Sexual Harassment is a common rights issue at the place of work. There is increased concern over the concept of tangible employment action as a punishment for committing the vice (Petrocelli & Repa, 1995). There is an increased need for the concepts that are a basis of harassment litigation in the corporate environment so that they can create policies that keep minimizing the legal implication of the vice.
Sexual Harassment is considered by the state as a form of discrimination and is an illegal act as it violates Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act (1964). In the context of the workplace, sexual harassment is considered to be the continued, unwelcome advances for sexual favors by an employee on his/her colleague (Boland, 2005). Under the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual Harassment is said to have occurred if implicit or explicit submission or rejection to the advances affected individuals working environment by either making it intimidating, offensive or hostile in so doing the productivity of the worker is reduced. The vice manifests itself in various forms, and thus there is a need to have a thorough look at it.
Nature of Sexual Harassment
Sexual Harassment is often not about sex but rather abuse of authority. Many perpetrators often try to convince themselves and their victims that it is about romantic interests. Most harassers pose as Good Samaritans so that they can put their target in a position that resistance to his/her advances will be minimal.
It is common for those in the position of power to involve in sexual Harassment, though there have been a few selected cases where the subordinates have been reported for having sexually harassed their superior.
In addition to lack of power, trends in sexual Harassment show that the perpetrators often target victims based on their age, assertiveness, naiveté, and general vulnerability, though this does not mean that the individuals who display these characteristics should be harassed. When confronted, the perpetrators often act as if they are the victims. The nature of sexual Harassment is quite diverse and dynamic though it can generally be viewed in the following dimensions.
Public vs. Private Harassers
The public harassers are so open about their attitudes towards subordinates and colleagues. These kinds of harassers are characterized by a show-off attitude and a sexist approach to conversation. On the contrary, the private harasser displays a restrained and rather conservative demeanor which changes dramatically when they are isolated from their target.
Untouchables vs. the Risk Taker
This is a classification based on consequence consideration. The untouchable often consider them to be in a position that they cannot be reprimanded for their action. On the other hand, the risk-taker is quite aware of the dangers sexual abuse may put him but decides to take the risk.
Seducer-Demander vs. Passive- Initiator
The seducer-demander actively plots the encounter, and in so doing, his/her position plays a great role. The harassers in this category seek their victims’ affection even though they harass their victims. They generally use favors as a way of getting their way to the victim. On the other hand, the passive initiator does not make the first move but always behaves in a manner to suggest.
Infatuated Vs. Sexual Conqueror
The sexual conqueror is only concerned with engaging many people in his/her sexual scene; on the other hand; the infatuated has a specific target which is often a less powerful individual whom she/he pursues with all within his/her reach.
Discrimination is a social vice and should be discouraged by any means possible. Society, after a thorough analysis, has come up with four classes that have over time determined an individual’s ability to harass another person. Society has thus put in place mechanisms to ensure that discrimination in those areas is limited by declaring those classes as protected. In American society, the protected classes are categorized according to:
- Race and Colour
Role of managers in Prevention and investigation
Management and supervision are important in ensuring that the employees’ performance is optimal and that they are quite comfortable with the corporate environment provided by the organization. Any form of Harassment in the organization is detrimental to its performance and culture, and therefore, the effects of such are felt several years after. Therefore, managers and supervisors are charged with the responsibility of ensuring that any form of Harassment within the organizational context is dealt with thoroughly to ensure the organization’s present and future.
The first step in ensuring that the organization is free of Harassment is taking a step to address the issue. When an employee reports a case involving sexual Harassment to the boss, he/she is obliged to take steps towards addressing the issue. Most organizations have adopted severe punishment modes for the perpetrators of such vices as a means of curbing them. A show of confidence by the bosses in dealing with cases of sexual Harassment will restore the employees’ faith in their resolve to deal with the vice.
