Legal definition of sexual harassment

How is Sexual Harassment Legally Defined?

Both male and female students and employees are legally protected against sexual harassment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits gender discrimination in employment. Federal Regulations provide that unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

(1) Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment. 

(2) Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting that individual. 

(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.

 Students are protected from sexual harassment under Title IX of the Educational Amendments Act of 1972. That law provides no person shall, because of his or her gender, be excluded from participation in or denied the benefits of any educational program or activity that receives federal funds.  The Office of Civil Rights, in its 2001 "Revised Sexual Harassment Guidance," stated:

Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature. Sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a sexual nature.  Sexual harassment of a student can deny or limit, on the basis of sex, the student's ability to participate in or to receive benefits, services, or opportunities in the school's program.  sexual harassment of students is, therefore, a form of sexual discrimination prohibited by Title IX under the circumstances described in this guidance.  


NOTE:  The Office of Equal Opportunity transitioned to the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity & Access effective July 1, 2013 and the website is located at:  All references within campuswide documents to the Office of Equal Opportunity should be considered analogous to the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Access.