Practical definition of sexual harassment

The Practical Definition of Sexual Harassment

In practical terms, there are two kinds of sexual harassment which may generally be described as follows:

Quid Pro Quo: In which employment or educational decisions or expectations (e.g., hiring decisions, promotions, salary increases, shift or work assignments, performance expectations, grades) are based on employee's/students' submission to unwelcome sexual advances. Examples of quid pro quo harassment:

  • Demanding sexual favors in exchange for a promotion, raise, or grade
  • Disciplining or firing a subordinate/student because of a romantic relationship
  • Changing performance expectations/grades after a subordinate/student refuses repeated requests for a date

Hostile Environment: In which verbal or non-verbal behavior in the workplace or academic environment

  1.  Focuses on the sexuality of another person or occurs because of the person's gender;
  2. Is unwanted or unwelcomed; and
  3. Is severe or pervasive enough to affect the person's work/academic environment

The following are examples that can create a hostile environment if unwanted, uninvited, and pervasive:

  • Off-color jokes or teasing
  • Comments about body parts or sex life
  • Suggestive pictures, posters, calendars or cartoons
  • Leering, stares, or inappropriate gestures
  • Repeated requests for dates
  • Excessive attention in the form of love letters, telephone calls, text messages, or gifts
  • Touching-brushes, pats, hugs, shoulder rubs or pinches


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 campus-wide documents to the Office of Equal Opportunity should be considered analogous to the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Access.