Can “teasing” be considered sexual harassment?
Get Legal Help Today
Secured with SHA-256 Encryption
UPDATED: Jun 1, 2012
It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right legal decisions.
We strive to help you make confident insurance and legal decisions. Finding trusted and reliable insurance quotes and legal advice should be easy. This doesn’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own.
Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about legal topics and insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything legal and insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by experts.
The Civil Rights Act does not prohibit “genuine but innocuous differences in the ways men and women routinely interact with members of the same sex and of the opposite sex.” A recurring point in the court’s opinions is that “simple teasing,” offhand comments, and isolated incidents (unless extremely serious) will not amount to discriminatory changes in the terms and conditions of employment. Title VII is not a general civility code.
The court’s tests are designed to filter out complaints attacking “the ordinary tribulations of the workplace, such as the sporadic use of abusive language, gender-related jokes, and occasional teasing.” It is “clear that conduct must be extreme to amount to a change in the terms and conditions of employment, and the courts of appeals have heeded this view.”
Conduct that is not severe or pervasive enough to create an objectively hostile or abusive work environment — an environment that a reasonable person would find hostile or abusive — is beyond the statute’s scope. That crucial requirement is intended to ensure that courts and juries do not mistake ordinary socializing in the workplace — such as flirtation or male-on-male horseplay — for discriminatory conditions of employment.
Conduct, which a reasonable person would find severely hostile or abusive, given an appropriate common sense sensitivity to social context, clearly will be regarded as sexual harassment. The objective severity of harassment is judged from the perspective of a reasonable person in the complainant’s position, considering all the circumstances. Physical contact or touching is not necessary. The critical issue is whether members of one sex are exposed to disadvantageous terms or conditions of employment to which members of the other sex are not exposed.