Sexual harassment is harassment of a sexual nature, typically in the workplace or other setting where raising objections or refusing may have negative consequences. In American employment law, it is any unwelcome sexual advance or conduct on the job, having the effect of making the workplace intimidating, hostile or offensive. Sexual harassment is considered a form of illegal discrimination. To be considered sexual harassment, the harassment must impact individuals of a specific sex in a discriminatory manner (see article) (Article checked on August 15, 2004.)
The definition of the phrase sexual harassment can be broad and controversial, depending on each individual's opinion of what sexual harassment is. While typical sexual harassment behaviour usually includes unwanted touching of a co-worker's private parts, lewd comments, talk about gender superiority, sexual jokes, etc., some companies have reported that they have had to fire employees (after a co-worker had complained of sexual harassment) for such actions as telling the complaining co-worker how good he or she looks for that co-worker's date with another person, or for simply handling what seemed, to the fired employee, to be just a harmless compliment. Although not always meant to, such comments may sound rude or amount to sexual harassment, depending on context.
Probably the best definition of sexual harassment is sexual behaviour which the person doing it reasonably should have known was unwanted/likely to be unwanted and distressing. Also sexual behaviour which the person doing it failed to stop after it became clear that the person on the receiving end did not like it.
Two forms of sexual harassment have been defined:
The concept of sexual harassment has both colloquial and legal meanings. Many more people believe they have experienced sexual harassment than have a solid legal case against the accuser. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has pointed out that sexual harassment is not a freestanding tort, but is only, in its legal sense, a subcategory of employment discrimination.
For many businesses, preventing sexual harassment and defending its managerial employees from sexual harassment charges have become key goals of human resources and legal decision-making.