Sexual Harassment

It is the policy of Case Western Reserve University to provide a positive, supportive, discrimination-free educational and work environment. Sexual Harassment is unacceptable and unlawful conduct, which will not be tolerated.  The purpose of this policy is to define sexual harassment and the procedures the university uses to investigate and take appropriate action on complaints of sexual harassment. This policy and the accompanying procedures shall serve as the only internal university forum of resolution and appeal of sexual harassment complaints.

This policy applies to all members of the university community including all students, faculty, staff, and other university officials, whether full or part-time or under temporary contract, and guest lecturers, volunteers and visitors. Sexual harassment may involve the behavior of a person(s) regardless of the person’s gender identity or expression against a person(s) of the opposite or same gender or against a person who is transsexual or transgender.  All members of the university community must adhere to the sexual harassment policy and report violations of the policy.

The university is committed to educating its members about sexual harassment via this policy and related resources.


Laws Governing Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and by Section 4112.02 of the Ohio Revised Code. EEOC Guidelines require employers to affirmatively address the issue of sexual harassment and to adopt procedures for the prompt resolution of employee complaints. Similarly, federal regulations implementing Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments require educational institutions that receive federal funds to provide a prompt and equitable procedure for resolving complaints of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment claims.


"Sexual Harassment" can be defined as any unwelcome verbal or non-verbal sexual advance, requests for sexual favors, other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, and/or conduct directed at an individual(s) because of gender when:

a. Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or student status; or

b. Submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for decisions affecting that individual with regard to employment (raises, job, work assignments, discipline, etc.) or to student status (grades, references, assignments, etc); or

c. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or educational experience or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work and/or educational environment*. Such conduct generally involves more than one incident and must be severe or pervasive.

*The work or educational environment includes, but is not limited to: offices, classrooms and clinical settings; residence halls and Greek Houses; on or off campus interactions between university community members; and all university sponsored activities, programs, or events (including off-campus activities such as international travel programs). 

Examples of Sexual Harassment

Acts that constitute sexual harassment take a variety of forms and may include but are not limited to the following unwelcome actions: 

  1. Propositions, invitations, solicitations, and flirtations of a sexual nature. 
  2. Threats or insinuations that a person’s employment, wages, academic grade, promotional opportunities, classroom or work assignments, or other conditions of employment or academic life may be adversely affected by not submitting to sexual advances. 
  3. Verbal expressions of a sexual nature, including sexual communications about a person’s body, dress, appearance or sexual activities; the use of sexually degrading language, name calling,  sexually suggestive jokes, or innuendoes;  suggestive or insulting gestures, sounds or whistles; sexually suggestive phone calls. 
  4. Sexually suggestive objects or written materials, such as e-mail or internet communications, pictures, photographs, cartoons, text messages, videos, or DVD’s. 
  5. Inappropriate and unwelcome physical contact such as touching, patting, pinching, hugging or other sexually suggestive contact. 
  6. Stalking of a sexual nature; i.e. persistent and unwanted contact of any form whether physical, electronic or by any other means. 
  7. Stereotyping or generalizing about a group based on gender.  These types of comments typically constitute sexual harassment when associated with other sexual behavior or comments.

Power Relationships

When one party has any professional responsibility for another’s academic or job performance or professional future, the university considers sexual relationships 
between the two individuals to be a basic violation of professional ethics and responsibility; this includes but is not limited to sexual relationships between faculty (including teaching assistants and laboratory supervisors) and their students or between supervisors and their employees, even if deemed to be mutually consenting relationships. Because of the asymmetry of these relationships, “consent” may be difficult to assess, may be deemed not possible, and may be construed as coercive.  Such relationships also may have the potential to result in claims of sexual harassment. 

Although Sexual Harassment often takes place when the alleged harasser is in a position of power or influence (e.g., a faculty advisor to a student, supervisor to supervisee), other types of harassment are also possible e.g., peer to peer.


