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Webucator's Free Sexual Harassment Awareness Tutorial

Lesson: Identifying Harassment

Welcome to our free Sexual Harassment Awareness tutorial. This tutorial is based on Webucator's Sexual Harassment Awareness for Employees and Managers course.

Understanding harassment laws is important, and identifying violations in the real world is critical and can be difficult. In this lesson, we will discuss different scenarios and you will decide if a harassment violation has occurred. You will also determine what type of violation took place.

Lesson Goals

  • Learn how to determine which scenarios constitute harassment violations.

Common Harassment Scenarios

In the previous lesson, we discussed that harassment can include:

  1. Jokes.
  2. Pictures.
  3. Name calling.
  4. Insults.
  5. Mockery.
  6. Physical assault
  7. Threats.

There are other types of harassment:

  1. Intimidation.
  2. Coercion.
  3. Bullying.
  4. Humiliation.

The following are common harassment scenarios that may be encountered in a workplace. Each scenario explains some possible outcomes, but some of these situations are not cut and dried. Try and decide the different possible outcomes and what kind of harassment may occur.

Situation: A supervisor is attracted to a subordinate and believes the feelings are mutual.

Appropriate Action: Dating between a supervisor and a direct report is sometimes prohibited in certain organizations. Check the company policy. Even if it is acceptable, tread carefully because any unwelcome advances can be perceived as harassment and it could be seen as a quid pro quo situation.

Situation: A workplace is so casual that employees swear, call each other names, make crude jokes, and constantly tease each other.

Appropriate Action: If anyone in the area seems slightly uncomfortable by these behaviors there is a problem. The supervisor needs to set some rules for acceptable behavior before it turns into a hostile work environment.

Situation: An employee occasionally shares personal emails with his co-workers. These emails are usually humorous but occasionally are racist or sexist.

Appropriate Action: Some co-workers may not be bothered by this material, but it does not belong in the workplace and anyone in the area could see them and be offended. This would be labeled as a hostile work environment scenario.

Situation: A potential employee interviews for a new position. The hiring manager hints that he will hire this person and they should go out for drinks and celebrate. While at the bar, the manager offers the job, but only if the potential employee sleeps with him.

Appropriate Action: This is a very clear cut example of quid pro quo sexual harassment.

Situation: An employee wears a turban to work every day and has many religious pictures and knickknacks in his cubicle. His co-workers feel uncomfortable, but he does not discuss or push his religion on them. Some of his co-workers have started talking behind his back and bullying him.

Appropriate Action: There is no doubt that this is a hostile work environment, but the problem is not so clear. Bullying cannot be tolerated, but we should also address the catalyst. Some companies have policies in place related to personal items at work. In general, it is best to keep political and religious items at home.

What Would You Do?

Duration: 30 to 45 minutes.

In this exercise, you will demonstrate your judgement in difficult harassment situations.

Read the following scenarios and decide whether a violation has occurred and what type of harassment it is

  1. Jason is an Executive Assistant working for Kate, a Vice President. Kate asks Jason to stay late many nights to work on projects. Jason and Kate are friendly and sometimes even flirt a little. One evening Kate tries to kiss Jason, but Jason turns away and explains that he does not believe it would be appropriate. The next day Kate tells Jason about a job opening for another department and explains that she believes it would be a good move for him.
  2. Allison works in a warehouse. Every week Dustin comes in to deliver shipments. Dustin likes Allison and wants to ask her out. He flirts and spends long periods of time hanging around the warehouse talking to Allison. Allison thinks Dustin is nice but is not interested. She feels distracted by him but he doesn't listen when she tells him she needs to get back to work.
  3. Dean has only worked for the company a few months. He started hanging out with Jerry, Laura, and Tom after work. They had a few drinks and Dean revealed something personal to the group. The next day at work Dean walked in to find people around him whispering and laughing. Laura and Jerry told Dean that it was all in good fun and they didn't know it was a secret. The whole department now has an embarrassing nickname for Dean. Dean's work performance has decreased significantly and he has used all of his sick days.
  4. Jessica is an employee that is friends with her boss Tom. Every Monday Tom comes in to the office and chats with Jessica at her cubicle for about 30 minutes. Tom has a very active social life and always tells Jessica about his sexual encounters from the weekend.
  5. Beth is a supervisor who is also extremely religious. In most cases she keeps her religious beliefs to herself, but when she hears a rumor that Dawn, one of her employees is having an affair with another employee she proceeds to lecture her and suggests that Dawn apply for a position outside of Beth's department. The rumors about Dawn are untrue, but no one believes her.
  6. Jonathan goes to the company gym with his co-workers, Adam and Kevin, every day at lunch. After working out they shower and change in the locker room. One day Jonathan goes to his boss and tells him that Adam and Kevin keep making crude jokes and trying to grab his genitals while they are in the locker room. Jonathan's boss tells him that they are just being guys messing around and if it offends Jonathan he should just go to the gym at a different time.
  7. Rebecca has worked for Larry for over five years and has never received a raise or promotion. She works hard and has never had any disciplinary action, but every year Larry gives an excuse. This year Larry implies that she could do some "extra credit" and receive a promotion in six months. Rebecca really needs this promotion so she does anything she can, including picking up Larry's dry cleaning and bringing it to his house. When she arrives at Larry's house he thanks her and asks her to stay for dinner. During dinner Larry never once makes eye contact, but instead stares at Rebecca's breasts. At the end of dinner he tells Rebecca that she is very pretty and that she should wear more low-cut blouses at work.


  1. Violation - quid pro quo.
  2. Potential violation (discussion) - hostile work environment.
  3. Violation - hostile work environment.
  4. Violation - hostile work environment.
  5. Violation - hostile work environment
  6. Violation - quid pro quo.