Printable Guidebook for

What Everyone Needs To Know About Sexual Harassment: The Video

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©1999-2001 Interactive Employment Training, Inc.

Table of Contents

General Principles

The Scenarios:

The Touchy Supervisor

The Demanding Supervisor

Sexual Remarks and Pinups

The Outside Harasser

Interoffice Dating

The Holiday Party

The Good Old Boys Network

Women Harassing a Man

Lunch with the Boss

What Can You Do?


Note To Trainers

This Virtual Guidebook provides some basic principles which should be conveyed to all employees. These principles are included in the video. Additional information about them is provided in this Guidebook. If you want to stop the video after each of the workplace scenarios, you may find our discussion topics helpful. We have included some useful reference links for your convenience.

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An employee's ability to work should not be affected by his or her sex. We all share responsibility to make sure that our workplaces are free of harassment based on gender, harassment which could affect an individual's ability to work.

So what is sexual harassment?

Sexual Harassment Is Unwelcome Sexual Conduct

Sexual harassment exists in the workplace when a woman, or a man, is made uncomfortable because of unwelcome, sexual conduct.

There are two types of sexual harassment:

1. "Quid Pro Quo," and

2. "Hostile Environment"

Quid pro quo harassment occurs when the unwelcome sexual conduct is a condition of employment or is the basis for an employment action. The words "quid pro quo" mean "something for something." The classic example of quid pro quo sexual harassment is where an employee is promised that she'll receive a benefit if she provides some sexual favor. For example, she may be told that she'll receive a raise if she has sex with a supervisor. It may also occur where an employee is threatened that an employment benefit will be denied if sexual favors are not provided. This may occur, for example, if an employee is told that she'll be fired or will be denied a promotion if she doesn't sleep with a supervisor.

Hostile environment sexual harassment occurs where an atmosphere exists in the workplace that, based on gender, is intimidating or humiliating. Such an environment can exist, for example, where there are blatantly sexual posters throughout a workplace and employees openly and frequently tell sexual jokes or stories.

Think Before You Act!

Think about how you would feel if your mother, sister, daughter or son was listening to you.

Think about how you would feel repeating one of your comments in front of your boss or at trial in front of a judge or jury.

If you would feel uncomfortable---don’t say or do it!



If you witness any type of harassment, follow our policy and report it. If you fail to comply with our policy, you could be disciplined. Although these materials concern sexual harassment, harassment may be sex based or based on race, creed, national origin, sexual orientation, etc.

Note: Federal law and most jurisdictions do not prohibit sexual orientation discrimination/harassment. To check on the law for your jurisdiction, log onto

However, even if sexual orientation discrimination is not unlawful, that conduct may constitute unlawful sex discrimination.

Sexual harassment involving two men or two women (same sex harassment) is unlawful.


It’s About Respect

There’s No Excuse!

It’s Illegal!

If You See It, Report It!


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Tony, a supervisor, is very affectionate and touchy-feely around both male and female co-workers. Most of the employees dismiss his behavior as well-intentioned and friendly. Rose, however, feels very uncomfortable around him. Tony is completely unaware of Rose's discomfort.


Points to be Considered:

1. What constitutes sexual harassment?

2. Can actions be inappropriate even if they may not be unlawful sexual harassment?

3. How can we try to avoid misunderstandings such as the ones that took place between Tony and Rose?



1. What constitutes sexual harassment?

All "touchers" are not necessarily harassers. Remember, sexual harassment is unwelcome, sexual conduct. In this case Tony would not be guilty of sexual harassment because, although his behavior might have been inappropriate, it was not sexual. Also, because Rose never complained to Tony, another supervisor, or the organization, the organization had no idea that Tony’s actions were unwelcome.

2. Can the conduct of "touchers" be inappropriate even if it isn't sexual harassment?

As mentioned before, not all touching constitutes sexual harassment. However, even if specific actions aren't sexual harassment, they can still cause problems in the workplace. Therefore, such behavior may still be inappropriate and unacceptable in the workplace.

Tony's behavior is an example of inappropriate action that is not unlawful sexual harassment by itself. Physical contact may, however, make co-workers uncomfortable and may not be an acceptable form of communication or behavior in the workplace. "Casual touchers," such as Tony, must be sensitive to whether their behavior towards others is appropriate and be counseled to stop this behavior where it is inappropriate.

