occurs when unwelcome comments or conduct based on legally protected characteristics, such as race, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, etc., interferes with an employee's performance or creates an intimidating, or hostile, workplace.
For example, if derogatory comments are made about same-sex relationships in a work environment, any who support this lifestyle may be offended or uncomfortable; another example would be derogatory racial statements made by an employee.
That type of harassment is not committed by any one type of employee; the offending party can be a manager, an employee, a contractor, or even a vendor. And the victim of the harassment is not always simply the person the conduct was directed toward; it can be anyone affected by the conduct.
Sexual harassment laws are part of the discrimination laws set forth by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and remedies exist on both a federal and state level. Protections apply to companies with 15 or more employees.
Sexual harassment includes unwanted and uninvited comments, conduct, or behavior. There are no limitations to who the offending party can be; it can be a man or woman and includes vendors, contractors, and even customers. In sexual harassment cases, the offending conduct is in regard to the gender, sex, or sexual orientation of the victim.
In most cases, the victim is the subordinate while the offender is a superior in terms of power and position.
It is important to note that protections under this law do not consider simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents to be unlawful. The conduct becomes unlawful when it is so severe and frequent that the workplace environment becomes hostile or offensive.