The area of sexual Harassment is so wide as there are several issues that must be put into consideration while discussing this vice. They include:
- Sexual Harassment is not necessarily between employees of different gender since same-sex sexual Harassment has kept at per with the growth of homosexuality.
- Anyone employee can be guilty or be a victim of sexual Harassment, despite their age, professional status, and experience.
- The victims of sexual Harassment are not just those who are directly affected by the Harassment but also those who come to learn of the vice. For instance, if staff members learn of the unfair treatment given to their colleague as a result of his/her relationship with a supervisor, the other employees could press charges as they are being harassed by being given unequal treatment.
- The policy adopted by the organization in dealing with sexual Harassment must encourage communication between the perpetrator and the victim. The victim must be encouraged to present her opinion to the perpetrator on how she really feels about the advances.
- Sexual Harassment does not occur only in situations where the victim is bound to benefit.
- When an employee feels that she/he is sexually harassed, they should use the complaint system put in place by the organization to address the issue. The investigations should follow a well-laid-out procedure as stated by the organization’s policies.
- The boss or employer is charged with the moral and legal obligation to follow up on the claims and deal with the perpetrators.
- Retaliation is not accepted as treating the perpetrator or the victim differently after punishing the offender is tantamount to Harassment to either the concerned party or the other employees.
Sexual Harassment can occur in very varied situations; this is because it depends on the intent of the perpetrator and the perception of the victim. Some of the most common examples of Sexual Harassment include:
- Offensive clothing, words, gestures, and jokes.
- Unwanted physical contact.
- Repeated request for dates and flirting that is uncalled for.
- Posting or displaying media that have sexually explicit content.
- Display of sexually explicit or suggestive objects and pictures.
- Playing music or media that is sexually suggestive.
The policies put in place by organizations should clearly state the organizations’ approach to sexual Harassment. Furthermore, there is a need to put up mechanisms that can be used in handling several issues that include:
- Sexual harassment policy.
- General policy to handle Harassment.
- A policy that handles investigation is conducted in the company.
- A policy that forbids any employee in a supervisory role from engaging in intimate relationships with his/her subjects.
Sexual Harassment is made up of a wide range of behavior, and thus there is confusion about the subject. Sexual Harassment largely relies on the victims’ uncertainty on the behavior of the aggressor, and unlike rape, it is not quite defined as the victims rarely recognize it or even realize its negative effects. There are differential rates in the willingness of the victim to accept the situation as it really is.
This unwillingness is translated to the people in the environment in which the Harassment is taking place. As a result, the behavior has the effect of increasing the level of confusion on the victims’ part. Society also brands malice on the victim when they speak out of being harassed (StoVAW, 1998). For these reasons, most victims never report their experiences, and thus, most cases go unreported. In cases where the victim has disclosed the details of the vice, he/she is viewed with suspicion. Thus the healing process is affected by this negative attitude.
There are several factors that hinder the clear distinction of sexual Harassment.
- Confusion: This is a result of failure on the victims’ part to comprehend what is really happening.
- Embarrassment: The society’s view on the subject and the stigma associated with it makes it impossible for the victim to relate his experiences as they will be embarrassed by the experience. This leads to numbing as the patients want to distance themselves emotionally from things and situations that may remind them of the Harassment.
- Victim blaming: This is a very common phenomenon where instead of the aggressor being blamed, the victim is forced to take the blame. This is common in cases where the victim might have placed himself in a position that makes him/her prone to sexual Harassment. This phenomenon has led to invalidation as victims feel that no one would believe them, so they see no need for reporting.
- Guilt: It is normal for the victim to blame himself for being harassed; this is a subconscious reaction and can be overcome by the victim’s empowerment of his rights.
- Shame: Sex is generally associated with shame, especially outside the marriage institution, and therefore any sex-related harassment is as shameful to the victim as it is to the perpetrator when brought to light.
- Denial: This is seen in the failure of the victim to accept the facts as they really are. Furthermore, the victims may try to subconsciously tell themselves that the ordeal is not such a big deal when it really is. In cases where the ordeal has been going on for some time, the victim may adapt to the vice and view it as normal.
