Sexual Harassment Prevention

P13. Preventative Care: Sexual Harassment Prevention, 3 CE-hours, $21

Course Description: Sexual harassment is defined, and actual cases are used as examples to reinforce learning. Emphasis is placed on organizational preventive measures and methods for dealing with sexual harassment incidents from the perspectives of the organization and the individuals involved.


  1. Define sexual harassment under both federal and State law, cite the references for each, and identify and explain the two key terms of the law (unwanted and sexual)
  2. Define the two major categories of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment
  3. State the principle applied relative to the intent of conduct which is interpreted as sexual harassment
  4. Identify the responsibilities of both employees and supervisors regarding the prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace with respect to both employees and non-employees
  5. Discuss liability issues regarding the conduct of employees and non-employees
  6. Discuss the reasonable person standard and the reasonable woman standard
  7. Given a set of scenarios, state for each one if it describes a case of sexual harassment and, if so, what type of harassment it is
  8. State what you should do and identify the resources available to you if you are 1) sexually harassed or 2) accused of sexual harassment
  9. Discuss the informal and formal discrimination complaint processes and explain how they differ
  10. List at least five actions identified by the EEOC that an employer can do to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace

Course Format: Online linked resources and lectures that you can use anytime 24/7. One multi-choice test.

Course Developers and Instructors: R. Klimes, Ph.D., MPH (John Hopkins U), author of informative research on Sexual Harassment Prevention and related workforce objectives.

Course Time: About three hours for online study, test taking with course evaluation feedback and certificate printing.


Course Test: Click here for the self-correcting test that requires 75% of a passing grade.

P13  Sexual Harassment Prevention, 3 CE course hours 

Continuing education online courses in Sexual Harassment Prevention.

Welcome to this  3-contact-hour Continuing Education course with instant online processing and certification 24/7.  Study the course below, take the 12-question multiple-choice test register and pay online. If you score 75% or above, you may print your CE certificate on your printer as soon as you finish. If you have difficulty printing your certificate, click here. You may retake the test once.

Professor Rudolf Klimes, Ph.D., welcomes you to this online course. Keep going.

START the course here. TAKE the exam at the end. PAY after the exam.

A course in this area is a legal responsibility in California (and other states) since Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 1825 on September 29, 2004.  AB 1825 (new Government Code section 12950.1; text available at requires that employers train supervisors on sexual harassment every two years.

Sexual harassment is defined, and actual cases are used as examples to reinforce learning. Emphasis is placed on organizational preventive measures and methods for dealing with sexual harassment incidents from the perspectives of the organization and the individuals involved. This course also addresses liability issues and the role of discipline.  This course complies with Government Code 12950.1(AB 1825).

1. The Law

Government Code 12950.1 (AB 1825)

12950.1.  (a) By January 1, 2006, an employer having 50 or more employees shall provide at least two hours of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees who are employed as of July 1, 2005, and to all new supervisory employees within six months of their assumption of a supervisory position.  Any employer who has provided this training and education to a supervisory employee after
January 1, 2003, is not required to provide training and education by the January 1, 2006, deadline.  After January 1, 2006, each employer covered by this section shall provide sexual harassment training and education to each supervisory employee once every two years.  The training and education required by this section shall include information and practical guidance regarding the federal and state statutory provisions concerning the prohibition against and the
prevention and correction of sexual harassment and the remedies available to victims of sexual harassment in employment.  The training and education shall also include practical examples aimed at instructing supervisors in the prevention of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, and shall be presented by trainers or educators with knowledge and expertise in the prevention of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.

