Unsolicited verbal comments, gestures, physical comments of sexual nature that are not welcome, constitute sexual harassment according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (§. 703 of Title VII) (“Sexual harassment: What it is and what you can do about it”, 5). Guidelines defining sexual harassment as sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (CRA) were passed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and additions to the above include request for sexual favors and advances. Two claims, namely quid pro quo (tangible employment actions by an employer to receive sexual exchange) and a hostile environment exist. The latter entails an uncomfortable work environment and harassment of others added by the U.S. District Court of New York. A worker for the New York Transit Authority claimed that the authority’s indifference to sexual harassment created an environment pitting sexual misconduct (Bliss, 9). In a world that has met same-sex harassment cases, the standard has shifted to “reasonable person” from “reasonable woman” that followed “reasonable man”.
Companies or employers are also required to ensure reasonable care against sexual harassment at the workplace by putting in place anti-harassment policies and procedures that employees may use to raise complaints. Cases of sexual harassment at the workplace continue to be reported and dealt with in the courts. Sexual harassment at the workplace, in addition to attracting lawsuits and eventual punishment to the offenders, has the ability to cost companies bad reputations and even possible losses since it is a violation of ethical conduct at the workplace. An example is the case of the Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher who was fired by the board of directors for being found having an affair with a female executive (Gaither & Girion; cited in Bliss). Companies must take a step to make sure that this vice is curbed, and the government must move fast in ensuring that individuals are protected against sexual harassment by employers and fellow workers at the workplace. The two are the judicially recognized forms of sexual harassment and may co-exist or not (Canoni, p. 1)
Romance at the workplace and sexual harassment are related. According to Solie (cited in Bliss), workplace romance has been there since women entered the workplace and so is nothing new, and according to Gurchiek (cited in Bliss), it appears more acceptable than ever in some ways than others. Sexual rights violations and romance at the workplace can affect work negatively. For example, in a survey carried out in 2006 by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)/CareerJournal.com, 36% believed that dating a co-worker could damage a career in 2005, and an increase in the number of those who experienced office romance went up to 70% in 2005 from 60% in 2001. Sexual harassment at the workplace is related to romance in that it can be a negative result if romance at the workplace does not work properly (Bliss, 7). Most cases of sexual harassment are underreported because victims tend to think that nothing will be done or his/her fear to cause harm to the culprit. According to a 2002 report by the Department of Labor in the U.S, 72% of working women would have to cope with some type of harassment.
In an AOL Love@work survey conducted in 1998, 71% of the respondents had dated someone at the workplace and there was evidence of managers participating in dating subordinates. Sexual harassment is a form of intimidation or abuse of power. The consequences of sexual harassment range from the psychological and esteem costs to the victimized employee to the dollar cost on the employer’s side. For example, in EEOC Litigation Settlements (according to their 2005 report), Imclone Systems had to meet a financial obligation of $85,000 to a plaintiff. The employee who is implicated to cause sexual harassment may not even be employed later in life leading to a risk of having a more stressful life. Among the causes of sexual harassment includes stress at the workplace, poor pay and working conditions which make employees consider the favors attached, over-powerful officials at the workplace who would terminate employment if denied sexual favors, lack of or poor concern, and lose ways of dealing with it.
It is necessary for companies to be aware of the most common trends as concerns sexual harassment, for example, employees who are victims may take more time before reporting sexual harassment, both men and women face a danger of being sexually harassed and the related charges are serious.
Another problem may lie in the situation where sexual harassment conduct is not clearly stipulated and defined in the company policies. The company must put in place policies that completely and clearly define prohibited trends and behaviors so that employers will and employees will be aware of the violation as it sets in and how to deal with it. The company policy must explain the willingness of the employer to protect the employees against this vice, and need to put in place measures aimed at correcting the trend and the activity. In addition, the policy should outline instructions and assure the people against retaliation (Gkaur).
There is a need for strict measures and harsh policies prohibiting sexual harassment and harsh means of dealing with the culprits. In addition, companies should be geared towards improving trends that may lead to increased cases of sexual harassment. For example, enough staffing must be ensured to eliminate the need to have employees staying at the workplace for the whole 8-hour day and working extra time to eliminate the effects of understaffing. Long hours at the workplace may make employees look for other means to supplement for denied free time with their families and ease stress. This may result in increased cases of romance at the workplace and sexual harassment. There is a need to intensify training for all workers on consequences, side effects, and penalties of sexual harassment at the workplace and workplace romance, why, and how to avoid it.
- Bliss S Kiser. “Coffee, Tea, or Me? Romance and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace”. 2006.
- John D. Canoni “ Sexual harassment: The new liability”. Risk Management. FindArticles.com.
- Gkaur. “Sexual Harassment”. 2008.
- “Sexual harassment: What it is and what you can do about it”.