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Defining "sexual harassment" in America

Many of our readers in California have probably heard of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, more commonly referred to as the EEOC. This government entity is responsible for investigating a wide range of potential abuses committed by employers in America, including sexual harassment claims. When the EEOC gets involved in your sexual harassment claim, it is important to understand how this organization defines "sexual harassment."

For starters, the EEOC definition of sexual harassment encompasses not only harassment that is sexual in nature, but also harassment that many people would probably consider "gender harassment." That is, for example, harassment of a woman in the workplace about women in general.

Harassment of a sexual nature is probably more commonly referred to the EEOC for investigation. Such harassment can include a wide range of activity, such as unwanted sexual advances, verbal sexual abuse, requests for an employee to engage in sexual activity or even actual physical touching that would be considered to be sexual in nature.

Most importantly, when the EEOC looks into a sexual harassment claim, the claim must be based off of persistent, repeated conduct. The "one-off" or "offhand" comment, or conduct that might be considered "teasing," may not rise to the level of sexual harassment for a legal claim. Of course, much of this is subjective and can be based off of the person's perspective, as well as context. Knowing your legal rights in these types of situations is crucial to ensure that the person who is responsible for such conduct is held accountable.

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