(b) The state shall incorporate the training required by subdivision (a) into the 80 hours of training provided to all new supervisory employees pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 19995.4 of the Government Code, using existing resources.    (c) For purposes of this section only, “employer” means any person regularly employing 50 or more persons or regularly receiving the
services of 50 or more persons providing services pursuant to a contract, or any person acting as an agent of an employer, directly or indirectly, the state, or any political or civil subdivision of the state, and cities.    (d) Notwithstanding subdivisions (j) and (k) of Section 12940, a claim that the training and education required by this section did not reach a particular individual or individuals shall not in and of itself result in the liability of any employer to any present or former employee or applicant in any action alleging sexual harassment.  Conversely, an employer’s compliance with this section does not insulate the employer from liability for sexual harassment of any current or former employee or applicant.   (e) If an employer violates the requirements of this section, the commission shall issue an order requiring the employer to comply with these requirements.    (f) The training and education required by this section is
intended to establish a minimum threshold and should not discourage or relieve any employer from providing for longer, more frequent, or more elaborate training and education regarding workplace harassment or other forms of unlawful discrimination in order to meet its obligations to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent andcorrect harassment and discrimination.

California Law

2. The Process

Sexual Harassment Defined & What Are Some Examples of It?

Sexual harassment is prohibited under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a form of discrimination on the basis of gender. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has established guidelines defining sexual harassment as follows: Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment   when:


(3)  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.

These guidelines have yielded two distinct legal theories of sexual harassment.  The first of these is the quid pro quo (“this for that”) theory, which occurs when an employer or supervisor conditions tangible job benefits on acquiescence to unwelcome sexual conduct, or penalizes an individual for refusing to participate in such conduct.

Quid pro quo harassment would include such behaviors as:

A supervisor demanding sexual favors in exchange for promotion, favorable job assignments, or other job benefits.

The second theory is a hostile working environment, which occurs when unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature unreasonably interferes with an

individual’s job performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.  Such conduct may include:

sexist or stereotypical remarks about a person’s clothing, body, appearance or activities;

harassing or abusive remarks regarding a person’s sexual activities or gender;

sexually-oriented jokes, stories, remarks or discussions;

descriptions of sexual acts;

posting sexually graphic pictures;

deliberately touching, pinching, patting, or giving inappropriate looks to another person;

pressure for dates or sexual activity;

unwelcome telephone calls or letters of a sexual nature;

demands for sexual favors.

There is no single situation that constitutes sexual harassment.  Rather, be responsible for the acts of outside contractors who sexually harass employees in the workplace.

The harasser may be male or female, and the victim may be of the opposite sex or the same sex as the harasser.

Even a consensual relationship between the harasser and the victim may involve sexual harassment.  For example, if the victim agrees to sexual behavior out of fear of retaliation, the conduct of the other party may still constitute sexual harassment despite the victim’s consent.  The focus is on whether the conduct was unwelcome, not consensual.

It is important to note that it is not how a person intended his or her actions to be taken, but rather how the actions are reasonably perceived.

In determining if conduct constitutes sexual harassment, courts have considered how a “reasonable person” would perceive such conduct.  Even if the harasser does not view his or her conduct as objectionable, a reasonable person might.

An isolated incident, or even a few such incidents, usually will not be considered sufficient to establish a hostile working environment.  However, supervisors are encouraged to take corrective action when such isolated incidents occur, in order to ensure that future conduct does not rise to the level of a hostile working environment.

Whatever form the sexual harassment may take, it is important that it is recognized and that prompt action is taken against the offender.

How Can I Prevent Sexual Harassment?

There are a number of ways that Department of Homeland Security employees at all levels can help prevent sexual harassment:

The Department, as well as the individual bureaus, has issued policy statements against
sexual harassment.  Make yourself and your co-workers aware of this policy by encouraging management to distribute it to all employees and to post it in prominent locations.

Management should ensure that the Department’s “zero tolerance” policy has been distributed and is understood by all employees.  Supervisors should also make it clear that they will not tolerate any sexually harassing behavior among their employees.

All employees must attend mandatory sexual harassment prevention training.  Make sure you attend a training session and understand the definitions, procedures, and consequences of sexual harassment.

Employees must make an effort to keep the workplace professional and avoid situations or topics of discussion of a sexual nature.  What you might find humorous others might, find offensive or disturbing.

