Sexual harassment is a form of sexual discrimination that violates the laws enacted under title VII. In education, sexual harassment is considered sex discrimination. Allegations of sexual harassment should be reported first through the companies grievance procedures and secondly to the EEOC. Victims of sexual harassment are not members of protected class; however the occurrence of harassment can place them in a position to file complaint with the EEOC as sex discrimination.
Sexual harassment can occur to any person of any gender. Sexual harassment can happen in a variety of circumstances which the victim as well as the harasser may be a women or a man. The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct. Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim. The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome. It is always recommended that you inform a harasser that there conduct is inappropriate and unwelcome.
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Since there has been so many cases of sexual harassment in some states just the failure alone of not informing or providing information to the employee about sexual harassment could violate some state laws. Most companies should come up with a policy that includes the definition of harassment, states that it is illegal to sexually harass anyone, and gives a description or example of harassment. Not only should it cover harassment, but also the different types of harassment. This policy must also state the procedures an employee should take if they feel they have been sexual harassed.
These policies should be handed to all employees. For instance, at my job we were all required to watch a film on sexual harassment which showed us how to recognize when you are a victim of this. Then to insure everyone was present and accounted for at the film, we all signed our names on a piece of paper to verify that we were present during this presentation. Both men and women were in attendance, mainly because not only does sexual harassment strike women, but men are also sexual harassed. Sexual Harassment happens to all different ages, race, sex, or national origins. Many employees are exposed to sexual harassment.
It is a well know terminology in the workplace. We hear more and more about sexual harassment cases. There may be some that wonder what sexual harassment is? Well, by the dictionary definition sexual harassment is to persistently annoy someone through the use of sexual tactics. It could be a speech or conduct of a sexually discriminatory nature, which was neither welcomed nor encouraged. Sexual harassment is also defined as any unwelcome sexual advance or conduct on the job that creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment. This conduct can include verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
Some examples would be telling offensive jokes, posting pornography in the office place or sending offensive e-mail on company computers. Sexual harassment has become so drastic that some companies have taken extra precaution by not allowing supervisors and employees have any sort of personal relationship. This is because one sexual harassment suit could be extremely costly to a large company and devastating to a small company, maybe even drive them out of business. This falls under two categories in Sexual Harassment best known as Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Work Environment.
Quid Pro Quo is when an employee is required to engage in sexual activities in exchange for workplace entitlements or benefits such as promotions, raises, or continued employment. (Employment Law fifth edition pg. 322) If he or she refuses to do these sexual favors they could be demoted, not receive that promotion they are quailed for, or not receive a pay raise or bonus that was due. The Quid Pro Quo is more get down to the point sexual harassment. The harasser can bluntly or indirectly imply that the employee’s job or future promotions could be at great risk if he or she does not abide to the sexual request.
This request does not have to be the act of sex itself, but be anything sexual or suggestive in nature. The employer can also promise future benefits if the employee agrees to these terms. So in other words, unless the employee gives into the sexual demands of his or her supervisor she may be terminated. This is a true violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which is also referred to as the Title VII acts. Unfortunately, Sexual Harassment is not a black and white issue. There are many shades of gray when determining whether sexual harassment has occurred.
Even through sexual harassment is one of the hardest cases to prove, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides a general description of sexual advances. Hostile Work Environment has to be unwelcome by the harassee, the harassment must be based on gender, the harassment must be sufficiently severe or pervasive to create an abusive working environment, the harassment must affect a term, condition, or privilege of employment, and the employer had actual or constructive knowledge of the sexuality hostile working environment and took no prompt or adequate remedial action. Employment Law fifth edition pg. 326) In the Hostile Work Environment is harder to determine whether sexual harassment actually occurred. While there are not specific standards, there are guidelines that are used to determine whether an employee’s rights are violated. Hostile Work Environment has little to do with what sex the person is. The harasser could be a man or woman. The harasser’s main purpose is to force the other person to feel or act in a certain way because sometimes sexual harassment can cause an individual from performing his or her job duties in an efficient way.
As a result of this behavior it may undermine this individual’s dignity. It is often difficult to draw a line between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in the work environment. This form of discrimination called sexual harassment can very well manifest itself in terms of physical and psychological acts. Physically, the harassee may be the victim of pinching, grabbing, hugging, patting, leering, brushing, against and forms of touching. Psychological harassment can occur through the proposal of physical intimacy by requesting dates and sexual favors.