The fact that someone did not intend to sexually harass an individual is not considered a sufficient defense to a complaint of sexual harassment.   For example, in some instances, cultural differences may play a role in the interpretation of behavior, by either the accuser or accused, which may result in a complaint of sexual harassment. It is expected that all members of the university community are knowledgeable about what constitutes sexual harassment under this policy. Although the accused’s perceptions will be considered, in most cases, it is the effect and characteristics of the behavior on the accuser, and whether a reasonable person in a similar situation would find the conduct offensive that determine whether the behavior constitutes sexual harassment. 

Academic Freedom

Case Western Reserve University adheres to the principles and traditions of academic freedom. As stated in the Faculty Handbook, academic freedom is a right of all members of the university faculty and applies to university activities including teaching and research ( Each faculty member may consider in his or her classes any topic relevant to the subject matter of the course as defined by the appropriate educational unit. 

Case Western Reserve University also recognizes, however, that these freedoms must be in balance with the rights of others not to be sexually harassed.  It is therefore understood that the principles of academic freedom permit topics of all types, including those with sexual content, to be part of courses, lectures, and other academic pursuits. If there are questions about whether the course material or the manner in which it is presented falls within the definition of sexual harassment, the concerned party(s) should contact a designated reporting office representative (See: Designated Reporting Offices section in this policy).

Responsibilities of the University Community

Any member of the university community who is consulted about and/or witnesses potential sexually harassing behavior has the responsibility to advise the accuser of the university's sexual harassment policy and encourage prompt reporting.

When a firsthand allegation of sexual harassment is made and the alleged harasser is named, members of the university community are obligated to report the allegation to one of the designated reporting office representatives (see Chart II).  A firsthand allegation is defined as an allegation from a person who experienced alleged sexual harassment, or from a person who hears the allegation directly from the person who experienced the alleged sexual harassment.  Because the university is committed to a positive educational and work environment, in instances where individuals witness or hear about behavior that could be construed as sexual harassment, the individual is encouraged to report the incident to the designated reporting offices.

Confidential resources( i.e. those members of the university who are licensed or designated by law as professionals who can receive privileged communication, and receive information regarding possible sexual harassment in the context of a professional relationship with the reporter of that information) are not required to report allegations of sexual harassment to university representatives.

Specific Responsibilities of University Community Members

Deans, directors, department chairs, department heads, supervisors, and administrative officers are responsible within their area for:

  1. Complying with this policy;
  2.  Identifying and reporting sexual harassment; 
  3. Informing individuals bringing complaints about the university's policy and their right to talk to a representative in the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity or the University Office of Student Affairs as appropriate;
  4. Cooperating and participating in investigations, resolutions of complaints, and the implementation of recommended sanctions, if any; and
  5. Providing a work and educational environment that is free from harassment and intimidation.

Designated Reporting Office Representatives in the Office for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity (216-368-8877), and the Office of Student Affairs(216-368-2020) are responsible for:

  1. Complying with this policy;
  2. Identifying and reporting sexual harassment;
  3. Coordinating, disseminating, and implementing this policy;
  4. Serving as a resource for all matters dealing with sexual harassment complaints;
  5. Conducting informal sexual harassment complaint inquiries and facilitating resolutions as appropriate; and
  6. Referring formal sexual harassment complaints to the Vice President for Inclusion, Diversity and Equal Opportunity.

Policy Administration: Office for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equal Opportunity for faculty and staff, Student Affairs for Students

References: Executive Order 11246 as amended; Jobs for Veterans Act, Vietnam Era Veteran Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974; Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended; Section 503/504 of The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Section 4112.02 Ohio Revised Code; Case brochures: Sexual Harassment and Understanding People with Disabilities; Sexual Harassment Complaints Procedure (I-1a); Staff Employment Procedure (II-6a);Positive Correction Action (III-3, III-3a), Staff Grievance Policy and Procedure (V-4, V-4a)