Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that is unlawful to harass an employee based on his or her sex. The harassment does not necessarily need to be physical in nature or physically threatening, although such acts would clearly fall into the category of sexual harassment. More often than not, sexual harassment is verbal, through texts, emails, phone calls, or conversations in the office where fellow colleagues, supervisors, or other employees are making unwelcome sexual advances, comments of a sexual nature, or explicitly and/or implicitly asking for sex as a part of a quid pro quo. These forms of harassment are more nuanced and require a keen eye to review whether or not it violates the law
Anyone can be a harasser. Men and woman can equally violate sexual harassment laws and the victim and harasser can be of the same sex. Further, the harassment does not need to be of a sexual nature. If a company tolerates consistent offensive comments about women or men by its employees, the company can be liable for sexual harassment even if its supervisors were not involved. The law prohibits hostile and offensive work environments, where rampant discussions, images, and/or exposure to sexually explicit or offensive material is present.
Further, employers could be responsible for sexual harassment if they fail to maintain a harassment-free work environment. Employers cannot turn a blind eye to an ongoing harassment problem and will be liable if they do nothing to stop it. For instance, if they fail to fire or discipline a known harasser the employer could be liable for the sexual harassment of their employee.