3. How can we try to avoid misunderstandings such as the ones that took place between Tony and Rose?

More communication is the key.



1. Sexual harassment is unwelcome, sexual conduct.

2. All "touchers" are not harassers. However, even though conduct may not be sexual harassment, it may still be inappropriate.

3. More communication may avoid misunderstandings which could lead to claims of sexual harassment.



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Karl, Betty's supervisor, has recently given her a poor evaluation and a 3% raise. Betty became upset when she learned that her co-workers Lisa and Sally received larger bonuses than she did. In her view she was clearly the better employee. When Betty complained, Karl explained that his decision was based on his belief that she is not a team player because she continually rejects his offers to have a drink with him and she does not "ease his tension" in the workplace.

Betty complained to the organization that she is being sexually harassed because her raise depended on giving in to Karl's sexual suggestions. After receiving Betty's complaint, the organization conducted a thorough investigation. After its investigation was completed, the organization agreed with Betty, determining that the evaluation and employment decisions were unfairly based on inappropriate and subjective criteria. The organization counseled Karl that he must use job-related objective criteria to determine employee evaluations and to make employment decisions.






What should evaluations and employment decisions be based on?

Evaluations and employment decisions should be based on specific, factual criteria.

Report It!

If you believe that sexual harassment exists in your organization, you must come forward. Complaints will be taken seriously and will be investigated thoroughly. Discuss your organization’s sexual harassment policy and complaint resolution policy.



1. Evaluations and employment decisions should include specific, factual criteria. If you think more specifics would help you assess and improve your performance, please speak with your supervisor.

2. If you believe that sexual harassment may exist at your workplace, you must report it.






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Joanne is a security guard, an occupation where most of the jobs are held by men. All of the employees in her department are male, including her supervisor. She is constantly bothered by sexual remarks by her male co-workers.



Does a woman who takes a job in a traditionally male occupation have to work in a sexually hostile environment?

 No. A woman is not expected to work in a sexually hostile work environment when she takes a job in a traditionally male occupation. Although Joanne is working in a job that usually has been held by males, she still has the right to work in an environment free of sexual harassment. In fact, all workplaces must be free of a sexually hostile environment!



Linda works as a construction worker at a building site. Most of her co-workers are men. During lunch, her co-workers often talk about their wives or girlfriends in demeaning ways. They also make harsh comments about women in front of Linda, which makes her feel uncomfortable. Linda is entitled to work where female employees are not made uncomfortable because of their gender.








  1. A woman does not accept a sexually hostile work environment when she takes a job in a traditionally male occupation.

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Mr. Wilson, a valued customer, makes sexual comments and advances towards Jane, a receptionist.

During an investigation of Jane's performance problems, the organization discovers that Mr. Wilson's inappropriate behavior might be responsible for her poor work performance. The organization also learns that Frank, another employee and a supervisor, knew about Mr. Wilson's conduct but failed to report it.


Points to be Considered:

1. Do employees have a duty to report sexual harassment by outsiders?

2. Can employees be treated differently after complaining about sexual harassment?


1. Did Frank have the duty to report Wilson's behavior?

Yes. Everyone has an obligation to report any sexual misconduct within the workplace.

Frank knew about Wilson's behavior towards Jane and therefore should have reported it. The fact that Frank considered Wilson to be an important client does not change Frank's obligation to report Wilson's behavior. Under a sexual harassment policy, employees have an obligation and responsibility to report sexual harassment, whether it occurs by an employee or a non-employee.

Don’t ignore such behavior!

2. Should Jane fear retaliation following her complaints?

No. Retaliation against an individual for opposing unlawful employment practices such as sexual harassment, participating in an investigation of a sexual harassment complaint or for filing a charge of sexual harassment is absolutely prohibited.

Jane must not be put in a position where she worries about retaliation by her boss. Any retaliation that does occur could be deemed unlawful and should be dealt with immediately and appropriately.