- Fear: In cases where the victim has been threatened, they do not disclose the ordeal for fear of being reproached by the aggressor. Furthermore, in a heterosexual society, same-gender sexual Harassment often raises an eyebrow on the sexual orientation of the accused.
Effects of Sexual Harassment
The effects of sexual Harassment vary depending on the person, duration, people involved, and nature of the Harassment (Sexual Harassment Support, 2008). The effects also vary from psychological, physical to environmental. The following are some of the common effects of sexual harassment on the victim.
- Decreased performance as the psychological effect of the ordeal greatly affects the dynamics involved in working.
- There is also increased absenteeism as the culprits psychologically try to avoid the situation that awaits them at the workplace.
- There is a general weakening of the support system offered to the victim as friends often distance themselves from the victim.
- There is a risk of trauma and stress.
- Loss of self-esteem and low confidence in oneself.
- Loss of interest in sex.
- Withdrawal, isolation, and the victim may even become suicidal.
The remedies to sexual Harassment are varied in nature and may vary from state to state. The nature of sexual Harassment makes seeking legal redress very complicated. In remedying the situation, it is important to address the victim as well as the perpetrator as both are affected by the situation (Long & Leonard, 1999). Most systems have failed in doing the latter, as much focus in the remedial process is on the victim and neglects the perpetrator. The laws formulated to protect workers from sexual Harassment have approached the subject in two ways: As discrimination and as an issue related to health and safety in the workplace.
The concept of discrimination in the laws implies that they are designed to protect a vulnerable group from inappropriate social behavior (Monks & Minow, 2003). Therefore, from this viewpoint, the law is implemented to remove any obstacles that may face the vulnerable group in integrating with the workforce. These laws, therefore, seek to protect the civil rights of the victims at their place of work.
The perspective of dignity, safety, and health, places sexual Harassment in the context of legal protection, notwithstanding the position as being vulnerable or not.
The law in this context includes labor laws, contract provisions, and tort laws. This second perspective also focuses more on the safety of the victim as the discrimination is seen to violate his/her safety requirements. Different countries have different models; the U.S. model is more of a mixture of the two perspectives though the perspectives may shift greatly if there is evidence of vulnerability. There is, therefore no clearly defined remedial mechanism though they all do the following:
- Reprimand the perpetrator.
- I was counseling the victim and the perpetrators.
- They are putting up mechanisms to ensure that sexual Harassment is minimized. This may include placing tough sanctions on the perpetrators, promoting communication and reporting within the organizations, improving the investigation process as sexual harassment claims are full of uncertainty and lastly ensuring that all investigations are done in an open manner without punishment made clear to all so that any person who may harbor such evil thoughts may think twice before implementing them.
There has been an increase in cases of sexual Harassment in recent times, and therefore the society can no longer afford to keep its mouth shut while the vice slows affect productivity in most sectors of the economy. The legal issues and the uncertainty associated with the vice are a few of the issues that must be addressed if society is to reduce the incidences of the vice to acceptable levels (O’Shea, T. & LaLonde, 1998).
In summary, there is a need for the corporate world to carefully analyze its environment and put up proper mechanisms that will ensure sexual Harassment at the place of work is a thing of the past.
Boland, M. L. (2005). Sexual Harassment: The Place of Work. Naperville: Sphinx Pub.
Long, E. S. & Leonard, G. C. (1999). The Changing face of sexual Harassment. HR Focus, New York.
Monks, A. R. & Minow, N.(2003). Corporate governance. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.
O’Shea, T. & LaLonde, J. (1998). Sexual Harassment: A Practical Guide to the Law, New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
Petrocelli, W. & Repa, K. B. (1995). Sexual Harassment on the Job. Berkeley: Nolo Press.
Sexual Harassment Support (2008). Effects of Sexual Harassment. Web.
StoVAW (1998). Effects of Sexual Harassment. Web.