Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Sexual Harassment Definition:

A term used in human rights legislation and referring primarily to harassment in employment situations, related to sex or gender, which detrimentally affects the working environment.

Related Terms: Harassment, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Assault, Sex, Hostile Work Environment, Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

In the USA, Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson 106 Supreme Court 2399 (1986, published at law.cornell.edu/supct/html/historics/USSC_CR_0477_0057_ZO.html), the Court adopted these words:

"Sexual harassment ... creates a hostile or offensive environment for members of one sex is every bit the arbitrary barrier to sexual equality at the workplace that racial harassment is to racial equality.  Surely, a requirement that a man or woman run a gauntlet of sexual abuse in return for the privilege of being allowed to work and make a living can be as demeaning and disconcerting as the harshest of racial epithets."

In Canada, re Janzen v. Platy Enterprises Ltd., 1989 1 SCR 1252, published at canlii.com/en/ca/scc/doc/1989/1989canlii97/1989canlii97.html, the Supreme Court of Canada defined it as:

"Without seeking to provide an exhaustive definition of the term, I am of the view that sexual harassment in the workplace may be broadly defined as unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that detrimentally affects the work environment or leads to adverse job-related consequences for the victims of the harassment.

"It is ... an abuse of power.

"When sexual harassment occurs in the workplace, it is an abuse of both economic and sexual power.  Sexual harassment is a demeaning practice, one that constitutes a profound affront to the dignity of the employees forced to endure it.  By requiring an employee to contend with unwelcome sexual actions or explicit sexual demands, sexual harassment in the workplace attacks the dignity and self-respect of the victim both as an employee and as a human being.

"Perpetrators of sexual harassment and victims of the conduct may be either male or female."

The most overt variation of sexual harassment is the quid pro quo offer of work-favor in exchange for sexual favor.

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