What are behaviors that fall under the definition of sexual harassment?
Although not all specific behaviors are outlined in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, any behavior that is meant to intimidate, discriminate or threaten someone based on their gender is strictly prohibited. Examples of sexually-harassing behavior include nonconsensual touching, derogatory remarks, comments that are meant to threaten, jokes or explicit sexual material, unwelcome sexual advances and lewd sounds.
To file a claim for sexual harassment, there have to be a series of behaviors – not just one incident – that are meant to be threatening. Sexual harassment is a pervasive and systematic way that someone makes a work environment feel uncomfortable and hostile. Legally termed a “hostile work environment,” if someone is repeatedly making you feel intimidated, then you can make a claim for sexual harassment.
In addition, to claim a hostile work environment sexual harassment case, you would have to show that the theory of reasonableness applied. “Reasonableness” is a legal constraint that says that if any reasonable person were in the same situation, they would be offended too. Proving reasonableness shows that you aren’t just being sensitive; while the behavior may or may not be directed specifically at you, it demonstrates that anyone who is in the workplace would also be offended.
There are other situations when one action might be considered sexual harassment. An example is if a supervisor, or someone who holds a place of authority over your work position, makes a sexual request and either implicitly or explicitly makes it clear that your compliance is dependent on your advancing within the company. It might also be that they make it known that your failure to comply will be met with negative consequences, like a demotion or termination.