Also, many people think sexual harassment only occurs between two workers in the workplace, or an employee and supervisor. This is not completely true; sexual harassment can be caused by a customer who continuously suggests inappropriate gestures that make an employee feel uncomfortable. He may for example come to her job all the time and ask her out on a date or try to hug and touch the employee. This could create a hostile work environment if the employee complains about this customer behavior to a manager or supervisor and nothing is done to prevent the sexual harassment.
This company could be held liable for damages this employee suffered while employed by this company. Sex and sensuality is everywhere we look, from magazines to billboards, to television, and movies. However, talk about issues of any sexual nature is strictly prohibited in the workplace. This brings me to a recent case on television about Rob Lowe vs. Jessica Gibson (Nanny). Rob is a famous actor most famous for starring in the classic movie, “The Outsider” based off the awarding winning book. He is also known for being on Saturday Night live on the skit called Wayne World.
His nanny claimed that she was sexually abused by her employer Rob Lowe. She claims that he took his hand and placed it down her pants and tried to touch her crouch. He also touched her butt repeatedly and this behavior was unwanted. This nanny claims the harassment was continuously throughout September 2005 until January 2008. When there is a case of sexual harassment a judge or jury takes into consideration all of the circumstances surrounding the claim. First is the inherent plausibility of the case, or whether or not it makes sense.
Next, is the demeanor of the persons involved to determine whether they are being truthful in their statements. The judge or jury has to decide whether the person has a reason to lie, or a motive to falsely accuse the plaintiff of sexual harassment. In this case the motive would most likely be money, considering Mr. Lowe is a famous actor. They will also consider any evidence that the jury feels is substantial in this case. Like, if this woman was sexually harassed why did it take her 3 years to acknowledge she was sexually harassed and why did she continuously work under these conditions for so many years.
Finally the past record of the accused will come into question to determine a pattern of sexual harassment. All of these factors will play a role in determining whether sexual harassment has occurred. Even with all of the media covering sexual-harassment cases and the increased awareness of sexual harassment, there are still a large number of cases reported each year. In 2002 14,396 cases of sexual harassment were reported to the EEOC (www. eeoc. com). An employer is responsible for the acts of its supervisors.
Employers will always be liable for a supervisor’s harassment if it culminates in a tangible employment action. However, if it does not, the employer maybe able to avoid liability or limit damages by establishing an affirmative defense. That’s why employers should be encouraged to prevent harassment and employees should be encouraged to avoid or limit the harm from harassment. As an employee if you are experiencing this type of sexual harassment you should immediately notify you supervisor or follow the company policy on filing grievance.
Some employees feel that it is a hassle or that the company would turn against them if they were to accuse someone of sexual harassment. The human resource department is probably the best place to go if your supervisor or other supervisors are involved in the harassment. If you do not feel comfortable speaking with your human resource department, then there are other alternatives a victim could take. If you do choose to notify your supervisor, they should take immediate and corrective action and there should be no consequences against you for reporting the inappropriate behavior.
If your employer does not take immediate and corrective action, and the harassment continues or if they take retaliatory action against you, you should file with the EEOC. Legitimate causes for taking the next step and filing with the EEOC are not as simple as they seem, first you’ll have to prove that the alleged actions occurred and second you’ll need to prove that your employer was made aware of the situation and did legitimate claim would be if your supervisor made sexual advances towards you offering a promotion for sexual favors.
You do not accept his advances and told him that his suggestions made you feel uncomfortable and where unwelcome. Your supervisor continues and you where denied promotional opportunity because of this. You notify your employer of the actions committed against you and in return a couple of weeks later you where fired. This would be a legitimate reason to file suit against the employer. On the other hand if you notify your supervisor of these action and preliminary actions are taken.
Then, you have no cause of action to file suit because your employer handled the situation responsibly. If for some reason you feel that your case was not taken seriously or that the punishment didn’t fit the crime, you do have other alternatives. Employers are responsible for ensuring that their employee’s are not victims of nor do they participate in sexual harassment. It is an employer’s responsibility to take immediate and corrective action against sexual harassment as soon as they become aware that the alleged actions are occurring.
It is even an employers responsibility to ensure that non employees do not sexually harass employees of there organization. Business must take swift and aggressive corrective action against employees who are found to be guilty of sexual harassment suits if they do not have a history of total intolerance of harassment and discipline or termination of those employees who harass their fellow employees. If an employer is aware of harassment they are required to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.