You are better off being overly cautious about comments made in the workplace, rather than taking chances.  When in doubt, do not make the comment, joke, etc.  It is up to every employee in the workplace to set boundaries of appropriate and inappropriate behavior.  If you fear that your own behavior has been misunderstood, take the time to explain and apologize to your coworker.

If you feel that you are the victim of sexual harassment, take action immediately.  If management is made aware of harassing conduct promptly, action can be quickly taken to prevent a recurrence of such conduct.  If an offender is counseled or disciplined for sexually harassing behavior, the behavior should cease and others will be discouraged from similar actions.

If you are a supervisor or manager, and an employee informs you of objectionable behavior in the workplace, you must take immediate action.

You should talk to the individuals and find out all you can about the allegations.

You should immediately take appropriate corrective action, which may include counseling or disciplinary action.

You cannot ignore the situation or cover-up the allegations.  If you do, the agency may be liable for damages and you may ultimately be subject to disciplinary action.

Contact your EEO or Human Resources Office if you need additional assistance or guidance in handling a sexual harassment situation.

What Options Are Available If I Believe That I Have Been The Victim of Sexual Harassment?

There are a number of steps, which you may take in order to resolve a sexual harassment problem in your workplace:

If possible, speak with the individual directly and inform him or her that you feel the behavior is inappropriate.

Informal action such as this may be enough to put an end to the harassing behavior.

The Merit Systems Protection Board found that direct communication is the most effective means of stopping sexually harassing behavior.

Document any such discussions you have with the harasser and any further occurrences of sexually harassing behavior.

If direct communication with the harasser is not possible or fails to stop the behavior, report the harassment to your supervisor.

If your supervisor is the harasser, speak to the next level of management.

If the above options do not resolve the problem, call the EEO Division of the FLETC.

You can take any or all of the actions listed above.  Remember that you should always first make it clear to the harasser that you find the behavior unwelcome.  That action is often enough to put an end to the sexually harassing behavior.

How Do I File a Formal Complaint?

The filing of an EEO complaint follows a number of standard procedures:

You must contact an EEO counselor within 45 days of the last harassing incident.  The names and telephone numbers of EEO counselors for your bureau should be posted in the building where you work.

The EEO counselor will listen to your allegations and talk to the other involved parties in order to attempt to reach an informal resolution of the problem.

The EEO counselor will also offer you the opportunity to raise your allegations to the bureau head and the Office of the Inspector General.

If the matter is not resolved within 30 days, and the counseling period has not been voluntarily extended, the counselor will inform you of your right to file a formal complaint.

The formal complaint must be filed within 15 days of receipt of written notice of your right to file a formal complaint.  Once a formal complaint has been filed, a trained investigator will conduct an investigation into the complaint.

When you receive the investigative file, you will be given the option of either a hearing before an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Administrative Judge or a final agency decision based on the existing record.

If you elect a hearing, one will be conducted by an EEOC Administrative Judge and a recommended decision will be issued.  The Department may accept, reject, or modify the findings of the Administrative Judge.

When you receive the Department’s final decision, you have the right to appeal to the EEOC Office of Federal Operations within 30 days or to file suit in Federal court within 90 days of the decision.

Remember, it is illegal for the agency to take any retaliatory action against you for filing a complaint of sexual harassment.

What Will Be the Consequences of an Administrative or Judicial Finding of Sexual Harassment?

Where quid pro quo harassment which violates Title VII is established, the agency will be held liable.

Where a hostile working environment is established, the agency will be held liable for harassment by a supervisor, coworker, or outside contractor only if:

the employer knew or had reason to know of the acts committed, and

the employer failed to take prompt, effective action.

There is no liability for hostile environment harassment about which the employer did not know or have reason to know if the agency:

had a policy against harassment,

had a proper and effective complaint procedure, and

communicated disapproval of harassment to employees.

Upon an agency or EEOC finding of sexual harassment, EEOC regulations require the following:

Notice to all employees in your workplace of their right to be free from discrimination and assurance that such discrimination will not recur; and

A requirement that corrective, curative, or preventive action will be taken to ensure that sexual harassment does not recur.

