Yes. Sexual harassment is specifically prohibited under the law. Vermont law defines sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination that means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
- submission to that conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of employment; or
- submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as a component of the basis for employment decisions affecting that individual; or
- the conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment (21 V.S.A. § 495d (13)).
Because sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, a claim of harassment can be pursued in the same ways as other discrimination claims, as discussed below.
In addition to prohibiting sexual harassment, Vermont law requires all employers, employment agencies and labor organizations to ensure a workplace free of sexual harassment by adopting a policy against sexual harassment, posting a notice outlining that policy, and providing all employees an individual written copy of the policy (21 V.S.A. § 495h).
It is as unlawful to sexually harass a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person as it is to harass anyone else. Some harassment is specifically anti-gay and may be more fairly characterized as harassment on the basis of sexual orientation. Other harassment is because of the person’s actual or perceived gender identity and may be characterized as harassment on the basis of gender identity. Still other harassment is sexual in nature and more appropriately categorized as sexual harassment. All these types of harassment can happen to the same person, and all are forbidden under Vermont state law.
Both the United States Supreme Court and several state courts have found same-sex sexual harassment to violate sexual harassment laws (compare Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, 523 U.S. 75, 118 S.Ct. 998 (1998) (man can sue for sexual harassment by other men under federal sexual harassment laws)).