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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

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    Sexual harassment in the workplace has been of public concern but the authorities and those concerned are taking very little attention towards it. The media or the press has been in the forefront in highlighting this vice but their efforts are being curtailed by those who are supposed to take action in stopping this unbecoming, unethical and unprofessional behavior. Sexual harassment can be defined as any unwelcome behaviour of a sexual nature. It seems to be very offensive to the victim but be fun and normal to the perpetrator. This vice almost happens on a daily basis at workplaces. Both male and female are the victims but the women are the most affected because they are perceived by men as the weaker sex, who will either agree to the demands or give some little resistance which sometimes can be thwarted on not by men (Lundy O. & Cowling A., 2000).

     It has been that sexual harassment comes about just because others are using their authority to harass others in order to satisfy their sexual desires which can be described as beastly and inhumane. Others use this form in exchange of favors’. This vice can be of males sexually harassing females or females sexually harassing males or males sexually harassing males or females sexually harassing females at work place. This leaves the affected victims psychologically and mentally traumatized because what has already been done to them is unwelcome and offensive. It happens to people working in any occupation, without regard to age.

    Sexual harassment affects the two genders that is male and female. Sex can refer to the biological differences between women and men. They are generally permanent and universal, while gender can be defined as the socially constructed roles and responsibilities of women and men, in a give culture or location. These roles are influenced by the perceptions and expectations arising from cultural, political, economic, social and religious factors, as well as custom, law, class, ethnicity, and individual or institutional bias. All these e.g. culture, religion, class among others have contributed greatly to sexual harassment.


    For sexual harassment in the workplace, the following thesis could be appropriate for the study; Sexual harassment in the workplace has resulted to the physical, psychological and mental torture of the victim which has led to mistrust, fear, tension and thus undermining work performance of the affected individual

    The study will consider three main issues concerning sexual harassment at the workplace, just to make the public aware of it. This could include the following:

    a)      Why there is a continuous increase of sexual harassment cases in the work place

    b)      The responses and feelings of the victims who have undergone sexual abuse at workplace

    c)      Measures being undertaken by the government, companies and organizations and the community against sexual harassment at work place

    Usually when employees are harassed at work place, they take time to really come into terms with what has happened to them. Most of them are psychologically and mentally tortured in a way that a person can detect by just looking at their faces. Fear can be seen in their eyes and their body language wit those who molested them can be clearly be detected on close observation. This thesis is about finding out the inner feelings which have already hurt the victim, who at may be does not have a forum to raise his /her tribulations on what happened to him/her while at work. Several governments have taken up this issue of sexual harassment at workplace because it has impacted negatively on the work performance of the affected employee.

     Some legal frameworks have already been drawn so as to have an answer to this crime. Women activists through their organizations such as FIDA have come up making the loudest noise on this issue. They have been in the forefront in creating awareness to the public on sexual harassment especially to women. They have also been able to represent the sexually harassed women at work in court on several occasions. This suggests that this topic is very sensitive as it affects the lives of many.

    Research questions

    Several research questions will have to be answered and this includes;

    a)                          Why has it been a habit that employees are sexually harassed and no action takes place?

    b)                           Have the workers been sensitized enough on the respect of each other?

    c)                          What has gone wrong with the ethical issues of work and code of good conduct while at work?

    d)                         Why is it that the government and the concerned companies too long to respond to the accusations of sexually harassed victims?

    These questions will help to guide to get answers to sexual harassment so that an action can be taken.

    Forms of sexual harassment

     Sexual harassment takes place in many forms namely as follows

    a)      Physical – This is done by physically touching, kissing, pinching, hugging and caressing. These acts are meant to weaken or heat up the victim so that he/she can be in a position to respond positively or negatively to the perpetrator.

    b)      Verbal- – This usually comes with requests for sexual, sexual demands being made by the person of the opposite sex or same sex, questions or remarks the sexual life of another person who is the target, comments about the appearance of the body or that of clothes of the victim and giving promises or threats concerning on an employees work conditions in return of seal favours.

    c)      Non verbal – This comes in a form of looking, flirting or staring at someone’s body in a very suggestive way and displaying of sexually materials such as posters which are intended to pass the sexual message to the victim, who is supposed to respond to the message accordingly.

    Sex can refer to the biological differences between women and men. They are generally permanent and universal.

    This vice has to be brought to the attention of the public because many people are suffering in silence. They have decided to keep this problem into themselves so as to save their jobs and marriages. Many have been raped at work and been infected with diseases such as HIV/AIDS which is a killer disease, with some killing themselves or causing a break up in their marriages once one of the partners learns of what is happening at the work place of the other partner. This topic is very interesting because it touches on something which is very interesting and sensitive i.e. sex. It will bring out several isues on how people have bee sexually harassed, some of which could be awful, shameful and primitive. This could call for quick respond to this vice which is actually affecting many workers. This has even affected the work performance of some employees who feel that they are not secure at their job/offices for fear of being sexually harassed.

