SEXUAL HARRASMENT Essay, Research Paper
They may be neurosurgeons or typists, police officers or telephone operators,
construction workers or even members of Congress – more than half of working
women have faced the problem of sexual harassment at some point in their
careers. The situation tends to be worse in male dominated workplaces; in a
l997 Defense Department study, 4 percent of military women have reported
enduring such abuse. Although the severity may vary from patterns of obscene
joking to outright assault, the emotional damage is often profound and long
lasting. Up until just a few years ago, women had no recourse when confronted
with such harassment by a boss or co-worker. However, the problem continues
to thrive among the female work force reminding women of their vulnerability
and creating tensions that make their jobs more difficult.
Defining sexual harassment is one of the law’s newest frontiers, since it
covers such a wide range conduct. In essence, there are two general types of
sexual harassment: Quid pro quo harassment and condition of work harassment.
Quid pro quo harassment describes a situation in which a person in authority,
typically a male, requires sexual favors from an employee, typically a
female, in return for an employment advantage, such as getting hired, getting
promoted, obtaining better working conditions, or not getting fired.
Condition of work harassment, also known as environment or workplace
harassment, is less direct, and arises when an employee is subjected to
requests for sexual favors, sexual comments or sexual insults, but no
negative employment consequences follow from the employee’s refusal to accede
to the demands made on her.
Sexual Harassment can be defined as an unwelcome sexual advance, requests for
sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. These
constitute sexual harassment when submission to such conduct is made either
explicitly or implicitly based on a term or condition of an individual’s
employment. Submission to, or rejection of, such contact by an individual is
used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual. 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."
In 1988, the EEOC amended its guidelines to extend legal responsibility for
the behavior of non-employees as well. This can happen when the employer
puts an employee in a situation where it knows, or should know that unwelcome
sexual advances are likely to occur. For example, when a company requires an
employee to dress in provocative clothing where customers or passersby are
likely to make sexual advances to her.
However, what constitutes "conduct of a sexual nature"? It is understood
that this includes sexual advances or propositions, but this term also refers
to many other forms of indirect sexual harassment as well. The forms that
such sexual harassment can take are as varied as a perverse imagination can
create. Sexual conduct can also include pranks, threats and intimidation,
sexual commentary and lewd humor, and sexual or pornographic pictures
permeating the workplace. Hostile acts related to an employee’s gender are
another type of prohibited conduct of a sexual nature, even though they may
not involve sexual overtures at all.
Sexual harassment results from a misuse in power – not from sexual
attraction. This misuse in power can be a result of male hostility toward
the number of working women – Surveys have tracked male attitudes about the
proper role of a man in society in order to understand the root of this
When studying the issue of sexual harassment, onemay agree that the problem
stems from an abuse of power. Sexual Harassment attributes the problem to
women’s subordinate position in the labor force. Women are victimized by
harassment, because they are generally men’s subordinates on the job, with
men in the position to do the hiring, firing, supervising and promoting.
Sexual harassment can also be caused by men expressing their resentment and
trying to reassert control when they view women as economic competitors. In
fact, sexual harassment is closely linked with sex discrimination. Sexual
discrimination forces women into lower paying jobs, and sexual harassment
help keep them there. Seen in this context, male workers who harass a woman
on the job are doing more than annoying her, they are creating a climate of
intimidation and repression, making the woman hesitant to seek higher paying
jobs where she may perceive the tension as even greater. Thus, sexual
harassment accomplishes informally what laws against sex discrimination
theoretically prohibit; gender-based requirements for a job. A woman subject
to sexual harassment endures pressure, degradation and hostility that her
male co-workers don’t have to endure -making it that much harder to compete
for the job and for advancement.
Though it would be virtually impossible to eliminate the problem of sexual
harassment completely, various measures have been proposed as an attempt to
lessen the growing problem. The best corporate practice calls for companies
to create and publicize a forceful policy against sexual harassment.
However, first and foremost, educating employees about what constitutes
harassment and its effects is vital, because there is considerable
uncertainty and disagreement about what harassment is.
Common law tort lawsuits, such as intentional infliction of emotional
distress and assault and battery, provide a remedy in certain types of sexual
harassment cases that is totally dependent of any of the statutes and
Though the solutions proposed might seem comprehensive in plans to lessen
sexual harassment in the workplace and punishment of harassers, women still
face formidable obstacles in preventing harassment from continuing. The
proposed measures fail to cover all aspects of harassment, though the truth
is, it is virtually impossible to formulate a plan to do so.
Anti-harassment policies in the workplace can significantly lessen the
occurrences of harassment by co-workers, but in reality, corporate policies
are only as good as the supervisors that enforce them. One third of harassers
are the victims’ immediate supervisor. Another third, are even higher up on
the corporate ladder but do not directly supervise their victims, and the
rest are the victims’ peers. If the actual problem stems from the
supervisors who are supposedly enforcing an anti-harassment policy, then the
policies are worthless.
However, even if women for a company with a well established harassment
policy, many women still keep their mouths shut. They don’t want to be seen
as troublemakers or worry about the long-term consequences of complaining.
The individual who makes a complaint is immediately subjected to scrutiny,
criticism and blame.
In regard to the solution of simply asking the harasser to stop there is no
telling whether this will be effective or not. This solution depends largely
upon the personality of the harasser and therefore may have no effect if the
harasser happens to be an aggressive or powerful male. The manner in which
the individual being harassed goes about telling the harasser to stop can
also be an important factor as to whether this method will succeed or not.
For example, if a woman asks her boss to stop the harassment while smiling,
or perhaps says it softly, it may possibly be construed as teasing or playful
behavior which in turn would provoke the supervisor to come on even stronger,
viewing the harassment as a "sexual game."
Although, the EEOC can file lawsuits on behalf of victims of sexual
harassment, women who take their accusations to court face even bigger
obstacles than mere public disapproval. The legal process is long and
cumbersome – it can be years from the first complaint to the final verdict
and in the meanwhile, the woman is in a legal, professional and often
financial limbo. Women are not entitled to collect damages under the Civil
Rights Act – just back pay; so many women don’t see this process as worth the
trouble. Even those, however, who do file a complaint and win a harassment
case may feel lost. Though, Title VII offers reinstatement to previous job,
the individual may be shunned or harassed by co-worker thus making conditions
even more uncomfortable than they were beforehand.
Evidently, sexual harassment has manifested itself into the everyday work
environment, and has now unfortunately become a common occurrence for some
women. Though government procedure countering this problem has improved
considerably over the past few years, as long as there are women in the work
force, they will inevitably be subjected to the torture that is sexual