Harassment/Hostile Environment

Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Hostile Work Environment

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines unlawful harassment as “Verbal or physical conduct that degrades, shows hostility, or aversion to an individual because of his or her race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age or disability, or that of one’s friends, relatives or associates.”   According to the EEOC, the conduct must be “so objectively offensive as to alter the ‘conditions’ of the victim’s employment.”  

The conditions of employment are altered if the harassment culminates in a tangible employment action (fired, suspended, denied training, denied an award, etc.) or when the conduct was sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile work environment.   Harassment can take the form of slurs, graffiti, offensive or derogatory comments, or other verbal or physical conduct.   Sexual harassment (including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other conduct of a sexual nature) is also unlawful.   Conduct crosses the line when it goes beyond simple teasing and offhanded comments or when there are more than just isolated incidents and there is a pattern of such incidents.  

The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

Harassment outside of the workplace may also be illegal if there is a link with the workplace.   For example, if a supervisor harasses an employee while driving the employee to a meeting.

To file an internal complaint with the D&EO office or an external complaint with an outside organization, please see the contact information in the “Complaints of Discrimination” section above.


University of Alaska Policy Regarding Sexual Harassment

P04.02.022. Sexual Harassment.

A. The university will not tolerate inappropriate sexual or sexually harassing behavior and seeks to prevent such conduct toward its students, employees and applicants for employment. Violation of this policy may lead to discipline of the offending party.

B. Since some members of the university community hold positions of authority that may involve the legitimate exercise of power over others, it is their responsibility to be sensitive to that power. Faculty and supervisors in particular, in their relationships with students and subordinates, need to be aware of potential conflicts of interest and the possible compromise of their evaluative capacity. Because there is an inherent power difference in these relationships, the potential exists for the less powerful person to perceive a coercive element in suggestions regarding activities outside those inherent in the professional relationship.

C. It is the responsibility of faculty and staff to behave in such a manner that their words or actions cannot reasonably be perceived as sexually coercive, abusive, or exploitative. Sexual harassment also can occur in relationships among equals as when repeated unwelcome advances, demeaning verbal behavior, or offensive physical contact interfere with an individual's ability to work or study productively. Consensual sexual conduct that unreasonably interferes with other employees’ work or creates a hostile, intimidating or offensive working or learning environment constitutes sexual harassment for purposes of this policy.

D. The university is committed to providing an environment of study and work free from sexual harassment and to ensuring the accessibility of appropriate procedures for addressing all complaints regarding sexual harassment. Nothing contained in this sexual harassment policy will be construed or applied to limit or abridge any person’s constitutional right to freedom of expression or to infringe upon the legitimate academic freedom or right of due process of any member of the university community.


Preventing Harassment in the Workplace

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