What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • It is made either explicitly implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment, education, living environment or participation in a University activity;
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for or a factor in decisions affecting that individual's employment, education, living environment, or participation in a University activity; or
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's employment or educational performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work, education, or living environment, or participation in a University activity.

Examples of sexual harassment include but are not limited to:

  • Suggestive or obscene letters, notes, invitations,
  • Derogatory comments, epithets, slurs or jokes,
  • Impeding or blocking movements, touching or any physical interference with normal work,
  • Sexually oriented gestures, displaying sexually suggestive or derogatory objects, pictures, cartoons or posters (the situation will be evaluated for appropriateness such as art displayed in museums versus centerfold in office setting),
  • Threats or insinuations that lack of sexual favors will result in reprisals, withholding support for appointments, promotions or transfers, change of assignments or poor performance reviews.


Can administrators, supervisors, or faculty members keep my complaint of sexual harassment to themselves?

Administrators, supervisors, and faculty members are obligated under University policy to inform OEO of any sexual harassment complaint that is made to them since OEO evaluates those concerns to determine what course of action is appropriate given the allegations that are made.

What is the responsibility of third parties who witness an unreported case of sexual harassment?
Supervisors who witness sexual harassment must report the harassment to OEO. Non-supervisory employees who witness sexual harassment are strongly encouraged to do the same.

Should supervisors investigate sexual harassment incidents that they learn about informally, e.g., through workplace rumors?
Supervisors should contact OEO for advice on how to handle all allegations of sexual harassment regardless of how the supervisor learns of the alleged harassment.

What action should be taken if a person does not wish to pursue a sexual harassment complaint? If the complaint is not investigated, can the supervisor or the department be held liable at a later date?
Once the University is made aware of possible unlawful sexual harassment, it has a legal obligation to investigate the matter regardless of whether the person wishes the University to pursue the complaint. Lack of cooperation by the person alleging the sexual harassment, however, may impact the University's ability to undertake a meaningful investigation. If the University fails to investigate allegations of sexual harassment, it may be held liable at a later date depending on the circumstances of the specific case.

Does a person have to verbally object to a behavior for it to be defined as sexual harassment?
No. Ideally, clearly articulating one's displeasure with another's behavior would communicate very directly the objectionable nature of the interaction and potentially end the behavior before a formal complaint would be needed. However, victims of sexual harassment do not have to confront their harassers for the behavior to be sexual harassment. Individuals who believe they are being harassed need only report the alleged harassment immediately so the University can take prompt action.

At what point does sexual harassment become a criminal matter? When should someone contact University Police?
Some sexually harassing behaviors can be violations of criminal law. Those behaviors may include criminal sexual conduct, assault, attempted assault, and behaviors that meet the legal definitions of criminal stalking or harassment.

Is it considered sexual harassment to bring sexually explicit material into the workplace? What about on the Internet or in jokes sent through e-mail/voicemail?
Distributing sexually explicit material in the workplace, including material on the Internet or jokes sent via e-mail/voicemail, may constitute sexual harassment. Moreover, even if it does not rise to the level of sexual harassment, sexually explicit material in the workplace may be unprofessional or disruptive and could warrant discipline.

Where can I turn if I feel like my supervisor is treating me unfairly, but it doesn't fall into the protected categories?
You may want to contact your Human Resources Consultant or higher management in your chain or command to find out what your options and rights are for resolving issues you feel are not illegal discrimination or sexual harassment. If you don't know who your HR consultant is, call 505-277-MYHR.

What protection does the University offer against retaliation by accused parties?
Retaliation against persons who complain about sexual harassment or who participate in the University's investigation and handling of sexual harassment reports or complaints is strictly prohibited and violates University policy as well as state and federal civil rights laws. Persons who engage in retaliation are subject to discipline. The University's aim is to provide protection for all persons who participate in the enforcement of the policy prohibiting sexual harassment.

What protection does the University offer against being falsely accused of sexual harassment?
Any party accused of sexual harassment ( or discrimination) has due process rights to be notified of allegations against him/her and have an opportunity to respond to them. Because of the nature of sexual harassment, allegations often cannot be substantiated by direct evidence other than the complaining party's own statement. Lack of corroborating evidence should not discourage individuals from seeking relief under this policy. No action will be taken against an individual who makes a good faith allegation of sexual harassment, even if after the investigation the allegation is not substantiated. However, allegations or statements made in the course of an investigation or enforcement procedure found to be intentionally dishonest or made with willful disregard for the truth may subject the individual to disciplinary action.