Brenda reports Tom to Human Resources for sexual harassment. While the investigation is pending, Brenda continues to work for Tom. After Tom learns about Brenda's accusations, he tells her that her lunch break will be fifteen minutes shorter. In addition, he disciplines Brenda for making personal telephone calls during working hours, even though all the employees in the department make such calls. Has Brenda been unlawfully retaliated against?

Tom's treatment of Brenda is just the sort of retaliation that must be prevented. He treated Brenda differently than her co-workers without any legitimate reason.

If you witness retaliation in our workplace, please step forward and report the behavior to Human Resources.



Sally reports Jim to Human Resources for sexually harassing her. While the investigation is pending, Jim disciplined Sally for failing to return from her lunch at her scheduled time. The department strictly enforces its lunch schedules and other employees have been disciplined when they did not return from lunch as scheduled. Also, Sally has previously been counseled for failing to return to lunch on time. Has Sally been unlawfully retaliated against?

Disciplining an employee who complained of sexual harassment is not always unlawful retaliation. In this case, Sally is not free to ignore legitimate work rules that are applied to all employees just because she has reported potential sexual harassment.





1. It is possible that unlawful sexual harassment can occur where the harasser is not an employee.

2. You have a duty to report unlawful sexual harassment in the workplace. You have no excuse for not reporting harassment or retaliation in our workplace.

3. Employees may not be retaliated against for complaining about sexual harassment.




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Tom, a supervisor, and Penny, his subordinate, decide to go out on a date after they completed a project together.



A relationship involving two employees of the same organization ("inter-office dating") is not necessarily sexual harassment. Remember, sexual harassment involves unwanted, sexual behavior. If the relationship is voluntary on both sides, neither member of the couple is being harassed.

However, because such relationships may lead to problems that could affect employees' job performance, many organizations do have rules about inter-office dating. Some organizations don't tolerate inter-office relationships, while some try to discourage them. Others freely allow inter-office relationships or treat them on a case-by-case basis. If your organization has such a policy, now is the time to discuss it.

There are several important issues you should remember concerning inter-office relationships:

1. Inter-office relationships must be voluntary on both sides.

Supervisors make decisions that affect the lives of their subordinates. This power may create relationships where the members of the couple do not stand on equal footing. To avoid any chance that employees are pressured by a supervisor into relationships that they don't want, your organization may transfer supervisory authority over the subordinate to another individual when a subordinate and supervisor are involved in an inter-office relationship.

2. No employee may be forced into a relationship to obtain or keep job benefits. If you are being asked to do so – step forward.

3. There must be no perception of favoritism based on gender or sexual favors.

Even where a relationship between a supervisor and subordinate is voluntary, it may create problems with other employees. If favoritism based on providing sexual favors is widespread, it could create the impression that individuals receive benefits because they are sexual "play things." Such an environment may be humiliating and intimidating. In fact, such behavior could cause an unlawful hostile environment. If you witness this happening – step forward.



Beth is upset that she did not receive a bonus. Her supervisor, Tim, only gave bonuses to Charlotte and Regina. It is common knowledge that Tim occasionally sleeps with Charlotte and that he has started dating Regina. If Tim hands out benefits based on who he is having relationships with, Beth may claim that she is subjected to a sexually hostile environment where women are treated like Tim's toys. At the least, Tim's conduct reduces the morale of his department.


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Bill, an employee, gets drunk at the holiday party and tells some dirty jokes to his co-workers. Some of his co-workers laugh or don't mind, but one co-worker doesn't find him funny and is bothered by his behavior.

Points to be Considered:

1. Can employees be held responsible for conduct that occurs away from the workplace?

2. Can a joke be sexual harassment?


1. Can employees be held responsible for conduct that occurs away from the workplace?

Yes. An employee’s working environment must be free of unlawful sexual harassment. This includes employer-sponsored functions like holiday parties and picnics. It may even include functions that are not "formally" employer-sponsored if employees must be there.



Phil, a supervisor, is facing a deadline. In order to make some progress, he asks the members of his work group, men and women, to his house for dinner to brainstorm. During the dinner, the group discusses non-work issues as well as the project. During the discussion, Phil talks about his preference for dating large breasted women and makes other sexually explicit comments, making several members of the work group uncomfortable.

Phil's comments are clearly inappropriate. If they bother you or you believe they might be sexual harassment – step forward.