Pursuant to an administrative or judicial finding, the agency may also be required to reinstate annual or sick leave that you used as a result of the harassment and provide you with any work benefits that you were denied as a result of the harassment, including any loss of earnings.

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1991, an individual may also be entitled to receive compensatory damages.

What Will Happen To a Person Found to Have Engaged in Sexual Harassment?

The Department has made a commitment that sexually harassing behavior will not be tolerated.  Bureau heads will take swift and effective disciplinary action in cases where sexual harassment has been committed.

Disciplinary actions will depend on the particular circumstances of each case.  Discipline may include counseling, warnings, reprimands, suspension, transfer to a different post of duty, and termination.

Additionally, a person who has engaged in sexually harassing conduct may be sued in his or her individual capacity under tort law and may be forced to bear the cost of representation if the Justice Department makes a determination not to represent that person.


What Should I Do If I Am Accused of Sexual Harassment?

If a coworker or employee comes to you and accuses you of sexual harassment, listen to what that person has to say.  Make sure you try to fully understand what that employee is feeling and why he or she feels that the behavior was inappropriate.  Apologize for your behavior, and tell the employee that you will try to make certain similar conduct does not occur in the future.

Appreciate that the employee has approached you first, and provided an opportunity to solve the problem informally.  Once you have discussed the incident, keep your word.  Be careful to ensure that the behavior does not happen again.  If a formal complaint is filed, it may be an unpleasant experience for all involved and may result in serious disciplinary action being taken against you if the allegations are found to be true.

If you think your behavior was acceptable, or that you are being falsely accused, approach your manager and explain the situation.  It may be possible for the supervisor to arrange a discussion of the incident with both you and your accuser in order to clear up the problem.

Let others know if their behavior seems inappropriate.  Do not encourage or permit offensive jokes or stories by your co-workers; rather, tell them that their behavior is offensive and should stop.

Even if you do not participate, if you are a supervisor and allow such behavior, you are at fault.  If the coworker or employee goes to your supervisor regarding an incident, understand that the supervisor has a duty to follow up on the complaint.  If he or she fails to do so, the agency can be held liable for failing to keep the workplace free of harassment.

All Department of Homeland Security employees is expected to fully cooperate in the investigation of an EEO complaint.  Failure to cooperate may result in disciplinary action.



Do not underestimate the seriousness of sexual harassment.  It is not to be tolerated in any workplace or under any circumstances.  The only way to achieve a harassment-free environment is for all employees to be informed and take immediate action.




3. Options


Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.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.Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

  • The victim, as well as the harasser, may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
  • 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.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.

When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, EEOC looks at the whole record: the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis.

Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.

It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.


In Fiscal Year 2004, EEOC received 13,136 charges of sexual harassment. 15.1% of those charges were filed by males. EEOC resolved 13,786 sexual harassment charges in FY 2003 and recovered $37.1 million in monetary benefits for charging parties and other aggrieved individuals (not including monetary benefits obtained through litigation).


4. Policy

SEXUAL HARASSMENT POLICY OF [name of employer] a Sample

I.  Introduction

It is the goal of [name of employer] to promote a workplace that is free of sexual harassment.  Sexual harassment of employees occurring in the workplace or in other settings in which employees may find themselves in connection with their employment is unlawful and will not be tolerated by this organization.  Further, any retaliation against an individual who has complained about sexual harassment or retaliation against individuals for cooperating with an investigation of a sexual harassment complaint is similarly unlawful and will not be tolerated.  To achieve our goal of providing a workplace free from sexual harassment, the conduct that is described in this policy will not be tolerated and we have provided a procedure by which inappropriate conduct will be dealt with if encountered by employees.

Because [name of employer] takes allegations of sexual harassment seriously, we will respond promptly to complaints of sexual harassment and where it is determined that such inappropriate conduct has occurred, we will act promptly to eliminate the conduct and impose such corrective action as is necessary, including disciplinary action where appropriate.

