sexual harassment

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sexual harassment,

in law, verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature, aimed at a particular person or group of people, especially in the workplace or in academic or other institutional settings, that is actionable, as in torttort,
in law, the violation of some duty clearly set by law, not by a specific agreement between two parties, as in breach of contract. When such a duty is breached, the injured party has the right to institute suit for compensatory damages.
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 or under equal-opportunity statutes. Once stereotyped as involving pressures brought by one in authority (e.g., an employer, teacher, or ranking officer) on someone in an inferior position, with the aim of obtaining sexual favors, harassment is now recognized as also involving behavior that creates an environment unfriendly to its targets. Thus, sexually explicit or suggestive behavior by male fellow employees may be designed to make a work situation difficult for a newly hired female; the harassers' motive may be mere hostility to female entry into a male "preserve."

In the United States, courts have since 1977 recognized some such behavior as a form of sex discrimination; not only the superior who seeks sexual access but also the employer who fails to restrain the behavior of other employees may be liable to suit. The 1991 Senate hearings in which Professor Anita Hill testified that Supreme Court nominee Clarence ThomasThomas, Clarence,
1948–, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1991–), b. Pin Point (Savannah), Ga. Raised in a poor family, he graduated (1974) from the Yale Law School and became a prominent black conservative active in Republican causes.
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 had made unwelcome advances to her some years earlier when she worked for him, and the "Tailhook" scandal, involving sexual hazing by male officers during a navy gathering in Las Vegas, Nev., in Sept., 1991, brought the issue of sexual harassment to national attention. In 1992 the Supreme Court gave individuals harmed by a school's discrimination (now interpreted as including failure to discipline students who harass other students) the right to sue the school for damagesdamages,
money award that the judgment of a court requires the defendant in a suit to pay to the plaintiff as compensation for the loss or injury inflicted. Damages are the form of legal redress most commonly sought.
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. In a series of 1998 decisions the Supreme Court ruled that employees in the workplace are to be protected from harassment by people of the same sex; that an employee need not suffer a tangible job detriment in order to sue for harassment; and that a company having effective complaint procedures that an employee unreasonably fails to utilize is protected from suit.

Recent debates have centered on, among other things, the apparent wide differences in men's and women's interpretations of sexual talk; on whether schools and colleges can or should impose speech and conduct codes or take other measures to protect students, especially females, from sexual talk or behavior; and on whether pornography is in itself a form of sexual harassment. It is apparent that the interests of protection from sexual harassment and of freedom of speech will continue to clash.


See M. Boland, Sexual Harassment in the Workplace (2007); C. N. Baker, The Women's Movement Against Sexual Harassment (2007).

References in periodicals archive ?
If the Christian Coalition and its political cronies thought they could harass and bully Americans United into dropping our efforts to educate churches about the perils of partisan political activity, they were wrong," the AU director said.
It seems, then, rather obvious that the reason so many straight men sexually harass and assault women is because they know they won't be clobbered--not by the victims, not by their friends or commanders, and not by any judicial process.
Maybe boys sexually harass girls because they want to tease them, they like them, or it is fun to see a reaction," says Malik, a sixth-grade boy from Arizona.
and I don't want [the school administration] to harass other students," she says.
Does any of the posse or anyone you all know ever write the idiot and harass him?
The plaintiff alleged that his boss, upon learning that this firefighter had been raped as a child, proceeded to harass him a way that's unacceptable to relate in a newspaper.
and other Middle East countries Wednesday to protect and not harass
He had faced charges under South Africa's 1998 Marine Living Resources Act which prevents sailors from attempting to "kill, fish for or harass a whale or a dolphin".
FUS Rabat (MAR), Zanaco (ZAM), Harass al-Hodoud (EGY), CS Sfaxien (TUN)
IT pains me to hear folk speak of the torture they face from those who harass them because they do not like them or agree with their religion, colour or creed.
They laughing and talk to each other loudly, encouraging the boys to harass them," Moataz Galal (30), a civil servant, says.
We have told officers to caution the couples but not to trouble or harass them.