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Verbal Harassment & Displays of Offensive Materials

Example of Sexual Discrimination: Verbal Harassment

Verbal harassment may consist of offensive sexual remarks or non-sexual remarks "of a (sexually) discriminatory nature," meaning that the statements show an unfair distinction between people based on his or her sex. The determination as to whether the remarks constitute sexual discrimination depends on the nature of the remarks, and their severity and pervasiveness.

When the sexual or offensive remarks constituting verbal harassment are sufficiently pervasive and severe to alter the atmosphere in the workplace and create a hostile atmosphere, a sexual harassment claim may be successful with or without sexual advances. In other words, verbal harassment is enough for a sexual discrimination claim even when there are no sexual advances.

Verbal harassment may involves unwelcome sexually-oriented comments about the victim's appearance, including clothing or the way clothing fits the victim's body. These comments do not need to be directly made to the victim plaintiff, but can also be merely in his or her presence. Thus, a co-worker may be subject to her supervisor's harassment, but another co-worker in the room may also be a victim of this conduct by way of hearing or seeing the comments.

Claiming that the statements or remarks were jokes or that the harasser was kidding is not a defense.

Example of Sexual Discrimination: Visual Displays of Offensive Materials

Displaying offensive materials so that the employee victim sees or hears about it can contribute to a hostile environment and be sufficient to constitute sexual discrimination. For example, sexual discrimination can be committed by posting pornographic photographs, drawings, or symbols in a place where the victim sees them or hears about them.

Examples of Sexual Harassment:

  • Lewd remarks or whistles of a sexual nature
  • Sexually suggestive visual displays (e.g., photographs, calendars)
  • Jokes, humor, or insults of a sexual nature
  • Repeated, unwanted discussions of sexual matters
  • Discussion of and rating sexual attributes and attractiveness
  • Asking or commenting about someone's sexuality or sex life
  • Remarks about your own sex life and desires
  • Gratuitous derogatory comments about women in the work environment
  • Unwelcome, sexually suggestive gestures, body language, or sounds (staring, winking, throwing kisses, leering)
  • Sexual misuse or abuse of power or hierarchical authority
  • Deliberate, repeated gender-based humiliation/intimidation
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