Please note that while this policy sets forth our goals of promoting a workplace that is free of sexual harassment, the policy is not designed or intended to limit our authority to discipline or take remedial action for workplace conduct which we deem unacceptable, regardless of whether that conduct satisfies the definition of sexual harassment.

II.  Definition Of Sexual Harassment

In Massachusetts, the legal definition of sexual harassment is this: “sexual harassment” means sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

(a) submission to or rejection of such advances, requests or conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment or as a basis for employment decisions; or,

(b) such advances, requests or conduct have the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance by creating an intimidating, hostile, humiliating or sexually offensive work environment.

Under these definitions, direct or implied requests by a supervisor for sexual favors in exchange for actual or promised job benefits such as favorable reviews, salary increases, promotions, increased benefits, or continued employment constitutes sexual harassment.

The legal definition of sexual harassment is broad and in addition to the above examples, other sexually oriented conduct, whether it is intended or not, that is unwelcome and has the effect of creating a work place environment that is hostile, offensive, intimidating, or humiliating to male or female workers may also constitute sexual harassment.

While it is not possible to list all those additional circumstances that may constitute sexual harassment, the following are some examples of conduct which if unwelcome, may constitute sexual harassment depending upon the totality of the circumstances including the severity of the conduct and its pervasiveness:

*Unwelcome sexual advances — whether they involve physical touching or not;

*Sexual epithets, jokes, written or oral references to sexual conduct, gossip regarding one’s sex life; comment on an individual’s body, comment about an individual’s sexual activity, deficiencies, or prowess;

*Displaying sexually suggestive objects, pictures, cartoons;

*Unwelcome leering, whistling, brushing against the body, sexual gestures, suggestive or insulting comments;

*Inquiries into one’s sexual experiences; and,

*Discussion of one’s sexual activities.

All employees should take special note that, as stated above, retaliation against an individual who has complained about sexual harassment, and retaliation against individuals for cooperating with an investigation of a sexual harassment complaint is unlawful and will not be tolerated by this organization.

III.  Complaints of Sexual Harassment

If any of our employees believe that he or she has been subjected to sexual harassment, the employee has the right to file a complaint with our organization.  This may be done in writing or orally.

If you would like to file a complaint you may do so by contacting [Name, address and telephone number of the appropriate individual to whom complaints should be addressed.  Such individuals may include human resources director, manager, legal counsel to the organization or other appropriate supervisory people].   [This person] [These persons) [is/are] also available to discuss any concerns you may have and to provide information to you about our policy on sexual harassment and our complaint process.

IV.  Sexual Harassment Investigation

When we receive the complaint we will promptly investigate the allegation in a fair and expeditious manner.  The investigation will be conducted in such a way as to maintain confidentiality to the extent practicable under the circumstances.  Our investigation will include a private interview with the person filing the complaint and with witnesses.  We will also interview the person alleged to have committed sexual harassment.  when we have completed our investigation, we will, to the extent appropriate to inform the person filing the complaint and the person alleged to have committed the conduct of the results of that investigation.

If it is determined that inappropriate conduct has occurred, we will act promptly to eliminate the offending conduct, and where it is appropriate we will also impose disciplinary action.

V.  Disciplinary Action

If it is determined that inappropriate conduct has been committed by one of our employees, we will take such action as is appropriate under the circumstances.  Such action may range from counseling to termination from employment and may include such other forms of disciplinary action as we deem appropriate under the circumstances.

VI.  State and Federal Remedies

In addition to the above, if you believe you have been subjected to sexual harassment, you may file a formal complaint with either or both of the government agencies set forth below.  Using our complaint process does not prohibit you from filing a complaint with these agencies.  Each of the agencies has a short time period for filing a claim (EEOC – 300 days; MCAD – 300 days).

1.  The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) One Congress Street, 10th Floor Boston, MA 02114, (617) 565-3200.


5. QA

Questions & Answers for Small Employers on Employer Liability for Harassment by Supervisors

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Title VII) prohibits harassment of an employee based on race, color, sex, religion, or national origin. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits harassment of employees who are 40 or older on the basis of age, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits harassment based on disability. All of the anti-discrimination statutes enforced by the EEOC prohibit retaliation for complaining of discrimination or participating in complaint proceedings.

