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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Can Occur Anywhere

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    Jordan Fuller Randall Erikson BUS 365 14 November 2012 Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Sexual harassment can occur anywhere, especially in the workplace. In fact, approximately 15,000 sexual harassment cases are brought to the attention of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) each year. (Risman) This does not include actions brought privately by sexual harassment attorneys. This type of harassment is not only damaging to the victim and the harasser, but also to the organization involved and could potentially cost them a lot of money. Sexual harassment is not only unethical; it is illegal.

    Managers and other individuals of authority are ethically obligated to ensure that they, their coworkers and their subordinates never engage in this type of conduct, even unintentionally. Victims of sexual harassment can be both men and women, and their harassers do not have to be of the opposite sex. However, women are the most frequent victims of sexual harassment. Women who are employed in male-dominated occupations or positions stereotypically associated with certain gender relationships, such as a female secretary reporting to a male boss, are more likely to be sexually harassed. Of the 607 women surveyed by the National Association for Female Executives, 60% indicated that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment. ” (Jones, George 169) According to the EEOC’s website, sexual harassment is described as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment and when this conduct explicitly and implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, there are two types of sexual harassment: hostile working environment and quid pro quo. Hostile working environment sexual harassment consists of actions such as telling lewd jokes, displaying pornography, making sexually oriented remarks about someone’s personal appearance, and other sex-related actions that make the work environment unpleasant. (Jones, George 169) Courts have held employers and harassers liable for this type of harassment. A hostile work environment interferes with an employee’s ability to perform their jobs effectively and is considered illegal.

    Claims of hostile working environments are very “fact intensive. ” (Sexual Harassment That Creates a Hostile Work Environment) There are various circumstances that are severe or persuasive enough in order to constitute a legal violation. Managers who engage in this type of harassment or allow others to do so risk costly lawsuits for their employer. For example, in February 2004 a federal jury awarded Marion Schwab $3. 24 million after reflecting on her sexual harassment case against FedEx.

    From 1997 to 2000, Schwab was the only female tractor-trailer driver at the FedEx facility serving the Harrisburg International Airport vicinity in Middletown, PA. During her employment at the facility she was the target of sexual suggestions, given more work assignments, and was the center of derogatory comments about her appearance and the role of women in society. The breaks on her truck were tampered with five times also. The EEOC sued FedEx and Schwab was a part of that lawsuit. (Jones, George 169-70) Quid pro quo is Latin for “this for that. This type of sexual harassment can occur when an employee is asked or forced to perform sexual favors in exchange for job benefits. These benefits can include employment, promotion, salary increases, shift or work assignments, performance expectations or other conditions of employment. It can also occur if rejection of a sexual advance or request for a sexual favor results in the loss of job benefits as described above. (Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment) This type of sexual harassment is prohibited as a matter of criminal law as a form of sex discrimination or as a violation of labor or tort law.

    Offense in a quid pro quo case is directly related to the individual’s basis for employment or the terms of employment decisions affecting the victim. (Roberts, Mann) When this type of harassment occurs, the employee has the legal right to take their employer to court. The legal relationship between an employer and an employee is called an agency. The employer is known as the principal and the employee as an agent. The theory behind respondeat superior is that the principal controls the agent’s behavior and therefore must assume some responsibility for their actions.

    The company is strictly liable even if it had no knowledge of the conduct because the courts follow the doctrine of respondeat superior. (Respondeat Superior) Respondeat superior is a common-law doctrine that states that an employer is liable for the actions of the employee when the actions occur within the scope of their employment. It was established in 17th century England and adopted by the United States. This doctrine allows injured parties to have a better chance at recovering damages resulting from sexual harassment. (Respondeat Superior) In the Henson v.

    City of Dundee, Barbara Henson stated that the chief of the Dundee police department subjected her and her female coworker to sexual harassment. She alleged that the harassment ultimately led her to resign under duress. (Henson v. city of Dundee) In 1982, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit set forth the rationale of a company’s strict liability. It reasoned: “the supervisor uses the means furnished to him by the employer to accomplish the prohibited purpose. He acts within the scope of his actual or apparent authority to “hire, fire, discipline or promote. …Because the supervisor is acting within at least the apparent scope of his authority entrusted to him by the employer when he makes employment decisions, his conduct can fairly be imputed to the source of his authority. ” (Roberts, Mann) The effects of sexual harassment go farther beyond a lawsuit. Those victimized of this kind of conduct may suffer deeper more personal issues. The effects of sexual harassment vary from person to person. They also depend on the severity and duration. Sexual harassment is considered a form of sexual assault and victims can suffer the same psychological effects as rape victims.