     A question could be raised as to why the perpetrators on this inhuman act go scot-free after doing the act. Most of these cases are never reported and usually happens between two people. There could be no witness to testify, making it difficult for the victim to defend him/herself. The perpetrators have taken advantage of this to continue harassing their fellow employees; especially the women have been the majority victims as they have very little or no defensive mechanisms. Their claims can be seen as a joke as those they are accusing could be their bosses.

    Argument/ critical thinking on sexual harassment

    Many people especially brush aside these issues as they do not see them as serious matters. Many victims are still silent, deeply in their hearts and souls hurt but have no one to tell their story. Some of the cases which have been reported have had little attention as the victims are threatened with dismissal or are compromised. This issue needs total commitment and seriousness by all those involved. Employers should be very serious when handling these matters and they should not be the perpetrators but be good role models and provide unbiased solutions when these matters come up.

    Women have taken a leading role in awareness creation on this issue but they have at the same time been too biased. They still do not believe that women can sexually harass men at work; this situation has led to men who have been sexually abused suffering as they will not be listened to. Any man who complains of being sexually harassed by a man is seen as a joke or a lie but in the real sense, it is true. Why is that women are never convinced that men are sexually harassed as them? This is an issue which will have to be discussed further. Sexual harassment is not about fun or friendship but abuse of power. The victim may be deemed offensive by another and the law sides with the perpetrator not the victim (Coady International Institute,1989).

     People respond to sexual harassment in different ways depending on how they have been harassed. Some could be totally traumatized by the act while others cold develop hate to he opposite or same sex  It has been estimated that 60% of working women have been harassed in some form or other. It happens to women who work in large offices where majority of the employees are men. It can happen to people in any occupation and to any age group. Some work conditions can facilitate sexual harassment like working overtime. This creates an atmosphere where a woman or man can be sexually harassed the intended target victim without their consent. Stiffer laws have to be put in place to counter this vice once for all. The employers must be in the fore front in helping to stop and solve these primitive acts of behavior. Men must behave decently as really men and give women the respect they deserve. It has been a culture in some communities that a woman is not supposed to complain even when her human rights are violated by a man. This has given men an upper hand in doing of what they feel to do just because their cultures allow them to do so. This has not been taken lightly by women, who have put back a strong fight so as to protect their rights and privacy. While ones sex does not change, gender roles are learned and change overtime (Bowen, David E. & Lawler III, Edward E. 1992).

    Both male and female who are  victims’ harassment fail to report the matter due to ignorance while others enjoy. Some may fail to take any action because of fear of loosing the jobs and another crop will take it as a normal happening depending on the morality of a person. Those who give in or  agree to the demands or give some little resistance they process of eradicating this vice very difficulty (Aruna R. and  Anderson M B,  1999).

    Ways of preventing and minimizing sexual harassment

    There are certain ways to prevent and deal with both employees and employers.  The European commission in its recommendation on protection of the dignity of women and mean at work (November 1991);

    “Member states should take action to promote awareness that conduct of a sexual nature, or other conduct bases on sex affecting the dignity of women and men at work, including conduct of superior and colleagues, is unacceptable if;

    a)      Such conduct is unwanted, unreasonable and offensive to the recipient.

    b)      Persons rejections of, or submission to, such conduct is used explicitly as a basis for promotion or any other employment decision.

    c)      Such conduct created an intimated hostile or humiliating work environment for the recipient.

    To prevent this can employer needs to minimize the possibility of sexual harassment and are;

    1.      Produce and publish a clear policy statement on this issue to include example of harassment and its likely effects, and to make clear the standards expected to employees and the penalties available for those who breach them.

    2.      Ensure that appropriate communication system exist to enable employees to report sexual harassment in confidence.

    3.      Ensure that appropriate disciplinary measures are in operation to deal fairly with offenders.

    4.      Ensure that allegations of sexual harassment are investigated and dealt with without delay.

    5.      Provide appropriate counseling for recipients and offenders.

    6.      Through internal communications to give wide publicity to the organizations intentions regarding the harassment of fellow employees.

    Sample policy and procedures dealing with complains dealing with sexual harassment include.

    ·         The complainant who has been harassed can verbally speak or write as statement to the alleged harasser and explain that the conduct shown was inappropriate, unwelcomed, offensive and not respective.  This should be done if necessary in the presence of a third individual e.g. a workmate, head of human resource manager.   The conversation should be polite, cordial but firm.  Alleged harasser should be advice that the conduct is unacceptable and won’t be tolerate.  It’s important that copies should be made orally by use of video-taped.  This will help in any follow-up action in the future if necessary.

    ·         If the situation is too difficult or uncomfortable, a supervisor, colleague should accompany the individual (victim).

