Sexual Harassment Essay, Research Paper
In recent years, there has been an increase in complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace and this has become an issue of debate. Sexual harassment does not only negatively affect the harassed, it is also; harmful to the overall employee morale, a drain on company finances, and inconducive to a productive company. This report has been written as per your request in response to recent allegations, and its purpose is to show some of the practical applications and benefits of a sexual harassment policy, along with some examples of other companies policies.
Sexual harassment in itself is a very broad term and the focus of this report is to define and apply sexual harassment to the workplace. By using many general examples along with two specific ones this report will put sexual harassment into perspective in our workplace and provide a foundation upon which an effective policy can be written.
Sexual harassment is a fact of life in the American workplace; twenty one percent of women polled by Newsweek said they had been harassed at work and forty two percent said they knew someone who had been harassed (Kantrowitz, 17). Defining sexual harassment is an area of much debate due primarily to the fact that it is more based on how an action is perceived than on the action itself. In addition to managers and supervisors understanding what type of behavior constitutes sexual harassment, equally as important is for them to know how and in what manner to respond to a complaint of sexual harassment. An environment that encourages reporting of sexual harassment is perhaps more important than the anti-harassment policy language itself. According to Los Angeles attorney Carla D. Barboza employees who experience harassment look first not to the policy, but to how other employees were treated when they reported harassment (BNA, 1998). It is for this reason that employee training is an essential component of a successful sexual harassment policy.
Most employment laws seek to balance employees concerns and employers interests.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has written guidelines for determining what types of actions constitute unlawful behavior:
Harassment on the basis of sex is a violation of section 703 of title VII. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly 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, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. (EEOC, title 29)
Since every situation is subject to interpretation what is most important in these guidelines is that sexual harassment is a situation in which a person will be offended and/or is being intimidated based on sex specific actions or because of their specific gender.
Sexual harassment can result in a lawsuit against the harasser and his employer. It is for this reason that companies have enacted policies defining what is and what is not to go on between their employees. Companies policies differ in their intrusiveness, but they usually try to reflect everyone s best interests.
The most effective sexual harassment policies have a number of common elements. First it has a statement which defines what sexual harassment is (usually in concordance with the EEOC). Then it has a statement that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. The next thing included in a sexual harassment policy is an explanation of the actions that will be taken for first time offenses and repeated unacceptable conduct. Policies then usually give guidelines on how to go about reporting harassment. Also provided in policies are prohibitions against retaliation and assurance that investigations will be conducted promptly upon report of harassment (Petrocelli, 4/12).
Within these policies many corporations also outline what type of consensual relationships are and are not allowed between their employees. Some companies even go to the extent of prohibiting all non-work relationship whether consensual or not. However, most corporations allow equal level employees to have intimate relationships provided that they are consensual and do not interfere with work performance.
AT&T s policy for example, outlines the definition of sexual harassment and states their disapproval of quid pro quo harassment. AT&T s policy goes on to say other sexually harassing conduct in the workplace which may create an offensive work environment, whether in the form of physical or verbal harassment, and regardless of whether it is committed by supervisory or non-supervisory personnel, is also prohibited (Personnel Dynamics).
ABC, Inc. additionally maintains that within each department each manager is responsible for implementing [the] policy within his or her area of supervision (AllBusiness.com). Employers need to be sure that supervisors and managers understand that they need to address sexual harassment proactively. Managers, supervisors, and human resources staff should be encouraged to walk around, making them more accessible to employees, and making it more likely that inappropriate behavior may be observed and extinguished (Ford & Harrison). Communication is essential if employees and employers are to work together to resolve their workplace problems.
Sexual harassment in recent years has become a concern of everyone involved in any workplace. Being sued, arrested, offended, embarrassed, and ridiculed are just some of the fears that accompany harassment in the workplace. Having a strong, clear, and strictly enforced policy is the most effective way to prevent fear in the workplace and consequently provide an atmosphere that is both conducive and proper for a productive work environment. It is equally as important for the employee to make it easy, anonymous, and comfortable for the employer to report sexual harassment. To have a policy where people are afraid to report infractions is the same as not having a policy at all. Finally action must be taken immediately upon a report. Investigations should be conducted thoroughly and adequately in order to properly identify the truth behind the allegations and when appropriate properly rectify the situation ensuring that it does not happen again.
List of Works Cited :
Bland, Tim and Stalcup, Sue. Ten Strategies for Management of Harassment. Ford & Harrison LLP 21.3 (June 1999). 15 July 2001 .
Effective Anti-Harassment Policies. BNA Communications 16.2 (1998). 15 July 2001 .
Harroch, Richard D. Sexual Harassment Policy. AllBusiness.com (1999). 15 July 2001 .
Kantrowitz, Barbara. Striking a Nerve. Newsweek 21 Oct. 1991: 17-21.
Petrocelli, William, Kate Repa, Barbara. Sexual Harassment on the Job. 4th ed. Nolo: Berkeley, 1999.
Sample Sexual Harassment Policy. Personnel Dynamics 11 July 2001 .
United States. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Guidelines on Discrimination Because of Sex. Title 29, Part 1604.11. 16 July 2001 .