    After retaliation they can become a target of retaliation, backlash or blame from their aggravated harasser. (Effects of Sexual Harassment) Depending on the situation, a victim of this type of harassment can experience feelings of mild annoyance to extreme psychological damage. Like many other types of discrimination, sexual harassment can be prevented. As previously stated, managers are ethically obligated to ensure that they, their coworkers and their subordinates never engage in sexual harassment. Managers must follow four initial steps in order to deal with urrent problems and prevent new ones from occurring. The first step is to develop and clearly communicate a sexual harassment policy that is endorsed by top management. This policy should prohibit both quid pro quo and hostile work environment sexual harassment. It should include examples of the types of behavior that are not accepted and a procedure for employees to use when reporting incidents. It should also include a discussion of disciplinary actions that will be taken if harassment has taken place and a commitment to educate and train organizational members about the subject.

    The second step is to use a fair complaint system to investigate accused persons of sexual harassment. This procedure should be managed by a neutral third party and ensure that complaints are dealt with promptly and thoroughly. It should protect and treat victims fairly. It should also ensure that alleged harassers are treated fairly. The third step is to take corrective action as soon as possible when it has been determined that sexual harassment has taken place. These actions may vary depending on he severity of the situation.

    When harassment is extensive, prolonged, of quid pro quo measures or severely objectionable in another manner, corrective actions may include termination of employment. The last and final step is to provide sexual harassment education ad training to all organizational members, including managers. For example, DuPont, a Fortune 500 firm, developed a “Matter of Respect” program to educate their employees about sexual harassment and eliminate its occurrence. The program consists of a four-hour workshop in which the participants are given information intended to define sexual harassment.

    It also sets forth the company’s policy against the issue and explains how to report complaints and access a 24-hour hotline. (Jones, George 170) By following these four steps to prevent sexual harassment, organizations are able to educate their employees. When an organization educates its employees about intolerable conduct and its consequences, they are decreasing their chances of ending up with a lawsuit. Sexual harassment is illegal and should not be taken lightly or as a joke. The effects of this type of conduct not only affect the victim but also its harasser and the employer.

    Both women and men can be victims of sexual harassment and the harasser does not necessarily need to be of the opposite sex. Of the two types of sexual harassment, a hostile working environment is the most common. The other type of sexual harassment, quid pro quo is the more severe of the two. In quid pro quo cases, an organization may be liable of harasser because of the respondeat superior doctrine. The effects of sexual harassment can go far beyond a lawsuit. Victims and harassers can be affected emotionally and psychologically, depending on the situations.

    All this can be prevented by taking four initial steps: develop and communicate a sexual harassment policy, use a fair complaint system to investigate instances, take corrective action when sexual harassment has been determined and provide sexual harassment education and training for all organizational members. By becoming aware of sexual harassment laws and educating its employees an organization can prevent themselves from the negative effects of sexual harassment. Works Cited “Effects of Sexual Harassment. ” Welcome to Workharassment. net. N. p. , n. d. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www. workharassment. net/index. php/effects-of-sexual arassment. html>. Henson v. City of Dundee, 682 F. 2d 897 (11th Cir. 1982). Jones, Gareth R. , and Jennifer M. George. “Sexual Harassment. ” Contemporary Management. New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin, 2011. 169-70. Print. “Respondeat Superior. ” TheFreeDictionary. com. Farlex, n. d. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://legal-dictionary. thefreedictionary. com/Respondeat superior>. Risman, Maya. “Workplace Sexual Harassment Scary Stats. ” Understanding Your Rights (2012): n. pag. Law Offices of Maya Risman, P. C. 19 Jan. 2012. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www. risman-law. com/2012/01/workplace-sexual-harassment scary-stats/>.

    Roberts, Barry S. , and Richard A. Mann. “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: A Primer. ” Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: A Primer. N. p. , n. d. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www3. uakron. edu/lawrev/robert1. html>. “Sexual Harassment That Creates a Hostile Work Environment. ” Stop Violence Against Women. Advocates of Human Rights, n. d. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www. stopvaw. org/sexual_harassment_that_creates_a_hostile_work_e vironment>. “Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment. ” Stop Violence Against Women. Advocates of Human Rights, n. d. Web. 14 Nov. 2012. <http://www. stopvaw. org/quid_pro_quo_sexual_harassment>.

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