a man.
  2. The victim of sexual harassment does not have to be of the opposite sex of the harasser.
  3. The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  4. The victim does not have to be the person harassed, but could be anyone adversely affected by the offensive conduct.
  5. Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  6. The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome in order to constitute sexual harassment.

Takeaways:  Employers can reduce the risk of sexual harassment by adopting policies that prohibit sexual harassment and training managers and employees how to recognize and report suspected sexual harassment.  If sexual harassment is reported, employers should promptly investigate the matter and take appropriate corrective action, if necessary.