Legal Definition

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or visual communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

1. Submission to such conduct or communication is made a term or condition, either explicitly or implicitly, of obtaining employment, public accommodations or public services, education or housing.

2. Submission to or rejection of such conduct or communication by an individual is used as a factor in decisions affecting such individual's employment, public accommodations or public services, education or housing.

3. Such conduct or communication has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's employment, public accommodations or public services, education or housing; or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive employment, public accommodations, public services, education or housing environment.  (Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act 453 of 1976 as Amended by Public Act 202 of 1980, Sec 103(h))


Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Harassment

There are two main types of sexual harassment:  quid pro quo harassment and hostile environment. 

Quid pro quo harassment - Quid pro quo means "this for that."  This occurs when a promotion or job benefit is directly tied to an unwelcome sexual advance. This is the most commonly recognized form of sexual harassment. 

Hostile environment - This type of sexual harassment in the workplace creates an intimidating, hostile or demeaning environment or situation that is unfavorable to a person's job performance.

Non-sexual actions that may result in hostile environment harassment:

  • making derogatory remarks about an individual's skin color or other ethnic/racial characteristics
  • negative comments about an employees religious beliefs
  • use of racially offensive words, phrases, epithets
  • derogatory or intimidating references to an employee's mental or physical impairment.

Proof must exist that the actions or comments were severe or pervasive in order to be a hostile work environment.  The recipients, and reasonable people, must believe the comments create a hostile work environment.

Additional Information on Sexual Harassment

Northern Michigan University Policy on Sexual Misconduct

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972

Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act

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