A Case Study on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Table of Content

The case involves a woman named Paula who is being sexually harassed by a coworker named Richard at her place of employment. Paula is new to the company. She has only been employed there for three months. When Paula looked in the employee’s handbook, she discovered that the company did not have a sexual harassment policy. Paula’s manager, Steve, asked her to investigate what could be done about this problem. Paula has several options.

She can ignore the situation and hope it goes away, she could confront the coworker who is harassing her, she could quit her job, or she could suggest to her manager that the company put a sexual harassment policy into place. Implementing a sexual harassment policy would be the best solution to this problem. It would help to end the sexual harassment that Paula is enduring and prevent future incidents of sexual harassment within the company. Implementing a sexual harassment policy would require researching the laws on sexual harassment and making sure the wording in the policy is correct.

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Case Background and Overview The sexual harassment case is about a woman named Paula who works in the production department of a medium-size company. Paula’s coworker, Richard, has been harassing Paula for the past month by making inappropriate sexual comments and jokes. This has been making Paula uncomfortable and unable to focus on her work. She looked in the employee’s handbook to find the company’s policy on sexual harassment and discovered that there was no such policy in place. Paula’s boss, Steve, noticed that Paula’s work performance was declining.

When he asked Paula what was wrong, she explained the problem to him. She showed him information about U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) laws concerning sexual harassment in the workplace that she had found in a human resources textbook and said that she was considering taking legal action against Richard. Steve told Paula that something needed to be done. He asked her to look into what the company needed to do to stop this problem from occurring now and in the future (Helms, 1992). Problem Identification and Analysis Sexual harassment in the workplace is the root problem in this case.

There are two types of sexual harassment. This first is quid pro quo. This type of sexual harassment occurs when a person in charge demands sexual favors from a subordinate as a condition of receiving or keeping a job, promotion, or benefit. The second type of sexual harassment is hostile environment. This occurs when a co-worker or supervisor subjects an employee to unwelcome and inappropriate sexually based behavior that causes the employee’s work environment to be hostile, intimidating or offensive but does not result in their job, a promotion, or benefit being affected (Schickman, n. . ). There are also different categories of employees who engage in the sexual harassment of women at work, the most prevalent being supervisors (see Figure 1, p. 11). In this case, the sexual harassment is affecting Paula’s work performance. In general, sexual harassment violates a person’s civil rights. It may cause an individual humiliation, loss of dignity, psychological (and sometimes physical) injury, and damage to career or reputation (Roberts & Mann, n. d. ). Sexual harassment may also be costly to a company.

When sexual harassment is occurring within a company, it can experience absenteeism, low productivity, increased health-care costs, poor morale, and higher employee turnover which all cost a company money. Bad press about a company involved in a sexual harassment case can damage a company’s image, costing a company not only its reputation, but also loss of customers and revenues (Roberts & Mann, n. d. ). Lawsuits resulting from sexual harassment claims are another big cost to companies involved in sexual harassment claims. Jury awards frequently reach $500,000, including punitive damages (Bowman, n. d. ).

The EEOC has been handling over 10,000 cases of sexual harassment every year (see Figure 2, p. 12). A company has an obligation to ensure that its employees do not have to work in a hostile environment. It is important that a company has procedures in place to prevent sexual harassment. Alternative Solutions Ignore the Problem Paula has several options on what to do about the sexual harassment issue she is having. One option would be for her to ignore the problem and hope it goes away. This solution would probably not be good because the problem has been going on for about a month now and is not likely to stop if the problem is not addressed.

Confront the Wrongdoer A second option would be for Paula to confront Richard herself and let him know that he is making her uncomfortable and that it is affecting her work. This solution may work if Richard chooses to respect her feelings. However, it also has the potential to backfire on Paula and make things worse for her if Richard is actually enjoying making her uncomfortable. Quit the Job Another option would be for Paula to quit her job and find employment elsewhere. However, it may be difficult for her to find a new job and she should not have to leave a job she likes because of the wrongful actions of another employee.

Richard’s behavior is unlawful and completely inappropriate and should be addressed by the company’s management. Implement a Sexual Harassment Policy A final option would be for Paula to suggest that management implement a sexual harassment policy. In the United States, sexual harassment is a form of discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Heathfield, n. d. ). Sexual harassment policies are very effective in keeping employees safe in the workplace. Employees should be treated professionally and with respect.

All employees should have full knowledge of what the company policy entails and what they need to do if this happens to them. A policy will allow for appropriate disciplinary measures for those engaging in sexual harassment and eventually lead to the termination of the wrongdoer. It will help protect all employees and keep a safe and unthreatening work environment for everybody. Decision and Recommendation The best solution for the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace would be for Paula to suggest to her manager that the company implement a sexual harassment policy.

Sexual harassment is unlawful and illegal. Harassment becomes illegal when it is so constant and severe that is creates a hostile work environment. It involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and any other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature (“Sexual Harassment,” n. d. ). Of all the alternative solutions, implementing a sexual harassment policy would be the most effective in solving the problem. It would not only protect Paula from future sexual harassment, but would also prevent other employees from having to deal with sexual harassment in the future.

