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Sexual Harassment FAQ

What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is defined as:

Any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:

  • submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or academic decision;
  • submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or academic decision affecting that individual; or
  • such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working or academic environment.

Does a person have to verbally object to a behavior for it to be defined as sexual harassment?
No, but articulating one's displeasure with another's behavior communicates very directly the objectionable nature of the interaction and may potentially end the behavior. However, victims of sexual harassment do not have to confront their harassers. Individuals who believe they are being harassed need only report the alleged harassment to his or her supervisor, an administrative officer or to the Office of Title IX/Equity & Diversity so the University can take immediate and appropriate corrective action.

At what point does sexual harassment become a criminal matter? When should someone contact UHDPD?
Some sexually harassing behaviors can be violations of criminal law. Those behaviors may include criminal sexual conduct, assault, attempted assault, and behaviors that meet the legal definitions of criminal stalking or harassment. If you have any questions about whether an individual's behavior may be criminal, contact the UHDPD at 713-221-8065.

Is it considered sexual harassment to bring sexually explicit material into the workplace? What about on the internet or in jokes sent through email?
Distributing sexually explicit material in the workplace, including material on the internet or jokes sent via e-mail, may constitute sexual harassment. Moreover, even if it does not constitute sexual harassment, sexually explicit material in the workplace may be unprofessional and/or disruptive and may warrant discipline.

What is the responsibility of third parties who witness an unreported case of sexual harassment?
Supervisors who witness sexual harassment must report the harassment to the Office of Title IX/Equity & Diversity. Non-supervisory employees who witness sexual harassment are strongly encouraged to do the same.

Should supervisors investigate incidents that they learn about informally, e.g., through workplace rumors?
Supervisors should contact the Office of Title IX /Equity & Diversity for advice on how to handle all allegations of sexual harassment regardless of how the supervisor learned of the alleged harassment.

What protection does the University offer against retaliation by accused parties?
Retaliation against persons who complain about sexual harassment or who participate in the University's investigation and handling of sexual harassment reports or complaints is strictly prohibited and violates University policy. Persons who engage in retaliation are subject to discipline. The University's aim is to provide reasonable protection for all persons who participate in the enforcement of the Policy prohibiting sexual harassment.

What protection does the University offer against being falsely accused of sexual harassment?
Because of the nature of sexual harassment, allegations often cannot be substantiated by direct evidence other than the complaining party's own statement. Lack of corroborating evidence should not discourage individuals from seeking relief under this policy. No action will be taken against an individual who makes a good faith allegation of sexual harassment; even if after the investigation the allegation is not substantiated. However, allegations or statements made in the course of an investigation or enforcement procedure found to be intentionally dishonest or made with willful disregard for the truth may subject the individual to disciplinary action.

Can students wait to pursue a sexual harassment claim until after a course is finished?
Under the Sexual Misconduct Policy, a complaint must be filed within one year of the most recent alleged discriminatory act.