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What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome and/or uninvited verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, directed towards a person because of his or her sex or perceived sex that has the intent or effect, due to its severity and/or persistence, of unreasonably interfering with an individual or group's educational or work performance or that creates a hostile work, educational, or living environment. It is important to note that harassmentcan occur regardless of the relationship, position, or respective sex of the parties.

Sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or admission to or participation in an academic program or University-related activity; or
  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for decisions affecting an individual's employment with the University or a student’s academic standing; or
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's performance on the job or in school; or
  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work or study environment for an individual or group of individuals.

Sexual harassment may include unwelcome physical contact, visual displays of degrading sexual images, transmitting sexually suggestive conduct to or about coworkers to others, remarks of a sexual nature, or turning discussions inappropriately to sexual topics.   An act of sexual violence—any physical sexual act attempted or perpetrated against a person without his or her consent—constitutes sexual harassment, in addition to being a crime. 

Reporting a Complaint of Harassment, Discrimination or Retaliation

The University takes every complaint seriously, and the cooperation of employees in the investigative process is critical to promoting the safety and respect of each member of the University community.  Any attempt by a faculty member, employee, or student to penalize, intimidate, or retaliate in any way against a person who makes a report of or who is otherwise involved in a report of discrimination or harassment is illegal, and will be promptly addressed in accordance with Fresno State’s discipline process.  Correspondingly, any individual who knowingly files a false report of discrimination, retaliation or harassment violates University policy, and will be subject to appropriate discipline.

Consensual Relationships and Sexual Harassment

Actual or apparent authority that employees may have over a student or another employee is a primary consideration in determining if certain types of conduct constitute sexual harassment. This can be so even if the individual subject to the employee’s authority has accepted the conduct, shows no sign of being harassed, or fails to file a complaint of harassment.  Consensual relationships are considered sexual harassment when they are found to compromise Fresno State’s educational mission. See Fresno State’s policy on consensual relationships for more information.  Complaints of sexual harassment of students, including alleged consensual relationships, will be carefully evaluated in the context of the unique relationship and responsibility that faculty, administrators and other Fresno State employees have to students.

Academic Freedom and Sexual Harassment

Fresno State recognizes and respects the freedom of its employees and students in classroom discussion, in academic research and in the publication of related results.  Campus community members are encouraged to candidly and openly express their views and opinions during discussions in appropriate academic settings, including the classroom. However, the University also acknowledges the right of individuals to be free from injury caused by illegal harassment and the need to balance this right against the freedom of speech in the University’s academic community. Harassment is differentiated from behavior that, even though upsetting, could be considered reasonable and/or necessary to the carrying out of certain instructional, advisory, or supervisory responsibilities.   As such, in determining whether alleged conduct constitutes harassment, the University will examine all of the relevant information available, including the nature of the conduct and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred.