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Civil Rights and Criminal Justice: Primer on Sexual Harassment

NCJ Number
Date Published
7 pages
Publication Series

Sexual harassment is examined with respect to the legal issues involved in criminal justice agencies and the implications for prevention in these agencies.


Criminal justice agencies are vulnerable to employee claims of sexual harassment by supervisors or coworkers and may also be held responsible for the actions of nonemployees and for harassment directed at nonemployees. Acquiescence to requests for sexual favors or activity does not necessarily mean that the favors or activity were welcomes by a sexual harassment claimant. Workplace display of sexually explicit photographs, magazines, or posters may represent hostile work environment harassment, even though the Constitution protects the private possession, reading, and consensual sharing of such materials. A single severe incident of offending behavior may be sufficient to represent hostile work environment harassment. Even if a complaint has not been filed, an agency may investigate and take action where evidence exists of unwelcome conduct. Failure to investigate promptly and take appropriate remedial action when a sexual harassment complaint has been filed may result in an agency being held liable for damages. The best way to avoid sexual harassment in the workplace is prevention in the form of policy, training, supervision, and discipline. Reference notes and list of related NIJ publications

Date Published: January 1, 1995