Sexual Harassment Definition

King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, Renton WA

ND Century Code


A person is guilty of an offense if, with intent to frighten or harass another, the person:

  1. Communicates in writing or by telephone a threat to inflict injury on any person, to any person's reputation, or to any property;
  2. Makes a telephone call anonymously or in offensively coarse language;
  3. Makes repeated telephone calls, whether or not a conversation ensues, with no purpose of legitimate communication; or
  4. Communicates a falsehood in writing or by telephone and causes mental anguish.

Examples of Sexual Harassment:


  • In Fiscal Year 2002, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 14,396 charges of sexual harassment. Almost 15% of those charges were files by males.
  • In a survey of 9,000 clerical and professional women, 92% of the respondents had experienced overt physical harassment, sexual remarks and leering, with the majority regarding this behavior as a serious problem at work. (Kathleen McKinney, Sexual Coercion).
  • Two out of three women surveyed in the military said they had been sexually harassed. (Women's Legal Defense Fund)
  • In an AAUW survey of eight randomly selected high schools in North Dakota 83% of boys and 93% of girls reported experiencing sexual harassment. (Classrooms & Courtrooms: Facing Sexual Harassment in K-12 Schools)
  • A national study of 222,653 students grade 6-12 found that 81% of girls and 76% of boys reported experiencing sexual harassment in school. (USA Weekend, September 8, 1996)
  • What the law says about sexual harassment
    In the workplace: Title VII Guidelines

    In 1980, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidelines on what constitutes sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of color, national origin, and sex; therefore, sexual harassment is job discrimination. These rules guide the courts in their rulings on sexual harassment in the workplace.

  • Title VII prohibits sexual harassment of employees.
  • Employers are responsible for the actions of their agents and supervisors.
  • Employers are responsible for the actions of all employees if the employer knew or should have known about the sexual harassment.
  • Types of workplace harassment

    Quid pro quo harassment is when a supervisor asks for sexual favors and the victim declines resulting in he/she being fired, demoted, or retaliated against. Threat of these actions by the supervisor also constitutes quid pro quo harassment. The law also applies if a victim is denied a job because she rejected sexual advances.

    An employer is liable for sexual harassment by a supervisor in its employ. The victim does not have to prove that the employer had knowledge of the harassment in cases of quid pro quo harassment.

    Environment harassment is a hostile work environment that interferes with a victim’s work performance. A hostile work environment may be perpetrated by a supervisor, co-worker, or a non-employee (such as a customer). Environmental harassment includes verbal comments, displays of sexually explicit materials and unwanted sexual contact. Seventy-five percent of all incidents of sexual harassment fall into the category of hostile work environment.

    To be illegal, environmental harassment must be severe and pervasive; an isolated remark or event is not enough to constitute a case of sexual harassment. The incident must also be unwelcome.

    Employers may be liable for a hostile work environment if they knew or should have known about the sexual harassment.

    In schools: Title IX Guidelines

    Students are protected from sexual harassment by Title IX of the 1972 Education amendments, administered by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR). OCR defines sexual harassment as "verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, imposed on the basis of sex, by an employee or agent of a recipient of federal funds". Again, there are no specific guidelines for what actions constitute sexual harassment.

    Title IX protects students from unlawful sexual harassment in all of a schools programs or activities whether they take place in the facilities of the school, on a school bus, at a class training program sponsored by the school at another location, or elsewhere. Title IX protects both male and female students from sexual harassment, regardless of who the harasser is.

    Under federal law, any school receiving federal money is required to have a policy against sexual discrimination and notify employees, students, and parents of it.

    For further information, resources materials, etc. contact:
    ND Council on Abused Women's Services/
    Coalition Against Sexual Assault
    418 East Rosser Avenue, #320
    Bismarck, ND 58501-4046
    888-255-6240 or 701-255-6240

    The National Center for Victims of Crime Stalking Resource Center
    Sexual Harassment Resources Website
    US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    Hostile Hallways