Sexual Harassment Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Sexual Harassment, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Sexual Harassment?

(n) Sexual harassment is the act by which a person is put to difficulties related to his sexual existence, by disregarding his/ her honor with sexual advancement or touching , expose of sexual organs etc.

History and Meaning of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment refers to unwanted sexual advances, comments, or gestures that create an unwelcome or hostile environment for the victim. The term was first coined in the early 1970s as part of the feminist movement's efforts to draw attention to the pervasive problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, though the behavior itself has existed for much longer.

The legal definition of sexual harassment recognizes two types of behavior: quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment harassment. Quid pro quo harassment involves an employee being forced to endure sexual advances or conduct in exchange for a promotion, raise, or other employment benefit. Hostile work environment harassment involves behavior that is pervasive, severe, and objectively offensive, and that interferes with the victim's ability to work.

Examples of Sexual Harassment

Here are some examples of behavior that could be considered sexual harassment:

  • Unwanted sexual comments or jokes
  • Physical contact such as touching, groping, or hugging without consent
  • Displaying sexually suggestive images or objects
  • Insinuating or threatening job consequences based on sexual favors
  • Offering job advancement in exchange for sexual favors

Legal Terms Similar to Sexual Harassment

  • Discrimination: Treating someone unfairly based on a protected characteristic (such as gender or sex)
  • Retaliation: Taking negative action against someone who has made a complaint or report of discrimination or harassment
  • Hostile work environment: An environment in which behavior is unwelcome, severe, or pervasive enough to make it difficult for an individual to work
  • Title VII: A section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prohibits discrimination in the workplace based on sex, race, color, national origin, and religion.