In order to maintain a productive work, employees must feel safe and comfortable at work. The company should maintain an “open door” policy so that its workers will not feel intimidated if they were to be accusing someone of a higher status. There are many examples of sexual harassment that some people may not be aware of. For instance, witnessing a sexually explicit conversation between colleagues at your workplace that makes you uncomfortable is a form of sexual harassment if they are aware that their actions are making you uncomfortable.
Something as simple as a swimsuit calendars hanging in the workplace can be considered as harassment. Body contact is an important factor in the workplace and some people have a problem figuring out how close is too close. Certain gestures such as persuasive eye winks, hands on the shoulders or hugs are considered inappropriate for the workplace. This is important because some people may be okay with a pat on the back or and eye wink with thumbs up, but some may take it offensively and misunderstand these gestures.
If a person feels that they are being harassed it is very important that they make the potential harasser aware that they are not comfortable with their actions. Many times sexual harassment cases have turned out to be honest misunderstandings because the person being accused was not aware that the accuser had a problem with their sexual jokes or posters. It is very important not to give into any sexual advance by a manager or supervisor. This could really hurt your chance of winning a case because it downfalls all your character.
This brings the question to the jury as to whether you consented and you are just claiming sexual harassment for revenge. Take this scenario for example: There is a woman working for a company and there is a man sexually harassing her. He harassed her for a long period of time and instead of going to someone about it, she gave into his illegal actions. Later she was promoted under his supervision and consented to a sexual relationship with this man. During this time he fondled her in front of employees and forced himself upon her on many occasions.
She never reported the harassment because she says she was afraid of him, but this may have not been the smartest choice if she would later claim sexual harassment. The may take into consideration that this relationship cannot be considered truly voluntary if the harasser has the power to fire or demote her in anyway. This woman was treated differently than other employees and in disparate treatment under Title VII; it prohibits employers from treating applicants or employees differently than other similarly situated employees.
The central issue is whether the employer’s actions were motivated by discriminatory intent, which maybe proved by either direct or circumstantial evidence. Companies that experience sexual harassment cases have legal defense they can prove to show the courts they did everything they could have possible done to avoid these action. A company can start by training every employee on a regular basis. Previously it was stated that you should inform every employee of sexual harassment and ensure they have an understanding of what your zero tolerance policies against sexual harassment stands for.
Well, not only should you do that, but a company can go the extra step with yearly company wide training. The Human Resource Department should have staff who are trained in anti harassment issues, and can explain that the company aggressively follows its anti harassment policy and takes a proactive attitude against sexual harassment. Then, the content of the training sessions should be slightly different for supervisors and managers than the general workforce. It maybe best that employer has separate training sessions for each.
The general training workforce should consist of a thorough explanation of the anti harassment policy, along with the procedures for filing a complaint. Companies must be sure to express the facts that sexual harassment complaints will be investigated and disciplinary action will be taken. The training for the supervisory staff should contain all of the elements mentioned in connection with the general workplace training plus specific actions plans for supervisors to follow when they learn about, know about, witness, or complainants about sexual harassment.
Manager and supervisors should be informed that they could be held personally liable for damages in sexual harassment cases and that the company does not always hold full and complete liability. Companies have a legal, ethical, and social responsibility to take seriously charges of sexual harassment, to investigate those charges thoroughly, and to administer discipline to offenders. There should be a written detailed procedure in place and supervisor and the general workforce should be aware of them.
Those who can receive reports of sexual harassment should guarantee that the charges will be held confidential as much as possible, Assure this employee that the complaint will not suffer any retaliation from the accused or anyone else, and a prompt investigation of the complaint will occur. They must also inform the one complaining the results in the investigation and take appropriate disciplinary actions against any employee who is found in violation, and follow up to make sure the harassment or no retaliation is not still occurring.
In taking the appropriate educational and training steps regarding sexual harassment, companies can reduce the potential for damages or avoid liability altogether because companies can defend themselves against sexual harassment charges by showing that they acted reasonably to prevent them. Sexual Harassment is a serious and preventable form of sex discrimination in the workplace. Employees should stand up for there right not to fall victim to sexual harassment and employers should take an active and strong role in developing and enforcing zero tolerance policies against sexual harassment in the workplace.
Although confusing to many, sexual harassment must be dealt with immediately by employers to protect them. Employers must be proactive in developing and enforcing a sexual harassment policy. These policies will benefit all involved, providing a safer and more relaxed work environment. In order for companies to protect themselves from law suits and the possibility of smearing their reputation, they must take matters like sexual harassment seriously.