What is Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment?


Sexual harassment is unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal, nonverbal, graphic, or physical conduct of a sexual nature, when either of the following occurs:

  • Quid pro quo (meaning “this for that”) harassment: Submission to or rejection of the conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a condition of an individual’s employment or academic standing or is used as the basis for employment decisions or for academic evaluation, grades, or advancement. Quid pro quo sexual harassment can occur whether the individual resists and suffers the threatened harm, or the individual submits and avoids the threatened harm. Both situations could constitute discrimination on the basis of sex.
  • Hostile environment: The conduct is sufficiently severe, persistent, or pervasive that it interferes with or limits an individual’s ability to participate in or benefit from the University’s education or work programs or activities. A hostile environment can be created by persistent or pervasive conduct or by a single severe episode. The more severe the conduct, the less need there is to show a repetitive series of incidents to prove a hostile environment. Sexual violence, including rape, sexual assault, and domestic and dating violence, is a form of sexual harassment.

Some examples of behaviors that may violate Harvard’s Policy:

  • Observing, photographing, videotaping, or making other visual or auditory records of sexual activity or nudity, where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, without the knowledge and consent of all parties.
  • Sharing visual or auditory records of sexual activity or nudity without the knowledge and consent of all recorded parties and recipient(s).
  • Sexual advances, whether or not they involve physical touching.
  • Commenting about or inappropriately touching an individual’s body.
  • Requests for sexual favors in exchange for actual or promised job benefits, such as favorable reviews, salary increases, promotions, increased benefits, or continued employment.
  • Lewd or sexually suggestive comments, jokes, innuendoes, or gestures.
  • Stalking