U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

* The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.

* The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.

* The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

* Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.

* The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.

It is helpful for the victim to directly inform the harasser that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.

When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, EEOC looks at the whole record: the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis.

Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.


Charges of sexual harassment may be filed at any field office of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Field offices are located in 50 cities throughout the United States and are listed in most local telephone directories under U.S. Government. Information on all EEOC-enforced laws may be obtained by calling toll free on 800-669-EEOC. EEOC's toll free TDD number is 800-800-3302.

If you have been discriminated against on the basis of sex, you are entitled to a remedy that will place you in the position you would have been in if the discrimination had never occurred. You may be entitled to hiring, promotion, reinstatement, back pay and other remuneration. You may also be entitled to damages to compensate you for future pecuniary losses, mental anguish and inconvenience. Punitive damages may be available, as well, if an employer acted with malice or reckless indifference. You may also be entitled to attorney's fees.

This fact sheet is available in the following formats: print, braille, large print, audiotape and electronic file on computer disk. For further information call the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity on (202) 663-4395 (voice), (202) 663-4399 (TDD) or FTS 989-4395 (voice), 989-4399 (TDD).

This file was prepared for electronic distribution by the inforM staff in January 1992 and updated in June 1999, using EEOC information last updated January 15, 1997. Questions or comments should be directed to ws-editor@umail.umd.edu.