Sexual harassment in the workplace is nothing new. As long as there have been co-workers, sexual harassment has existed. Over the years though, workplaces have become more diversified, and women began to rise to positions of power. With these changes, sexual harassment came to be something that was not only unacceptable, but in most cases, illegal. According to Liuzzo, (2013), “Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual attention, whether verbal or physical, that affects an employee’s job condition or creates a hostile working environment” (Liuzzo, 2013). This not only applies to co-workers of the opposite sex, but same sex co-workers as well.
There are several forms of sexual harassment, including, but not limited to the following: * Verbal or written comments about someone’s body, appearance or style of dress. Repeatedly asking someone out on a date or making unwanted sexual advances, spreading rumors about someone or threatening a person. * Physical contact including inappropriate touching or stroking, or blocking a person’s movement. * Nonverbal actions such as derogatory gestures or looking up and down a person’s body. * Visuals such as pictures, posters or screen savers that are sexual in nature (equalrights. org, 2012). * Turning work discussions sexual. Asking someone personal questions about their sex life. * Referring to an adult person as honey, babe, etc. * Giving a coworker gifts. * Whistling or cat calling at someone. * Actual or attempted rape or sexual assault (un. org, 2012). Sexual harassment can also be non-sexual if you are a female in an all male environment, or male in an all female environment. For example, if you are a male and you work in a ladies’ clothing store, and your lunch is continually hidden, that can be sexual harassment (equalrights. org, 2012). When identifying sexual harassment, unwelcome is the biggest word to look for.
Sexual harassment is usually not defined by one occurrence. If a coworker asks you out once, and you say, no, you are not interested, this is not sexual harassment. If you are repeatedly asked out by the same coworker, however, this would be sexual harassment. Similarly, if a coworker tells you a joke once that you consider offensive, that would not be sexual harassment. If you mention to the coworker that you do not appreciate that kind of humor and would they please refrain from telling those jokes in your presence and they continue, then it would be sexual harassment (un. org, 2012).
There are laws against sexual harassment to help protect workers from harassment from bosses, coworkers or customers while they are at work. Both men and women are protected by law and it is possible for someone of the same sex to sexually harass you. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects against sexual harassment. This law applies to private and public employers, employment agencies, and labor unions with 15 or more employees. This law is amended in California to those with even one employee. Not only do these laws protect against the harassment itself, but they also protect against retaliation.
If you are sexually harassed by someone at your workplace and you report it, that person can not take action against you, as in firing or demoting you to another position (equalrights. org, 2012). The law also says that employers must take action to keep their employees safe at work from sexual harassment. Even though this law is in place, there are no specific actions an employer must take to make sure they are within the law. They may hold a class to educate employees as to what sexual harassment is, or it may be something as small as having a policy in place.
What they have to do, however, is to enforce the policy. If a worker files a complaint about sexual harassment in the workplace and the employer fails to take action or even investigate, they are not upholding the law (equalrights. org, 2012). For an employer to limit it’s liability in cases of sexual harassment, they must have a policy in place that clearly defines what sexual harassment is. They must also train their employees, have an internal complaint procedure in place and have consequences for the violators of the policy. Each year that goes by, the awareness of sexual harassment increases.
Employers have to be proactive in trying to prevent it and also be aware of the benefits in doing so (Crucet, 2010). The law also states that the harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, to be considered sexual harassment, if you are making offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, if someone in a work environment told a joke that was considered offensive to women in general, that could be considered sexual harassment (eeoc. gov, 2012). Several years ago, I worked in an environment with a predominately male staff. The men were in and out of the office working on the golf course most of the day.
At times, they would come into the office in a group, continuing the conversation they had been having. Often times, these conversations were offensive in nature to women. Although I personally did not have a problem with it, and I know that there remarks were not directed about me or about me in any way, this could have been considered sexual harassment. Since I never complained, the men continued and even though it made me somewhat uncomfortable at times, I just let it go. There was another coworker who worked closely with me, but in a different department.
