Oftentimes, harassers are supervisors or managers of the victim. They have the authority to discipline or otherwise punish the victim for complaining of harassment or refusing to submit to sexual advances. Such punishments can include written reprimands, demotions, reassignments, transfers, and firings. Such punishments are often referred to as adverse employment actions.
Adverse employment actions are not limited to ultimate actions such as firing or demotion. An adverse employment action occurs when an employer has taken an action or engaged in a course or pattern of conduct that, taken as a whole, materially and adversely affected the terms, conditions, or privileges of the plaintiff’s employment. An adverse employment action includes conduct that is reasonably likely to impair a reasonable employee's job performance or prospects for advancement or promotion. However, minor or trivial actions or conduct that is not reasonably likely to do more than anger or upset an employee cannot constitute an adverse employment action.
Not only is sexual harassment illegal. The law also prohibits:
- Racial harassment
- Religious harassment
- Age-based harassment
- Harassment based on disability
- Harassment based on ethnicity or national origin