Sexual Harrasment Essay, Research Paper
Sexual harassment is a serious problem in the workplace. It primarily victimizes women who are harassed by men, but sexual harassment can be directed at men and can also be same-sex harassment. Sexual harassment demeans the victim, can negatively impact performance, and can limit progression in a career path. Although sexual harassment has gained more public awareness since Anita Hill s testimony against Clarence Thomas during his confirmation hearings in 1991, it is still a problem. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EECO) works to stop sexual harassment through Title VII of the Civil Rights Amendment and does work to both educate employers about how to stop harassment and also brings law suits against alleged harassers, these steps still are not sufficient to protect people from being victimized by sexual harassment in the workplace.
Background and Definitions
Sexual harassment is of two types: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when a superior expects something for something, usually expecting sexual favors in exchange for a pay raise, promotion, simply keeping a job or some other exchange (Garbar, What Is ). Hostile work environment exists when there is unwanted sexual behavior such as sexual advances and touching, sexual comments, including jokes, sexually suggestive material and/or objects or other activities that can create sexual tension and stress for the victim (Garbar, What Is ).
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes a prohibition against sex discrimination. This is taken by the courts to mean practices ranging from direct requests for sexual favors [quid pro quo] to workplace conditions that create a hostile environment for persons of either gender (EEOC). Currently lawsuits filed by the EEOC on behalf of sexual harassment victims are averaging 16,000 per year (?).
Problems in Enforcing the Law
While the law exists to protect victims of harassment and to inhibit incidences of harassment, it is still not fully effective. One problem is that proving harassment can be difficult for the victim. To win a sexual harassment case in a court of law, it usually must be proven that the employer had actual or constructive knowledge of the harassment, and [failed] to take remedial action to correct it (Garbar, What Is ). In addition, the victim must have attempted to pursue correct within the organization along the proper channels, such as contacting an internal hotline or reporting the incident to a superior (other than the harasser whenever possible). The employer must be given the opportunity to investigate and redress the issue.
Not only is proving harassment sometimes difficult, but the victim may feel uncomfortable trying to resolve the issue within the organization. Frequently the investigation within a firm is given over to the Human Resources department. HR managers are typically not trained in how to conduct sexual harassment investigations. The highly sensitive and emotional nature of the investigations can cause many parties involved to feel that they are not treated fairly by the investigation (Dorfman, Cobb, and Cox).