She would have to come to my office often to work with me on certain projects. One day, the men came in, talking like they usually did and this woman caught the tail end of their conversation. She asked me if they talked like this often, and if so, did it bother me. I assured her it did not happen that often, and that I was not bothered by it. Several weeks later, the same thing happened. After this instance, she reported the incident to superiors and all of my male coworkers and myself were questioned. They all received warnings and were very careful in the future about what they said at work.
I realized then, that I probably should have said something to the men about taking more care with their conversations while at work. Even though I was not personally bothered, I knew that it was offensive upon hearing some of the subjects they would talk about. If I would have mentioned it to them, that some may find it offensive, it could have saved us all trouble in the long run. Another occurrence of harassment that I have known about personally, happened to my Sister In Law. She worked in a very small office with two male superiors.
One superior, whom she directly reported to, traveled a lot for the company and was only in the office a few days a week. In his absence, she directly reported to the other male superior in the office. Around the time that the senior manager began traveling, the other manager was going through some problems in his personal life. He began to take out his frustrations on my sister-in-law and make comments to her saying things like “all women are trouble” and making comments related to female issues. Her work environment became very hostile because of the comments and attitude this superior had towards her.
She reported the harassment to her parent company, and eventually, after a few complaints, they took away his authority over her. She only reported to the senior manager, and when he was not there, she would wait to speak to him or for him to return before any decisions were made. In both of these instances, neither case went to court and they were settled in office. Some sexual harassment cases are not settled so easily, and in fact, some are quite famous. The five largest sexual harassment cases in U. S. history are: 1. Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill – This was actually the case that brought sexual harassment to light in the U.
S. The first sexual harassment judgment was actually made in 1976, but the Clarence Thomas’ 1991 confirmation hearings made people more aware of what sexual harassment really is. These hearings were televised, and the country watched while Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexually harassing female colleagues. Since these were never official claims in a lawsuit, Ms. Hills claims were neither proved nor disproven. Thomas’ nomination was approved by the senate, but barely. The year after these hearings, the number of sexual harassment cases doubled.
2. President Bill Clinton/Paula Jones – When President Clinton was the governor of Arkansas, Paula Jones was a state employee. Ms. Jones claimed that President Clinton exposed himself to her and while in a hotel room, asked her for oral sex. Clinton denied all of the allegations and eventually Jones’ lawsuit was dismissed for failing to state a claim. A settlement was reached during the appeals process and Ms. Jones dropped her suit against Clinton for $850,000. Even though a settlement was reached, Ms. Jones did not receive an admission of guilt or an apology from Clinton.
The Tailhook Convention – This scandal involved sexual allegations against the U. S. military. Former Navy lieutenant Paula Coughlin alleged she was sexually assaulted. She was just one of more than 80 women, that claimed the same. The alleged assailants were Naval and Marine officers that were attending a conference in Las Vegas. She later left the Navy, claiming that they failed to investigate her claims and then retaliated against her for “whistleblowing. ” In the end, she sued the hotel because they did not provide adequate security. She was awarded over $6 million in damages.
4. Mitsubishi Motors Manufacturing – In 1998, Mitsubishi agreed to pay $34 million to female workers from it’s Normal, Illinois plant. Mitsubishi was charged with allowing a hostile work environment there since 1990. In addition, they also paid out several more million in individual suits. Many women quit, due to being routinely fondled, told obscene jokes and subjected to crude graffiti. Other women who tried to gain promotions, were denied when they refused to engage in sexual acts in exchange for promotions. Now, the company has a zero tolerance policy in place for sexual harassment. . The University of Colorado Football Program – The football program was charged with sexual harassment by two women. The two women allege that they were sexually assaulted in 2001 at an off campus party where Colorado football players and recruits were in attendance. They claim that the University fosters the atmosphere that led to the assaults by trying to draw in high school recruits by throwing sex and alcohol parties. This is different from the workplace sexual harassment cases, as this case was filed under Title IX, which promotes gender equality in education.
