Whenever employers treat individuals differently because of their gender, its known as sexual discrimination. If such discrimination affects the terms and conditions of an employment relationship, it's considered illegal and companies can be held liable for their actions under the federal Civil Rights Act. Keep in mind that a victim of sexual discrimination can be a woman or a man and he or she need not be of the opposite sex as the perpetrator. Remember also that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates the Civil Rights Act. Sexual harassment refers to any unwelcome sexual advances or any verbal and physical sexual conduct that creates a hostile or abusive working environment. Sexually harassing behavior can range from repeated offensive jokes to an outright sexual assault. 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. To help prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, employers should enforce a strong sexual harassment policy that clearly communicates to employees what type of harassing conduct is prohibited. Employers should also encourage employees to report harassment complaints promptly. Victims of both sexual discrimination and harassment should notify their employers as soon as possible, as employers are responsible under the law for investigating complaints and taking appropriate disciplinary action if necessary. In addition to the Civil Rights Act, most states have their own fair employment practices that prohibit sexual discrimination and harassment, many of which are more strict than the federal law.