According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), sexual harassment is a specific form of sex discrimination that involves:
- Unwelcome sexual advances;
- Requests for sexual favors; and
- Various other verbal or physical actions of a sexual nature, all of which are considered to be illegal.
Additionally, sexual harassment may refer to any offensive comments or remarks that are made about a person’s gender. However, this is more commonly associated with gender discrimination.
When sexual harassment occurs in a work setting, it is also considered a form of employment discrimination. The offensive conduct can occur between a supervisor and an employee or between two colleagues at the office.
Generally speaking, there are two main types of sexual harassment claims in the workplace. The first is known as “quid pro quo” sexual harassment, and the second is known as “hostile work environment” sexual harassment.
An example of the first category, or “quid pro quo” sexual harassment, would be when a supervisor or an employee of higher rank asks a lower-ranked employee to do some sort of sexual favor for them. In exchange for this sexual favor, the supervisor will promise the employee some kind of work benefit or perk, such as receiving extra pay or getting a promotion.
An example of the second category, or “hostile work environment” sexual harassment, would be when someone working at the business continues to make threats or repeated sexual advances towards another employee. They make them so uncomfortable that it impacts their victim’s work performance or attendance.
The defining difference between these two categories of workplace sexual harassment would be that quid pro quo must involve a higher-ranking employee than the person who is being harassed. Hostile work environment harassment is focused more on offensive conduct than who is doing it. In some cases, the victim can experience both types at the same time.
One other category that could be considered workplace sexual harassment would be “non-direct” sexual harassment. This can happen in either of the above scenarios, but it generally occurs against another person who is not the originally intended victim.
An example of this would be how if a bystander witnesses their co-worker being sexually harassed, or is also offended by constantly overhearing offensive remarks or jokes, that person may have a claim for “non-direct” sexual harassment. Under specific circumstances, it could qualify as “direct” sexual harassment instead.
Regardless of the relationship of the parties involved or how the assault is specifically classified, people of any gender can experience sexual harassment. The defining factor in identifying sexual harassment is the nature of the offending party or parties’ behavior.
What Are Some Examples Of Sexual Harassment In Schools?
The different types of sexual harassment in schools include:
- Different Treatment: This may occur when a student is receiving perceived favorable treatment only because of their sex;
- Quid Pro Quo: This occurs when it is implied that a sexual favor will result in preferential treatment, such as getting a better grade; and
- Hostile Environment: Whether a school environment is considered to be hostile is based on the reasonable person standard, as well as the totality of all of the circumstances.
Due to recent advances in technology, sending sexually suggestive text messages or emails may also qualify as sexual harassment. To reiterate, the crux of the harassment claim is anything unwanted or unwelcome, and that is also sexual in nature.
Sexting, short for sexual texting, refers to sending explicit sexual images or messages from one person to another. This is generally done by using a cell phone. Sexting becomes a legal concern due to the fact that such images can easily be forwarded to other parties without the original owner being aware, and generally without their approval. It can also result in cyberbullying, stalking, and harassment. It is important to note that these subsequent issues are especially prevalent among minors, such as school-aged children engaged in sexting.
The act of sexting itself becomes illegal when minors send pictures of themselves or other people, regardless of whether they are minors or adults. Additionally, it becomes illegal when they send pictures of minors, such as forwarding a picture that another minor sent to them. The sending, receiving, and possession of these photos can subject a person to child pornography charges.
Because sexting is also associated with cases of harassment, stalking, and bullying, additional criminal charges can result from sexting. These would generally be criminal harassment charges and criminal stalking charges. If the sexting is associated with a person’s suicide after the victim’s images were distributed without their consent, the other people who were involved in the image distribution may also be charged for their role in death. In other cases, adults have been charged with child molestation and harassment for sending explicit pictures of themselves to minors.
Sexting charges are generally easy to prove because most electronic transmissions are stored electronically for several weeks or months after they occur. An example of this would be how messages that are sent by email or text are generally stored by the data provider, even if the person erases them from their own personal computer or phone.
This can provide authorities with a way to determine:
- What types of images were sent;
- Who sent them;
- How long the person possessed the images; and
- Whether such information was passed on or forwarded to other parties.
A criminal search warrant is generally required before the police can search for and secure this type of information. However, this type of evidence is considerably helpful in prosecuting for possession of child pornography, which can happen if a person receives sext messages from a minor.
What Are My Rights In Terms Of Sexual Harassment In Schools?
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 is a federal law prohibiting sexual discrimination in schools. It also protects people from sexual discrimination and harassment. Teachers and students have the right to participate in all educational programs and activities without fear of sexual harassment.
Additionally, faculty, staff, and students all have a duty to refrain from engaging in sexual conduct that is considered to be obscene or unwanted by others. Likewise, they have a right to be protected from such conduct.
Title IX provides that no one will be discriminated against on the basis of sex by any educational program or activity when that program or activity receives federal financial assistance. Public schools receive federal financial assistance, so they are covered by Title IX.
Examples of school settings that are covered by Title IX include:
- Athletic programs;
- Admissions policies;
- Education employer liability; and
- Vocational training programs,
To reiterate, there are different forms of sexual harassment. Some Title IX violations in the education system have occurred from:
- Unwelcome sexual advances from an education employee toward a student;
- Student participatory discrimination based on the gender of interscholastic athletics;
- Higher admission standards for one sex over another; and
- Teacher to student sexual harassment.
People who have been sexually harassed should consider doing any of the following:
- Notify the harasser in person or in writing that they find the harasser’s conduct offensive, and ask them to stop. However, this may not always be safe;
- Adhere to the school’s procedures and policies regarding sexual harassment issues;
- Maintain a detailed account of the harassing events; and
- Report the offensive behaviors to a school administrator, teacher, or counselor.
Do I Need An Attorney For Help With Sexual Harassment In Schools?
Investigating and proving a sexual harassment claim can be considerably difficult, especially in a school setting. A sexual harassment lawyers can help you file within the deadlines for sexual harassment claims and will also be able to represent you in court as needed.