Title IX requires proof that the school had notice of the harassment, and then did nothing about it. The case was thrown out of U. S. District court, but the women have appealed. The University did fund an independent investigation however, and found that drugs, alcohol and sex were used to help sway recruits. These tactics were not sanctioned by university officials, and now the school has very strict recruitment policies. (Fabio, 2006). These are just some examples of sexual harassment cases that gained notoriety, mainly in the media. On the rise at the present time, are cases of same sex harassment.
In 2009, sixteen percent of sexual harassment cases filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, were filed by men, which is up from twelve percent the decade before. Same sex harassment lawsuits have only been recognized by the courts since 1998, and it doesn’t matter whether the victim is straight or gay, if they are being harassed in a way that makes them uncomfortable, they are being sexually harassed. Men are beginning to feel more comfortable in speaking up about sexual harassment, and now that the courts recognize these cases, they feel justified in bringing the complaints to the attention of the courts or their employers.
There is also less of a stigma attached to men filing these suits, in our current society (Figueroa, 2010). In the case of workplace sexual harassment, it is not a question of legality vs. morality. Sexual harassment is wrong in all cases. Whether or not the harassment gets reported is the issue. As discussed earlier in this paper, some people (including myself) have a higher tolerance for harassment than other people do. Even though my tolerance is high, it does not mean that I have not experience sexual harassment, and just because I didn’t report it, does not mean that it was not wrong.
It is always wrong. In my personal case, it would have been helpful if I had mentioned to the men in my office that the stories they were telling could be seen by some as offensive. Had I taken this step, it would have saved us all some time and trouble down the road. Luckily, this went no further than our office and it was settled. If a person is being harassed at work, there are some steps they can take to make sure that their case is valid if they decide to take it to a superior or to court. * Be clear when you say “no. ” The offender needs to know that what they are saying is offensive.
Put it in writing if necessary. * Make sure the harassment is reported. Tell a supervisor or the human resources department. Keep copies of all written complaints. If the harasser is a superior, go above them. * Have everything in writing, so that a paper trail is started. * Review personnel file. It is every employee’s right to review their personnel file. * If the company has a grievance procedure, follow that. * Involve a union, when applicable. * File a lawsuit. (equalrights. org, 2012). In some cases of sexual harassment, they can be dealt with by speaking to the employee and working out the problem. In some cases, these problems will go on to be settled by the courts. In these cases, there are firm laws to help employees and employers.
Cruet, Carimercy; Graells, Jessica; Cabral, Stephanie; Lane, Samuel. Allied Academies International Conference. Academy of Legal, Ethical and Regulatory Issues. Proceedings14. 1 (2010): 16-20. Eeoc. gov, 2012, Sexual Harassment. Retrieved from: http://www. eeoc. gov/laws/types/sexual_harassment. cfm Equalrights. org, 2012, Know Your Rights, Sexual Harassment at Work. Retrieved from: http://www. equalrights. org/publications/kyr/shwork. sp Fabio, Michelle, 2006, Five Biggest Sexual Harassment Cases. Retrieved from: http://www. legalzoom. com/legal-headlines/corporate-lawsuits/five-biggest-sexual-harassment-cases Figueroa, Alissa, 2010, Workplace Harassment: Same Sex Harassment Cases are on the Rise. Retrieved from: http://www. csmonitor. com/Business/new-economy/2010/0721/Workplace-harassment-Same-sex-sexual-harassment-cases-are-on-the-rise Liuzzo, A. L. (2013). Essentials of Business Law (8th ed. ). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Higher Education. ISBN: 9780073511856 Un. org, 2012, What is Sexual Harassment? Retrieved from: http://www. un. org/womenwatch/osagi/pdf/whatissh. pdf