SEXUAL HARRASMENT Essay Research Paper They may

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

governmental agencies.

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


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