What is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination, and it is against the law.. Sexual harassment is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines define sexual harassment as follows:

"Unwelcome 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; or
  3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment."

The University is committed to providing an environment that is free of unlawful sexual harassment. Gallaudet will not tolerate behavior between or among members of the University community that creates an unacceptable working or educational environment. Reports of sexual harassment are investigated thoroughly, promptly, and objectively.

What does unwelcome mean?

Sexual harassment is unlawful only if it is unwelcome. Unwelcome means that the conduct was neither solicited nor invited and is regarded as undesirable. If someone's conduct is offensive, you should make it known, either explicitly or implicitly, that the conduct is unwelcome.

Does sexual harassment usually involve requests for sexual favors?

There are two kinds of sexual harassment:

  1. quid pro quo; and
  2. hostile environment.

"Quid pro quo means "something for something" and usually involves pressure for sexual favors. For example, supervisors or teachers may use threats, such as firing, giving poor grades, blocking a promotion, or giving a bad evaluation, if a person does not go along with sexual advances. Conversely, sexual harassment could be in the form of a reward, such as promising a promotion, a raise, or a good grade, if the person does go along.

What is a hostile environment?

A hostile environment is established when there are repeated actions or items displayed around the workplace or classroom that are not legitimately related to a course being taught or that "reasonably interfere" with job performance or learning. Examples are: subtle pressure for sexual activity, an element of which may be conduct such as repeated and unwanted staring; comments of a sexual nature; sexually explicit questions, jokes, or anecdotes; unnecessary following, including repeated unwarranted appearances anywhere on campus; remarks of a sexual nature about a person's clothing or body; remarks about sexual activity or speculations about sexual experiences; physical touches of a sexual nature; sexual pictures, calendars, graffiti, or objects; or offensive language or gestures.

Does sexual harassment always occur between teacher and student or supervisor and subordinate?

While "quid pro quo" sexual harassment most often takes place in situations of power differential between the persons involved, a hostile work environment can be established among peers.

What about consensual relationships?

First and foremost, any form of relationship with a Pre-College student, other than a professional relationship or unless a parent, relative, or legal guardian, is prohibited, regardless of the student's age or consent.

Relationships between supervisors and subordinates are discouraged and may lead to problems. Supervisors are expected to avoid even the appearance of impropriety in decisions affecting those who report directly or indirectly to them. Additionally, University policy states that supervisors may not work in positions where they participate in or approve institutional decisions involving a direct benefit to a registered domestic partner or household member. Consensual relationships with University students are also strongly discouraged. The University's educational mission is promoted by professionalism in relationships with students. Faculty members (including teaching assistants and staff who teach), in particular, exercise power over students, whether in giving them praise or criticism, evaluating them, making recommendations for their further studies or their future employment, or conferring any other benefits on them. Amorous relationships between faculty and students are wrong when the faculty member has professional responsibility for the student. No faculty member may have an amorous relationship (consensual or otherwise) with a University student who is enrolled in a course being taught by the faculty member or whose academic work (including work as a teaching assistant) is being supervised by the faculty member.

Can I ask a coworker out on a date?

Yes you can. But if the coworker refuses, you had best not pursue the person.

What do I do if I believe I have been sexually harassed?

Never be a victim of sexual harassment. At the very least, let the individual know that you are offended and expect the behavior never to occur again.

If you prefer the matter to be handled administratively, there are two methods.

  1. Employees or University students who wish the matter to be handled informally should contact the employee's unit administrator, administrative officer, the EEO Officer or the Director of Human Resources, preferably within 10 working days of the incident. University students should also consult with appropriate student support personnel for advice and counseling. Students who have a complaint against another student should contact the Coordinator of Judicial Affairs.
  2. The person to whom the complaint is brought will, within 10 working days (unless there are extenuating circumstances) and without directly accusing and without divulging the name of the accuser (unless authorized by the complainant), counsel the employee or student and caution him/her about offensive and inappropriate behaviors and actions or will take other appropriate action to resolve the complaint informally (e.g., remove offensive pictures).

An employee or University student who wishes the matter to receive a formal investigation and review should contact the EEO Officer. University students who wish to make a formal complaint against another student should contact the Coordinator of Judicial Affairs.

The EEO Officer, in consultation with the appropriate administrative officer, or the Coordinator of Judicial Affairs, will determine the method by which the investigation will be conducted. The purpose of the investigation is to establish whether there is a reasonable basis for believing that an alleged violation of this policy has occurred. In conducting the investigation, the EEO Officer and/or the appropriate administrative officer (or his/her designee) or the Coordinator of Judicial Affairs may interview the complainant, the accused, and other persons believed to have pertinent and factual knowledge. At all times, the administrator conducting the investigation will take steps to ensure confidentiality. The investigation will afford the accused a full opportunity to respond to the allegations.

What are possible outcomes of a formal investigation?

Possible outcomes of the investigation are: (a) a judgment that the allegations are not warranted; (b) a negotiated settlement of the complaint; or (c) formal disciplinary action.

If I file a formal complaint, how will I be protected?

If you file a formal complaint, the investigation will be initiated only with your consent. You will be informed fully of steps taken during the investigation. All reasonable action will be taken to assure that you and those testifying on your behalf or supporting you in other ways suffer no retaliation as a result of the process. Steps to avoid retaliation may include: (a) lateral transfers of one or more of the parties in an employment setting and a comparable move if a classroom setting is involved; and/or (b) arrangements that academic and/or employment evaluations are made by an appropriate individual other than the accused. In extraordinary circumstances, the administrative officer may suspend an employee or teaching assistant accused of sexual harassment until the matter is resolved.

If I am accused of sexual harassment, how will I be protected?

If you are accused of sexual harassment, you will be informed of the allegations, the identity of the complainant, and the facts surrounding the allegations. In the event the allegations are not substantiated, all reasonable steps will be taken to restore your reputation if it was in any way damaged by the proceeding. A complainant found to have been intentionally dishonest in making the allegations or to have made them maliciously is subject to disciplinary action.

What happens after an investigation?

After an investigation, the parties will be informed of the facts developed in the course of the investigation. The parties will be informed promptly of the outcome of the proceedings. If, after the investigation, there is a reasonable basis for believing that a form of sexual harassment has occurred and a negotiated settlement cannot be reached, formal disciplinary action may be taken. The decision to take formal disciplinary action will be made by the appropriate administrative officer.

What is formal disciplinary action?

Formal disciplinary action may range from a reprimand to termination of employment.

Should I do anything if I see someone sexually harassing another individual?

Members of the University community who fail to realize that their actions discomfort or humiliate others demonstrate an insensitivity that warrants remedial measures. When such activities occur, all members of the campus community have a responsibility, especially within their peer group, to point out the offense.

Where can I find additional information about sexual harassment?

For more information, please contact the University's EEO Officer on Ext. 5660 or refer to the Protection Against Sexual Harassment policy in the Administration and Operations Manual.