Sexual harassment policies protect employees by providing a guideline on disciplining those who engage in sexual harassment, starting with a warning and leading to possible termination of employment for the wrongdoer if the harassment continues and creates a hostile environment. When sexual harassment occurs, it not only affects the person being harassed, but also creates an uncomfortable working environment for any other employee involved. A sexual harassment policy will help keep everyone in the company safe and capable of fulfilling all of their duties effectively.

Backup Plan If the company implements a sexual harassment policy and it does not stop Richard from harassing Paula, another option would be to report it to the police, especially if the sexual harassment became physical. She may be able to get a restraining order on Richard which would stop the harassment. However, this should be used only in the event that the policy does not stop the harassment. While it would protect Paula, calling the police in on the matter has the potential to cause more conflict at work and to maintain a hostile working environment.

Implementation To implement a sexual harassment policy, the company’s management or human resources department should research the laws on sexual harassment. The person that is working on putting the policy together should keep in mind that sometimes relationships do form in the work place, and that is why the definition of sexual harassment needs to be clearly defined. The first thing that should be done when trying to come up with a policy is to establish a definition of sexual harassment that will protect all employees.

The definition should be broad enough to include both male and female employees, whether they are supervisors or just entry-level associates. According to Mark Schickman (n. d. ), the definition of sexual harassment should include illegal discrimination of any kind and unwelcome advances such as requests for sexual favors and verbal, visual, and physical conduct of a sexual nature. The definition should also state that there be no tolerance for any kind of intimidating, hostile, or offensive behavior that may affect a person’s performance at work.

The policy will name a decision maker, which is normally the company president or the human resource department supervisor. This is the person that will make the final decision on all cases involving sexual harassment. The policy will also contain a prevention policy. This policy will outline the consequences for being involved in any kind of harassment in the work place. These consequences will include warnings, reprimands, suspension, and dismissal. The company will be required to put up posters that let their employees know that it has a harassment free policy in place.

The company will require that all employees attend training to make them aware of what kind of conduct could be construed as sexual harassment and what the consequences of such conduct will be. The policy will ensure that any person complaining about sexual harassment, or coming forward as a witness to sexual harassment, will be protected from any form of retaliation. . The company policy will include the type of investigation that will take place if the company suspects or receives a report that an employee is being harassed.

This policy will ensure that employees understand what to expect and may even help prevent sexual harassment from happening. There will also be a time requirement for reporting harassment and a reporting procedure. The reporting procedure will include a list names and phone numbers that an employee can contact in the event harassment takes place. The reporting procedure will also include the steps that should be taken and the order in which they are to be taken if an employee is getting harassed. This will help the employee understand the steps the supervisor is taking.

The harassment policy will also explain how an employee should conduct themselves in the case that a relationship in the workplace occurs. After all of these key elements are in place in the policy, the company should include any other items that it thinks will be necessary for the policy to work. All those involved in writing and implementing the policy will then all get together and go over the research of the laws that was done and make sure that the wording and policies that have been set to take place are correct and that the company as a whole agrees on the policy.

After the policy is agreed upon, the company will set forth a mandatory employee meeting. At the meeting the employees will be notified that the policy will be implemented as soon as possible and that all employees are expected to sign and fully understand the policy. Conclusion Sexual harassment in the workplace is a problem that affects both employees and employers. In order to protect its employees’ rights, keep employees productive, and avoid costly litigation, a company should have a sexual harassment policy in place.

The policy should include a clear procedure for handling sexual harassment complaints as well as disciplinary actions that will be taken against wrongdoers. A company should also provide education on sexual harassment to its employees and training for supervisors and managers on how to deal with complaints. The implementation of sexual harassment policies in companies would go a long way in preventing this problem. References Bowman, D. (n. d. ). The problem of sexual harassment. Retrieved from TTG Consultants website: http://www. ttgconsultants. com//. tml Heathfield, S. M. (n. d. ). Sexual harassment. Retrieved from http://humanresources. about. com Helma, M. M. (1992). Sexual harassment. Retrieved from Tepper School of Business website: http://wpweb2. tepper. cmu. edu///-case. pdf Roberts, B. S. , & Mann, R. A. (n. d. ). Sexual harassment in the workplace: A primer. Retrieved from The University of Akron website: http://www3. uakron. edu//. html Schickman, M. I. (n. d. ). Sexual harassment: The employer’s role in prevention. Retrieved from American Bar Association website: http://www. americanbar. rg////_solo_magazine_home/_solo_magazine_index/shi. ht ml Sexual harassment. (n. d. ). Retrieved from U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website: http://www. eeoc. gov/harassment Wolfe, L. (n. d. ). 7 steps to take if you have been sexually harassed at work. Retrieved from http://womeninbusiness. about. com//harassment//-Steps-To-Take-If-You-Have-Been-Sexually-Harassed-At-Work. htm Appendix Figure 1. According to a telephone poll conducted by the law firm Louis Harris and Associates on 782 workers, 31% of female workers claim to have been harassed at work.

Of that 31%, the most common type of employee to harass a woman is their supervisor. Adapted from Sexual harassment statistics in the workplace. (n. d. ). Retrieved from http://www. sexualharssmentlaw firms/com/Sexual-Harassment-statistics. cfm Figure 2. Graph of the number of sexual harassment cases received by the EEOC each year from 2000-2010. Adapted from Sexual Harassment Charges EEOC & FEPAs Combined: FY 1997 – FY 2010. (n. d. ). Retrieved from U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website: http://www. eeoc. gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/sexual_harassment. com

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