[Skip to Content]

Sexual Harassment

Policy Statement

SUNY Upstate is committed to maintaining an environment that is free from unlawful sexual harassment. Inappropriate and disrespectful conduct and communication of a sexual nature will not be tolerated.

What is the Law?

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. It is a violation of federal law under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as amended; Title IX of the Education Amendment of 1972; New York State Human Rights Law; and Executive Order 11246. In addition, New York State Executive Orders require State agencies to prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. In 1980, the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued guidelines under Title VII, which state that unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when:

  1. submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly as a term or condition of an individual's employment
  2. submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual
  3. such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment

What is Sexual Harassment?

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome verbal or physical sexual advances or statements, which:

  • Are offensive or objectionable to the recipient
  • Cause the recipient discomfort or humiliation
  • Interfere with the recipient's performance
  • Adversely affect a term or condition of employment

Sexual harassment may involve the behavior of a person of either sex against a person of the opposite sex or the same sex, when that behavior falls within the definition of sexual harassment.

Two Forms of Sexual Harassment

  1. Quid pro quo

    Quid pro quo is where the harasser has more power/authority than the individual being harassed. Quid pro quo occurs when specific benefits are withheld as a way of obtaining sexual favors. The person in authority uses his or her actual or apparent power, or otherwise uses threats to obtain sexual favors.
  2. Hostile Environment

    Hostile environment is where any individual can be the harasser if his/her actions create a hostile, intimidating environment. Hostile environment is defined as a pattern of unwelcome behavior that creates an offensive environment. A hostile environment occurs when unwelcome conduct, either sexual or sex-based, offends, intimidates, ridicules, or insults an individual to the point that it alters his/her environment.

Each incident is given consideration to the record as a whole and to the totality of the circumstances, including the context in which the alleged incident(s) occurred.

Some Examples of Conduct that May Constitute Sexual Harassment

In evaluating behavior, the totality of the situation must be kept in mind. Examples of unwelcome behavior that can create an offensive environment are:

  • making sexual comments or innuendos
  • verbal harassment
  • subtle pressure for sexual activities


  • Giving personal gifts
  • Sending sexual letters or electronic mail
  • Leering at a person's body
  • Blocking a person's path


  • Touching, patting, pinching or stroking
  • Standing close or brushing up against a person

For persons who wish to check their own behavior for potentially harassing remarks and behaviors, they should be reminded that asking for sexual favors, telling sexual jokes, making lewd remarks or displaying sexually explicit pictures, posters, or calendars may be perceived as harassment to others. When a person indicates that something is unwanted or unwelcome, the behavior should stop immediately.

How to Respond to Sexual Harassment

Individuals who perceive a situation as sexual harassment should call the Office of Institutional Equity at (315) 464-9590 to discuss their concerns. In addition to contacting the Office of Institutional Equity, the following steps indicate how to respond to sexual harassment:

  • Say no. Say it firmly, without smiling.
    One of the most effective ways of dealing with harassment is to tell the harasser the behavior is bothersome and that it is unwelcome.
  • Speak to your supervisor. If the harasser is your supervisor, speak to his/her supervisor.
  • Keep a record of what occurred. Include direct quotes, witnesses, or patterns of the harassment. Save any letters, cards, notes, or e-mails sent to you. Keep both the log and notes in a secure place, preferably at home.
  • Tell the harasser in writing that you object to this behavior. Describe the specific things that offend or upset you. Keep a copy of this letter.


Federal law prohibits adverse actions against any individual who opposes sexual harassment, files a complaint, or assists or participates in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing. Those in violation of this law are subject to disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal.


In accordance with existing policies and laws, every effort will be made to protect the privacy of all individuals throughout all phases of the complaint investigation and resolution process. Information about complaints will be maintained in confidence to the fullest extent possible.

Internal Resources

The SUNY Upstate Medical University does not tolerate sexual harassment. The Office of Institutional Equity will investigate complaints of sexual harassment. When behavior falls within the definition of sexual harassment, SUNY Upstate will:

  • Take appropriate action to provide appropriate remedies when necessary
  • Handle complaints on a case-by-case basis
  • Protect the privacy of all those involved in a sexual harassment complaint, to the fullest extent possible

The Institutional Equity Officer is available to discuss alleged incidents or problems associated with sexual harassment. Individuals may inquire about their options and/or file a written complaint by contacting the Office of Institutional Equity at (315) 464-9590 to arrange an appointment. Written complaints must be filed with the Institutional Equity Officer within 90 calendar days following the alleged discriminatory act or the date on which the complainant first knew or reasonably should have know of such act.

The Office of Institutional Equity is responsible for the investigations and resolutions of complaints. Allegations of discrimination must be filed with the Institutional Equity Officer. If the complainant is dissatisfied with the University's response to the alleged discrimination, the complainant may, at any time, file a complaint with the appropriate State or Federal agency.

Sexual Harassment Prevention Training

The safety and well-being of all members of the Upstate Medical University community is our highest priority.

To this end, Upstate takes the issues of sexual harassment and sexual violence very seriously. We must do all that we can to prevent its occurrence and respond swiftly and appropriately when it does occur. Upstate stands with SUNY in taking a proactive approach to stop sexual harassment and sexual violence and assault through training and prevention programs.

To help create a safer campus environment for all students and employees, and to assist you in knowing your reporting responsibilities, we are sending this invitation that contains a link to important training about Title IX, Clery Act, and Sexual Harassment. The training covers topics that relate to your reporting responsibility as an Upstate employee and is a New York State workforce requirement.

This on-line training is provided by Organizational Training and Development and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Upstate employees may access this course via Brightspace: UH7899: Title IX, Clery Act and Sexual Harassment Prevention Training. To login to Brightspace, click on the link https://mylearning.suny.edu/d2l/login, select the “Courses” tab, and do a course search on: TITLE IX. Click on the Course ID, and then Enroll.

The Brightspace login credentials are the same as Outlook. If you are unable to login, please contact the IMT Helpdesk at 315-464-4115.