The Elements of Sexual Harassment

 For a person’s behavior to be considered sexual harassment, it must meet three criteria:  (1) it must be unwelcome, (2) it must be sexual in nature, and (3) it must occur in or impact on the work environment

   1. Sexual harassment is a criminal offense punishable under the UCMJ as a violation of U.S. Navy Regulations.

   2. DON policy on sexual harassment, contained in SECNAVINST 5300.26 requires commanders to take appropriate action in each substantiated incident of sexual harassment.  Appropriate action includes, but is not limited to, formal or informal counseling, non-punitive letter of caution, security clearance revocation, adverse fitness report, nonjudicial punishment (NJP), or court-martial.  Additionally, officers and enlisted personnel of the Navy or Marine Corps will be processed for administrative separation on the first substantiated incident of sexual harassment that involves any of the following circumstances:

      a. Action, threats or attempts to influence another’s career or job for sexual favors; or
      b.   Rewards in exchange for sexual favors; or

      c.  Physical contact of a sexual nature that, which, if charged as a violation of the UCMJ, could result in a punitive discharge.

(An incident is considered substantiated when there has been a court-martial conviction, non-judicial punishment, or the commander determines, based on a preponderance of evidence, that sexual harassment has occurred.  Commanders are not precluded from initiating administrative separation proceedings for individuals whose conduct warrants separation not covered in the above paragraphs.)

      d.    False or Malicious Complaints.  An intentionally false complaint of sexual harassment may be, among other things, chargeable as a “false official statement” in violation of Article 107 of the UCMJ, or a “false swearing” under Article 134 of the UCMJ.  A Marine who makes an intentionally false complaint may be subject to adverse administrative or disciplinary action.  A complaint that is not substantiated does not automatically constitute an intentionally false complaint. 


   1. Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that involves unwelcomed sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature between the same or opposite sexes when:

      a. Submission to, or rejection of, such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of a person’s job, pay, career.

      b. Submission to, or rejection of, such conduct by a person is used as a basis for career or employment decisions affecting that person.

      c. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

      d. Any person in a supervisory or command position who uses or condones implicit or explicit sexual behavior to control, influence, or affect the career, pay, or job of military and civilian personnel is engaging in sexual harassment. Similarly, any military and civilian personnel who makes deliberate or repeated unwelcome verbal comments, gestures, or physical contact of a sexual nature is engaging in sexual harassment.


   1. Verbal. Examples of verbal sexual harassment may include telling sexual jokes; using sexually explicit profanity, threats, sexually oriented cadences, or sexual comments; whistling in a sexually suggestive manner; and describing certain attributes of one’s physical appearance in a sexual manner. Verbal sexual harassment may also include using terms of endearment such as "honey", “babe", “sweetheart", “dear", “stud", or “hunk" in referring to military and civilian personnel, or Family members.

   2. Nonverbal. Examples of nonverbal sexual harassment may include but is not limited to staring at someone (that is, “undressing someone with one’s eyes"), blowing kisses, winking, or licking one’s lips in a suggestive manner. Nonverbal sexual harassment also includes printed material (for example, displaying sexually oriented pictures or cartoons); using sexually oriented screen savers on one’s computer; or sending sexually oriented notes, letters, faxes, or e-mail.

   3. Physical contact. Examples of physical sexual harassment may include touching, patting, pinching, bumping, grabbing, cornering, or blocking a passageway; kissing; and providing unsolicited back or neck rubs. Sexual assault and rape are extreme forms of sexual harassment and serious criminal acts. When these acts occur, report them in accordance with MCO 1752.5.

      a. If the complainant is unsure whether the act which occurred is sexual harassment or sexual assault direct the individual to the command UVA or SARC.


   1. Quid pro quo. Quid pro quo” is a Latin term meaning "this for that." This term refers to conditions placed on a person’s career or terms of employment in return for favors. It includes implicit or explicit threats of adverse action if the person does not submit to such conditions and promises of favorable actions if the person does submit to such conditions. Examples include demanding sexual favors in exchange for a promotion, award, or favorable assignment; disciplining or relieving a subordinate who refuses sexual advances; and threats of poor job evaluation for refusing sexual advances. Incidents of “quid pro quo" may also have a harassing effect on third persons. It may result in allegations of sexual favoritism or general discrimination when a person feels unfairly deprived of recognition, advancement, or career opportunities because of favoritism shown to other military and civilian personnel on the basis of a sexual relationship. An example would be an individual who is not recommended for promotion and who believes that his or her squad leader recommended another individual in his or her squad for promotion on the basis of provided or promised sexual favors, not upon merit or ability.

   2. Hostile work environment. A hostile environment occurs when military and civilian personnel are subjected to offensive, unwanted and unsolicited comments, or behaviors of a sexual nature. If these behaviors unreasonably interfere with their performance, regardless of whether the harasser and the recipient are in the same workplace, then the environment is classified as hostile. This definition emphasizes that workplace conduct, to be actionable as “abusive work environment” harassment, need not result in concrete psychological harm to the victim, but rather need be only so severe or pervasive that a reasonable person would perceive, and the victim does perceive, the work environment as hostile or offensive. (“Workplace” is an expansive term for military members and may include conduct on or off duty, 24 hours a day.)

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