    ·         If the above fails, the head of the human resource management should be involved.  The human resource management has an obligation to investigate the compliant and discuss with the alleged harasser on the findings.  If the findings are true, repercussions should follow (Buck, K. & Back K, 1994).

    Recent work harassment

    In the recent case of sexual harassment in the Canadian work environment was the case of Prokopetz against the fire chief where the lady argued that the fire chief had one time graped and kissed her while in employment. She further stated that she has been subjected to crude sexual chokes and cartoons during the period of her employment. She went a head arguing that she was also subjected to pornography for 11 years she was working with Burnaby fire department. This matter was investigated and shorted out. This is a case that was leveled against a chief officer of a government department in Canadian. (CBC News).

    In Canada there is a number of regulations policies and procedure that have been laid down to assisting in dealing with work related harassment. This work related harassment policies regulations and procedures are aimed at maintaining professionalism in delivering services and keep morality in work place. Harassment affects working and social conditions for any environment therefore is acceptable. Human rights  policies and other related departments have laid down the following policies for work related harassment they have defined harassment as any behavior that appears or makes one feel intimidated or that are offensive and they interfere one working environment. They have further said that it includes those factors which induce anxiety fear sickness or stress to an individual. It may include indifference in attitude culture mispresentation, of social signals and many related case. They have generalized harassment to include persistence teasing, unnecessary comments on personal appearance characteristics or a reasonable constant criticism. It includes sexual harassment racialism and puling. Human rights department demands that one case of sexual harassment has been reported necessary procedures should be taken to investigate the matter and have the offenders punished accordingly. There are three bodies that can deal with this matter.

    And the procedure for work related is as follows;  He reports to the human resource department if necessary remedy is not taken then this inappropriate behavior is reported to union if a member is union sale or to the human rights to investigate.  In order a matter to reach human rights tribunal then the case is serious and the various departments have failed their duties. Any matter goes beyond human rights tribunal or will be considered a criminal offence. One may assault an individual or commit sexual harassment which goes to court.

    The human right commission has formed tribunal to handle work related harassment that includes pulling, sexual harassment racial discrimination and assault.


    The thesis of the study was that Sexual harassment in the workplace has resulted to the physical, psychological and mental torture of the victim which has led to mistrust, fear, tension and thus undermining the work performance of the affected individual. This study cannot be successful unless the researcher is not going to be biased. The weaknesses of the author/researcher could be;

    a)      If the author is a woman she could specifically concentrate in talking to women more than men. The same applies to a man who could be open and free to men.

    b)      The place where data will be collected could be where may be men are more dominant than women or where women are more dominant than men. This could give out biased information which could not be useful.

    c)      The method of getting the respondents to answer to the questions could also be an issue if the wrong method is not used. Wrong samples could give out irrelevant information which may not be useful to the author.

    d)     Time taken to interview and discuss with the victims was not considered. The employees who have been sexually harassed need more time to express their feelings. Sometimes they could become too emotional on remembering what happened to them, so more time and audience has to be accorded to them.

    e)      The number of samples that was interviewed may be was not equal. If the number of men exceeds that of women or the number of women exceeds that of men could lead to getting one sided information which will not be useful.

    f)       The author may be did not explain him/herself fully to the respondent on what information he wants to get from them. Some victims may feel that they are being exposed and so not willing to talk about it. The topic is also very sensitive because it talks about the sexuality of a person, so the victim may not be free to give out details about his/her sexuality if not convinced fully on what information is needed from him/her.

    Sexual harassment is a social problem which needs input of all people. People working together should respect the sexuality of each other. People need to be sensitized fully on this issue. Those affected should be encouraged to be open and free to reveal what has been done to them as this is the only way to stamp out this act. The victims should be counseled enough so that they can forget the past, forgive and continue with their lives. Those caught or accused of sexually harassing their workmates be it be the boss or the fellow workmate should be prosecuted according to the law. The law has many loopholes on sexual harassment and so it is the responsibility of the parliament to legislate the laws on sexual matters so that they can be stiff enough in order to make the offender fear of the consequences before sexually harassing their colleagues. Men should realize that women are not sex tools. They must understand their sexuality as they respect theirs. They must be good role models by showing that they can take good care of women not necessarily they are their wives, sisters, relatives or girlfriends.

    Future research

    The future research should focus on real issues concerning sexual harassment at work place. The researchers should in their mind remember that they are looking for solutions to this problem and so should not be biased when gathering information. The researchers must understand that the topic is very sensitive and so need to handle it with great care. In the future research, the researchers must get an equal number of respondents so that they can get fair and balanced information from these samples. They should not rely on one sided information, but should be collected from both sides to be useful. The relevance of the research should clearly be understood by the researchers before embarking on what they want to do.


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    Davidson, M. & Cooper, C, (1983), Stress and the woman manager, Martin Robertson.

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