Harassment Resources

Resources related to harassment in the workplace inquiries.

ALA (Policy: B.9.14) provides, through its offices, divisions, round tables, and committees, information and referral services regarding tenure, status, fair employment practices (including discrimination and sexual harassment), and the principles of intellectual freedom as set forth in policies adopted by Council.

The materials below are designed to provide assistance in matters of harassment or specifically sexual harassment.

What is Sexual Harassment?

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.

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.

It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.

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.

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.

It is also unlawful to retaliate against an individual for opposing employment practices that discriminate based on sex or for filing a discrimination charge, testifying, or participating in any way in an investigation, proceeding, or litigation under Title VII.

What to Do If You Feel You Have Been Subjected to Sexual Harassment *

  • Say No. Say it firmly, without smiling, without apologizing. Always begin by firmly rejecting any unwanted advance; sexual harassment should never be mutely accepted. Put your demand in writing if your verbal request is ignored.
  • Keep a diary of incidents if it becomes clear that the harassment is not going to stop. Note date, time, place, and any witnesses. Write down what is happening to you. Include direct quotes, any witnesses, or patterns to the harassment. Have your log witnessed periodically. Save any letters, cards, or notes in a secure place, preferably at home. You will need a body of evidence should you later file a grievance or complaint.
  • Organize. Talk to other women (or men) and enlist their support. Ask other people who come in contact with the harasser if they have ever been harassed or if they know of anyone who left because of this behavior.
  • Tell the harasser that you object to this behavior. Describe the specific things which offend you or upset you. Keep a record of the conversation.
  • Speak to your supervisor about your conversation with the harasser. Do you have sympathetic superior or human resource officer: He or she may be able to advise you or to put pressure on the harasser from above.
  • Explore other options for informal resolutions. Report these actions to your supervisor.
  • Explore formal complaint procedures or grievance mechanisms with your library or institution.
  • Do your libraries personnel policies or your union contract include a procedure for filing an internal grievance? Use it if you think you can win. If sexual harassment is specifically prohibited by your employer, you will be on much firmer ground.
  • Encourage your library to adopt a policy on prevention of sexual harassment.
  • If all your efforts fail and the harassment continues, you can file a complaint with the EEOC. Go outside your library or institution if you are not satisfied with their treatment of your sexual harassment situation. You may file a charge of employment discrimination with your local EEOC, or you may go to your local or state office of human rights. The procedures for bringing charges before the EEOC are largely uniform throughout the country. The procedures for bringing charges at the local or state level may vary. If you have been fired or are denied some other deserved job benefit because you have refused a superior’s sexual demands, you should file immediately.

Factors to consider before filing a complaint include the strength of your documentation, the results of your attempts to resolve the problem internally, your job status, and national, local or state law on the time limit for discrimination cases.

* Compilation based on works by Minick, M. and Watstein, S. (1988). American Library Association, Committee on the Status of Women in Librarianship. Sexual Harassment in the Workplace [Pamphlet]. Chicago, IL: American Library Association and Peterson, S., Vela-Creixell, M. and Zimmerman, G. (1990). Equality In Librarianship: A Guide to Sex Discrimination Laws (2nd ed.) [Pamphlet]. Chicago, IL: American Library Association.

Federal Laws and Resources:

Facts about Sexual Harassment

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Code of Federal Regulations - Part 1604—Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Sex

Filing a Discrimination Charge with the EEOC

EEOC Policy Guidance Documents Related to Sexual Harassment

What You Should Know: What to Do if You Believe You Have Been Harassed at Work

What You Should Know When Filing With the EEOC:

Resources for Victims and Survivors

Lean In – Resources for Survivors


Time's Up

Resources for Libraries*

Sexual Harassment Model Policy Statement (Illinois Department of Human Rights)

*DISCLAIMER: Libraries should know that they *must* check with their own local/state agencies before implementing any new legal policy. The laws regarding harassment varies significantly from state-to-state.

Articles Related to Sexual Harassment in Libraries

Libraries Respond to the #MeToo Movement

Stop Sexual Harassment in Your Library – American Libraries, November 1, 2017

Fighting Sexual Harassment in the Library – American Libraries, June 27, 2017

Teen Librarian Article

Civil Liability for an Alleged Hostile Work Environment Related to Patron or Employee Internet Use

Additional General Resources

Know Your Rights at Work – American Association of University Women (AAUW)

U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau: Know Your Rights

Examples of Sexual and Non-Sexual Harassment – The Balance

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace – National Women’s Law Center

U.S. Department of Education: Office for Civil Rights

American Bar Association

ALA Conferences

Statement of Appropriate Conduct

Date of last revision: 3/9/2018