In any educational setting, there is a power differential between professors and students. In the eyes of the law, this power differential creates a heightened duty of care on the part of professors to ensure that their actions and words do not cross the line into sexual harassment. But what exactly is sexual harassment? And when does harmless flirting become sexual harassment? Keep reading to find out.
What is Sexual Harassment?
Sexual harassment is defined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.” This conduct can occur in person or online, and it can be perpetrated by either men or women against men or women. It‘s important to note that sexual harassment is not limited to conduct that is explicitly sexual in nature; it can also include unwelcome comments or jokes of a sexual nature, as well as non-verbal conduct such as leering or staring.
Types of Sexual Harassment
There are two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo occurs when an individual in a position of power (such as a professor) conditions a professional favor (such as a good grade) on the recipient engaging in unwelcome sexual conduct. In contrast, a hostile work environment arises when unwelcome sexual conduct is so severe or pervasive that it alters the terms and conditions of the victim's employment.
It's important to note that even seemingly innocuous comments or jokes can contribute to a hostile work environment if they are frequent or severe enough. For example, if a professor regularly tells sexually explicit jokes in class or frequently stares at a particular student in an uncomfortable way, that could be considered sexual harassment even if there was no quid pro quo.
Legal Implications of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is always unacceptable, but it can also have legal implications. If a student files a complaint with the school administration, the professor could lose their job. Additionally, the professor could be sued by the victim for damages arising from the harassment.
Sexual harassment has no place in any educational setting. Professors need to be aware of what constitutes sexual harassment and take care to ensure that their words and actions don‘t cross the line. If you have been accused of sexual harassment, it‘s important to contact an experienced attorney who can help you navigate these complicated legal waters.
An attorney who specializes in university investigations and disciplinary processes can help you understand your rights and defend you against false allegations.
Reach Out for Legal Help
Flirting between a student and a professor can easily cross the line into something that can put the professor's entire career at risk. If you've been accused of behaving inappropriately with a student, you're going to need to speak with an attorney who has experience working with colleges and universities.
Joseph D. Lento and the team at the Lento Law Firm have years of experience working with school faculty who've been accused of behaving inappropriately with their students. They can help you figure out how to build the right defense.
Contact Joseph Lento and the rest of the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686. Your future depends on it.