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Sexual Harassment

Part 230 - Civil Rights Policies
401.25 Policy

A. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Sexual harassment is unwelcome verbal or physical conduct which is made either explicitly or implicitly. For example, a term, condition, or privilege of employment; or when submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as a basis for making an employment decision affecting an individual; or when such conduct has the purpose or effect of interfering with an employee's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

B. Misconduct of a sexual nature is any activity relating to employee behavior and which infringes on an employee's ability to perform his or her job effectively.

C. Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

(1) The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex;

(2) The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee;

(3) The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct;

(4) Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim; and

(5) The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome.

D. Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. It is helpful for the victim to directly inform the harasser that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. NRCS will take necessary steps to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. Sexual harassment will not be tolerated.

E. Two distinct types of sexual harassment which exist:

(1) "Quid pro Quo" harassment occurs when an individual's submission to or rejections of unwelcome sexual conduct is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting the individual (such as hiring, firing, promotions, awards, transfers, or disciplinary action). Typical examples of "quid pro quo" harassment are when a supervisor coerces an employee into sexual relationship and then rewards the employee with a promotion, or when a supervisor takes disciplinary action or denies a promotion to an employee because he or she rejected sexual advances from the supervisor; and

(2) "Hostile environment" harassment occurs when unwelcome sexual conduct unreasonably interferes with an individual's job performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. This form of harassment, whether engaged in by a manager or an employee, can constitute discrimination, even if there are no tangible economic job consequences. Typical examples of misconduct which may constitute evidence of a hostile environment are: displaying "pinup" calendars or sexually demeaning pictures; making sexually oriented jokes or offensive remarks; or subjecting another employee to unwelcome sexual advances or touching.


Supervisors and managers should be able to resolve substantiated complaints of less severe sexual harassment perpetrated by NRCS employees in the early stages where formal counseling requiring cessation of the misconduct is needed. However, severe sexual harassment, most severe sexual harassment, and repeated offenses of less severe sexual harassment warrant stronger disciplinary action.

The type of disciplinary action recommended or taken will be based on the severity of the misconduct, the sexual harasser's previous conduct, the presence or absence of any previous disciplinary action, the level of responsibility at which the sexual harasser is employed, and other circumstances surrounding the complaint.

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