The Supreme Court issued two major decisions in June of 1998 that explained when employers will be held legally responsible for unlawful harassment by supervisors. The EEOC‘s Guidance on Employer Liability for Harassment by Supervisors examines those decisions and provides practical guidance regarding the duty of employers to prevent and correct harassment and the duty of employees to avoid harassment by using their employers’ complaint procedures.

1. When does harassment violate federal law?

  • Harassment violates federal law if it involves discriminatory treatment based on race, color, sex (with or without sexual conduct), religion, national origin, age, disability, or because the employee opposed job discrimination or participated in an investigation or complaint proceeding under the EEO statutes. Federal law does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not extremely serious. The conduct must be sufficiently frequent or severe to create a hostile work environment or result in a “tangible employment action,” such as hiring, firing, promotion, or demotion.

2. Does the guidance apply only to sexual harassment?

  • No, it applies to all types of unlawful harassment.

3. When is an employer legally responsible for harassment by a supervisor?

  • An employer is always responsible for harassment by a supervisor that culminated in a tangible employment action. If the harassment did not lead to a tangible employment action, the employer is liable unless it proves that: 1) it exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any harassment, and 2) the employee unreasonably failed to complain to management or to avoid harm otherwise.

4. Who qualifies as a “supervisor” for purposes of employer liability?

  • An individual qualifies as an employee’s “supervisor” if the individual has the authority to recommend tangible employment decisions affecting the employee or if the individual has the authority to direct the employee’s daily work activities.

5. What is a “tangible employment action“?

  • A “tangible employment action” means a significant change in employment status. Examples include hiring, firing, promotion, demotion, undesirable reassignment, a decision causing a significant change in benefits, compensation decisions, and work assignment.

6. How might harassment culminate in a tangible employment action?

  • This might occur if a supervisor fires or demotes a subordinate because she rejects his sexual demands, or promotes her because she submits to his sexual demands.

7. What should employers do to prevent and correct harassment?

  • Employers should establish, distribute to all employees, and enforce a policy prohibiting harassment and setting out a procedure for making complaints. In most cases, the policy and procedure should be in writing.
  • Small businesses may be able to discharge their responsibility to prevent and correct harassment through less formal means. For example, if a business is sufficiently small that the owner maintains regular contact with all employees, the owner can tell the employees at staff meetings that harassment is prohibited, that employees should report such conduct promptly, and that a complaint can be brought “straight to the top.” If the business conducts a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation of any complaint that arises and undertakes swift and appropriate corrective action, it will have fulfilled its responsibility to “effectively prevent and correct harassment.”

8. What should an anti-harassment policy say?

  • An employer’s anti-harassment policy should make clear that the employer will not tolerate harassment based on race, sex, religion, national origin, age, or disability, or harassment based on opposition to discrimination on participation in complaint proceedings. The policy should also state that the employer will not tolerate retaliation against anyone who complains of harassment or who participates in an investigation.

9. What are important elements of a complaint procedure

  • The employer should encourage employees to report harassment to management before it becomes severe or pervasive.
  • The employer should designate more than one individual to take complaints and should ensure that these individuals are inaccessible locations. The employer also should instruct all of its supervisors to report complaints of harassment to appropriate officials.
  • The employer should assure employees that it will protect the confidentiality of harassment complaints to the extent possible.

10. Is a complaint procedure adequate if employees are instructed to report harassment to their immediate supervisors?

  • No, because the supervisor may be the one committing harassment or may not be impartial. It is advisable for an employer to designate at least one official outside an employee’s chain of command to take complaints, to assure that the complaint will be handled impartially.

11. How should an employer investigate a harassment complaint?

  • An employer should conduct a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation. The alleged harasser should not have any direct or indirect control over the investigation.
  • The investigator should interview the employee who complained of harassment, the alleged harasser, and others who could reasonably be expected to have relevant information. The Guidance provides examples of specific questions that may be appropriate to ask.
  • Before completing the investigation, the employer should take steps to make sure that harassment does not continue. If the parties have to be separated, then the separation should not burden the employee who has complained of harassment. An involuntary transfer of the complainant could constitute unlawful retaliation. Other examples of interim measures are making scheduling changes to avoid contact between the parties or placing the alleged harasser on non-disciplinary leave with pay pending the conclusion of the investigation.

12. How should an employer correct harassment?

  • If an employer determines that harassment occurred, it should take immediate measures to stop the harassment and ensure that it does not recur. Disciplinary measures should be proportional to the seriousness of the offense. The employer also should correct the effects of the harassment by, for example, restoring leave taken because of the harassment and expunging negative evaluations in the employee’s personnel file that arose from the harassment.

13. Are there other measures that employers should take to prevent and correct harassment?

  • An employer should correct harassment that is clearly unwelcome regardless of whether a complaint is filed. For example, if there is graffiti in the workplace containing racial or sexual epithets, management should not wait for a complaint before erasing it.
  • An employer should ensure that its supervisors and managers understand their responsibilities under the organization’s anti-harassment policy and complaint procedures.
  • An employer should screen applicants for supervisory jobs to see if they have a history of engaging in harassment. If so, and the employer hires such a candidate, it must take steps to monitor actions taken by that individual in order to prevent harassment.
  • An employer should keep records of harassment complaints and check those records when a complaint of harassment is made to reveal any patterns of harassment by the same individuals.

14. Does an employee who is harassed by his or her supervisor have any responsibilities?

  • Yes. The employee must take reasonable steps to avoid harm from the harassment. Usually, the employee will exercise this responsibility by using the employer’s complaint procedure.

15. Is an employer legally responsible for its supervisor’s harassment if the employee failed to use the employer’s complaint procedure

  • No, unless the harassment resulted in a tangible employment action or unless it was reasonable for the employee not to complain to management. An employee’s failure to complain would be reasonable, for example, if he or she had a legitimate fear of retaliation. The employer must prove that the employee acted unreasonably.

16. If an employee complains to management about harassment, should he or she wait for management to complete the investigation before filing a charge with EEOC?

  • It may make sense to wait to see if management corrects the harassment before filing a charge. However, if management does not act promptly to investigate the complaint and undertake corrective action, then it may be appropriate to file a charge. The deadline for filing an EEOC charge is either 180 or 300 days after the last date of alleged harassment, depending on the state in which the allegation arises. This deadline is not extended because of an employer’s internal investigation of the complaint.

Further guidance on harassment can be found in the 1999 Guidance on Employer Liability for Unlawful Harassment by Supervisors; the 1980 Guidelines on Sexual Harassment; the 1990 Policy Statement on Current Issues in Sexual Harassment; the 1990 Policy Statement on Sexual Favoritism; and the 1994 Enforcement Guidance on Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc.. These can all be found on EEOC‘s website ( They are also available by calling the EEOC‘s Publications Distribution Center (800-669-3362 or TTY 800-800-3302), or by writing to EEOC‘s Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs, 1801 L St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20507.

Sources for this Course:


Further guidance on harassment can be found in the 1999 Guidance on Employer Liability for Unlawful Harassment by Supervisors; the 1980 Guidelines on Sexual Harassment; the 1990 Policy Statement on Current Issues in Sexual Harassment; the 1990 Policy Statement on Sexual Favoritism; and the 1994 Enforcement Guidance on Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc.. These can all be found on EEOC‘s website ( They are also available by calling the EEOC‘s Publications Distribution Center (800-669-3362 or TTY 800-800-3302), or by writing to EEOC‘s Office of Communications and Legislative Affairs, 1801 L St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20507.


Study this website for 3 hours for an approved (RN-CEP 16144) 3-hours Continuing Education Certificate (0.3 CEUs). Then take the test.
1) click here for the self-correcting tes& online payment, and 2) receive your certificate immediately online. All is online, nothing by post-mail.

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