A. Definition of Harassment
Harassment is abusive or hostile conduct which is directed toward or inflicted upon another person because of his or her race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, or veteran’s status and which, because of its severity or pervasiveness, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work or academic performance or creates a hostile or abusive work or learning environment for that individual’s work, education, or participation in a University activity. Harassment is typically based on stereotyped prejudices and includes, but is not limited to, slurs, jokes, objectionable epithets, or other verbal, graphic, or physical conduct that demeans, insults, or intimidates an individual because of his or her race, color, religion, ethnicity, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability, or veteran status.
B. Sexual Harassment Defined
Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when (1) submission to such conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of employment or academic advancement; (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or academic decisions; or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s performance as an employee or student or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working or learning environment.
C. Factors Considered in Assessing Whether Harassment Exists
In determining whether conduct constitutes prohibited harassment, the following understandings shall apply:
- Harassment must be distinguished from behavior which, even though unpleasant or uncomfortable, is appropriate to the carrying out of instructional or supervisory responsibilities (e.g., criticism of work, corrective discipline, performance evaluation; discussion of controversial topics germane to an academic subject);
- The totality of the circumstances must be evaluated to determine whether a particular act or course of conduct constitutes harassment, including the frequency, severity, and context of the questioned conduct and whether the conduct was physically threatening and humiliating or a mere utterance;
- The conduct alleged to be harassment will be evaluated from the perspective of a reasonable person in a similar situation and not simply the particular sensitivity or reaction of an individual;
- An isolated incident of hostile behavior, although offensive, usually will not be sufficient to establish a claim of illegal harassment. For example, generally, a single sexual joke, offensive epithet, or request for a date does not constitute sexual harassment; however, being subjected to such jokes, epithets or requests repeatedly may constitute sexual harassment. However, administrators and supervisors should take corrective action when such isolated incidents occur, in order to ensure that repetition of that or similar conduct does not rise to the level of illegal harassment; and
- Although repeated incidents of hostile conduct generally create a stronger claim of harassment, a serious incident, even if isolated, may be sufficient.