Clip from The Boss

Is it Workplace Fun, Or is it Sexual Harassment?

Beauty provokes harassment, the law says, but it looks through men’s eyes when deciding what provokes it ― Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

The Controversy

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was ousted by the network after a series of sexual harassment allegations against him were disclosed. A New York Times article has revealed that Fox News and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, had repeatedly stood by him as they reached settlements with five women who had complained about sexual harassment or other inappropriate behavior going back nearly a decade. The settlement agreements totaled about $13 million.

The women who made the allegations either worked for O’Reilly or appeared on his show. The offensive behavior included verbal abuse, lewd comments, unwanted advances and phone calls in which it sounded as if O’Reilly was masturbating, according to documents and interviews.

So What’s the Law?

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

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

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

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.

 What Can You Do If You’re Harassed?

If possible, inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop.

Use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.

Contact the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. When investigating allegations of sexual harassment, EEOC looks at the whole record: the circumstances, such as the nature of the sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. A determination on the allegations is made from the facts on a case-by-case basis.

12,860 charges were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 2016 alone

How To Prevent Workplace Sexual Harassment?

Prevention is the best tool to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace. Employers are encouraged to take steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. They should clearly communicate to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. They can do so by providing sexual harassment training to their employees and by establishing an effective complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate action when an employee complains.

The Takeaway

We all want to have fun in the workplace. But your perception of your friendship or intimacy with a coworker might be just that…YOUR perception. They may not see your friendship as a close one. Err on the side of safety (and basic human decency) and leave the sexual remarks for your close friends and family.

And just because someone doesn’t say that they feel uncomfortable, doesn’t mean they don’t. Remember…

Silence does not equal consent


Steel, Emily and Michael S. Schmidt. “Bill O’Reilly Thrives at Fox News, Even as Harassment Settlements Add Up.” The New York Times. April 1, 2017.

Steel, Emily and Michael S. Schmidt. “Bill O’Reilly Is Forced Out At Fox News.” The New York Times. April 19, 2017.

“Facts about Sexual Harassment.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“Charges Alleging Sex-Based Harassment (Charges filed with EEOC) FY 2010-FY 2016.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Photo Credit:

“The Boss” David Schwimmer and Sigal Avin.


Actor David Schwimmer and director Sigal Avin have created these PSA’s about sexual harassment. Watch them here

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