How Much Do You Know About Sexual Harassment?

The author shares a quiz on the legalities of sexual harassment to help readers gain a full understanding of it.

All supervisors and employees need to have a clear understanding of sexual harassment.

Many of you probably think you have a good understanding of what constitutes sexual harassment. At the end of my book: Understanding Sexual Harassment – What Managers and Employees Need to Know About Sexual Harassment, I have a quiz on what the readers have learned. While you may not have had the opportunity to read the book, it may be useful to take the quiz and see how much you really know about sexual harassment. 

Sexual Harassment Quiz 

True/False Quiz – Determine whether each statement is either true or false. After you complete the quiz you will find the answers to each question.

1. An employer will not be liable for sexual harassment committed by managers or supervisors if they not aware of the conduct. 

2. It is not unlawful harassment for a manager or supervisor to assign unfavorable work duties only to women. 

3. To bring a lawsuit for sexual harassment, a victim does not need to show that he or she suffered a monetary or economic harm, such as being fired or demoted.

4. It is unlawful for a man to sexually harass another man because of his gender.

5. Quid pro quo sexual harassment (e.g., promising more favorable working conditions in return for sex) can be committed by managers, coworkers, and even customers or clients. 

6. If an employee does not immediately complain about offensive behavior, the behavior is probably welcome, and thus not harassment. 

7. An employee who joins in with sex jokes or sexual banter in the workplace may be a victim of sexual harassment. 

8. Abusive behavior aimed at one gender that is not “sexual” in nature (e.g., a supervisor who is constantly rude only to female employees and insults them) can also be considered unlawful harassment.  

9. A person who works in an office where sexual harassment occurs, but to whom sexual activity is not directed, may still sue the organization for sexual harassment. 

10. A manager’s threats to retaliate against a subordinate if he or she refuses sexual advances does not constitute sexual harassment if the threats are never carried out. 

11. If a victim of sexual harassment asks a manager or supervisor not to tell anyone about the sexual harassment incident, the supervisor should not take further action. 

12. If a supervisor sees that an employee has posted sexually explicit posters in his work area, but no one has complained about them, no further action is required. 

13. A supervisor who touches an employee in a sexual manner only one time may be guilty of sexual harassment. 

14. If my intentions were good, for example, I meant to compliment someone on how great they looked, then there is no way my conduct could violate the sexual harassment policy.

15. Terms of endearment (honey, sweetie, or darling) may be considered sexual harassment.

16. I can ask a co-worker out on a date.

17. Inappropriate behavior isn’t wrong or illegal (i.e., they joke like that with everyone) unless it is intended as sexual harassment.

18. The standard for determining offensive behavior is based upon the beliefs of a reasonable person.

19. Even if an employee gives consent to a supervisor’s sexual advances, they can still claim sexual harassment.

20. A delivery person comes to your office daily and often makes inappropriate sexual comments to one of your employees, which the employees tell you about. You have no obligation to do anything since the delivery person is not one of your employees. 

Answers to the Quiz on Sexual Harassment

1. False. An employer may be held liable for quid pro quo sexual harassment without prior knowledge. However, there is more debate on to what extent the employer has knowledge of hostile environment sexual harassment. For example, if tasteless jokes are being made at staff meetings, but no one is complaining, the employer will be held responsible for knowing what the environment was like. It is important that when a sexual harassment complaint is brought to the employer, they must take action to investigate as well as any appropriate action to limit the employer’s liability and maintain an effective workplace. 

2. False. The assignment of unfavorable duties only to women can be viewed as a form of sexual harassment.

3. True. There need not be an allegation of monetary loss or economic harm for sexual harassment to be claimed.

4. True. A man can sexually harass a man and a woman can sexually harass a woman.

5. True. Managers, co-workers, customers, and clients can commit sexual harassment. Co-workers can be found liable for quid pro quo sexual harassment if it can be shown that the employee has control over working conditions affecting the complaining employee. 

6. False. While it is the best practice for an employee to complain immediately about sexual harassment, the failure to do so does not mean the behavior is welcome, and therefore not harassment. 

7. True. Even though an employee joins in sex jokes or sexual banter, it does not mean the employee cannot claim sexual harassment. Based on the environment in the workplace, the employee may have felt compelled to engage in such activities. 

8. True. Using demeaning terms aimed at one gender can be considered sexual harassment. It is illegal to harass a woman or a man by making offensive comments about women or men in general.

9. True. When hostile environment sexual harassment exists, an employer does not have to be the subject of the harassment to make a claim of sexual harassment. 

10. False. The mere threats to retaliate are enough to be considered sexual harassment, even if the threats are never carried out. 

11.False. Even when an employee asks the manager not to tell anyone about the sexual harassment incident, the manager has an obligation to notify the employer of the claim. The fact that the manager was told puts the employer on notice of the claim and could lead to liability if nothing is done about the claim. 

12.False. The posting of the posters places an affirmative obligation on the employer to take action, even if no complaint is filed. The posters can be views as establishing a hostile work environment, and by their being posted the employer is on notice of the potential for a sexual harassment complaint. 

13.True. A single, extremely severe incident of harassment may be enough to constitute a Title VII violation. The incident was “severe”—meaning that even though it only occurred once, it was so severe that any reasonable person within the protected class would be detrimentally affected in their work and life under the same or similar circumstances.

14.False. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment. Good intentions are not a defense to sexual harassment. 

15.True. A hostile work environment is a workplace in which unwelcome comments or conduct based on an employee’s gender unreasonably interfere with an employee’s work performance or create an intimidating or offensive work environment for the employee whois beingharassed. This conduct can severely diminish an employee’s productivity and self-esteem both in and out of the workplace. These terms applied to one gender could be viewed by employees of that gender as unwelcome comments.

16. True. An employee can ask another employee on a date. However, persistent requests that are denied may lead to a claim of a sexual harassment. 

17. False. There is no need for a sexual harassment claim to prove the intent to sexually harass. The acts will be judged by whether they constitute sexual harassment, regardless of the intention of the person making the remarks. 

18. True. In determining whether harassment is sufficiently severe or pervasive to create a hostile environment, the harasser’s conduct should be evaluated from the objective standpoint of a “reasonable person.”

19. True. Consent given at one time does not act as waiver of the right of the employee to claim sexual harassment.

20. False. Even if the delivery person is not your employee you have an obligation to respond when the employee tells you of the inappropriate comments.


So, how well did you do?

Unfortunately, the only good score is getting every question right. Each question provides an understanding of some aspect of sexual harassment. To be fully informed you must know the answer to all the questions.

About the Author

Joe Swerdzewski, former General Counsel of the FLRA & owner of JSA LLC is the author of The Essential Guide to Federal Labor Relations, A Guide to Successful Federal Sector Collective Bargaining, etc. For more info on JSA’s services, email or subscribe to JSA’s newsletter.