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 ?
We have told officers to caution the couples but not to trouble or harass them.
The article was written by Sherin Thabet, a female blogger, who wanted to make men realise how much they hurt women's feelings when they harass them or make lewd comments about them.
FUS Rabat (MAR), Zanaco (ZAM), Harass al-Hodoud (EGY), CS Sfaxien (TUN)
Stick glue on his chair so he cannot get up to harass you.
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.
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 I don't want [the school administration] to harass other students," she says.
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.
Police will again be able to amass databases on groups whom they think might commit terrorist acts and hate crimes, though a city official has claimed in the Sun-Times that the police will still not be able to use such intelligence to harass or intimidate dissidents.
The men argue over space, instruct each other on what prices to demand, haggle with customers, harass women, and the like.
Americans United maintains that the scheme to harass the organization was cooked up then and notes that shortly after the senators sent the letter to Reno, a staffer in Coverdell's office admitted to a reporter with Religion News Service that Americans United had been discussed during the June meeting.