2. How far does an employee's behavior have to go before a hostile environment can be created?

Generally, one comment or joke may not create an unlawful hostile environment, especially when immediate corrective action is taken. This is because one incident, by itself, generally would not create an atmosphere that, based on sex, is so hostile that it would interfere with an employee's job performance. You should not, however, rely on the fact that something happened just once as a reason for ignoring inappropriate behavior. Even if the behavior in question was just one incident, if an employee was disturbed, that employee or other employees must step forward to notify Human Resources.



At Roger's organization, Fridays are "casual" days where employees can wear T-shirts and jeans. On one Friday, Roger wears a T-shirt with a sexually explicit picture on it. Some of the employees think it is hilarious, others are offended and complained to Human Resources. He never wore the shirt before. Roger's supervisor saw Roger wearing the T-shirt. Although this was the only time Roger behaved in any way that could be considered sexually offensive, the organization decides to counsel Roger on the importance of being aware of the sensitivity of others.



  1. Harassment can occur away from the workplace.
  2. Once you are aware of any incident that is inappropriate, action should be taken to prevent it from happening again.


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Angela is constantly excluded from after-hours social activity with the men in the office. She complains that this reduced her share of the bonus pool and is harassment.


Points to be Considered:

1. Are "Good Old Boys Networks" acceptable?

2. Must women be included at functions where work is discussed?



Are "Good Old Boys Networks" acceptable?

A "Good Old Boys Network," where male employees close ranks to keep women from getting ahead, will not be tolerated. If the "good old boys" dole out employment opportunities that women do not receive, or are making women uncomfortable in the workplace, step forward and tell Human Resources.

Must women be included at functions where work is discussed?

Women should not be excluded from any meeting affecting their job simply because they are women. In the video re-enactment, Angela is not invited to certain functions that all of the men in the department attended. Angela should not be excluded because of her gender. This does not mean that there is no line between work functions and social functions. However, if the women in the department are excluded from functions where work is discussed, it could create an environment where women feel that they do not stand on an equal level with the male employees, and that they will not be fully accepted in the workplace because they are not male. If this is happening – step forward.

Also, women do not have to participate in offensive activities in order to advance in the workplace. In the video re-enactment, a supervisor makes plans to discuss a bonus at a topless bar. No woman should be forced to work or attend a work-related function in an environment that she believes is demeaning to women. Remember, if you wouldn't want your wife, mother or sister (or husband, father or brother) there, you shouldn't be asking another employee to be there.



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Ted is made uncomfortable by repeated sexually-oriented remarks about his appearance from his female co-workers.



1. Can men be sexually harassed?

Yes. Any individual who is subjected to unwelcome, sexual conduct because of his or her gender can be harassed. It does not matter if the victim is a man or a woman.



Your organization's sexual harassment policy applies equally to everyone in the workplace, including men.



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After Charese, a new employee, sits down at the lunchroom, her boss asks her questions such as whether she is married and how long she has lived in the area.



Many employees are confused about whether simple office discussions can lay the groundwork for claims of sexual harassment. A simple comment asking about someone's weekend activities is not sexual harassment. Asking pointed questions about their sex life or volunteering information about yours may be sexual harassment, and is certainly inappropriate. Similarly, some comments about an item of clothing ("That's a nice dress" or "Is that a new tie") may not be a problem while other comments about an employee's appearance ("That sweater really shows off your breasts") will not be tolerated. Remember, ask yourself whether you would feel comfortable making these comments to a member of your family or repeating them to a judge deciding a sexual harassment lawsuit. If not, they don't belong in the workplace.

Some employees, however, are especially sensitive and protective about their private lives. You should respect the sensitivities of these workers before the employee's discomfort reaches the stage where the employee is so uncomfortable that he or she quits.

Although you don't have to keep your discussions with other employees absolutely impersonal, you should be aware of how your conduct may appear to an employee who is sensitive.


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What Can You Do?


Communicate – If behavior is unwelcome…say so.

Use our complaint resolution procedure…COMPLAIN.

Cooperate in any investigation.

Remember: Retaliation is not permitted.

Violators of our sexual harassment policy will be disciplined.

Show respect to all co-workers.



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