Sexual harassment in the workplace is a common anti-equal employment opportunity practice in society. There are many forms of sexual harassment practices in the workplace ranging from forced or hostile sexual conduct to the use of sexually offensive statements against an employee (Heathfield). However, owing to the fact that the practice is illegal under the civil rights bill and equal employment opportunity laws, many companies have adopted anti-sexual harassment policies. Defined in these policies are the acts which should be considered as sexual harassment, the channels for reporting sexual harassment incidences and the associated disciplinary actions against perpetrators of sexual harassment at the workplace.
Due to the increasing incidences of sexual harassment in the workplace, the government has strengthened its sexual harassment policies to hold employers responsible for such discriminative acts in their organizations. This is because employers are seen as failing to provide the right environment for preventing sexual harassment in their organizations.
Sexual harassment in the workplace can be defined as any act of giving undesired sexual advances or engaging in sexual conduct with an employee against their will either physically or verbally (McCollum, and Thomas 8). These acts lead to the creation of a hostile and offensive working environment for the employee, thus making sexual harassment a negation of equal employment opportunity policies the provisions of the and civil rights and employee rights acts. There are various forms of sexual harassment practices in the workplace. Such include unwelcome sexual advances. This practice involves the giving of gifts, positions or privileges to an employee in return for sexual pleasures (Heathfield).
Verbal conduct can be a form of sexual harassment. This type of sexual harassment includes acts such as making sexual comments about the body and fashion of an employee and making dirty sexual jokes at the workplace as well as spreading rumors on the sexual behaviors of others (McCollum, and Thomas 12). Still, verbal conduct is issues like requests for sexual favors through threats or compromising promises made on the employee working conditions or status in return for sexual favors. It is however to be noted that if such acts are welcome by the employee, then this cannot be legally termed as sexual harassment.
Physical conduct as a form of sexual harassment in the workplace includes touching, hugging and caressing an employee particularly at the workplace (Heathfield). Sexual assault and rape are also considered sexual harassment not only at the workplace but also in society. Most victims of this form of sexual harassment have been found to be women (Shrier 53). This has been closely attributed to their feminine nature and the type of jobs they usually do in the organization. Just to be stated is that most women work in offices as assistants making them vulnerable to sexual harassment by their bosses.
According to the laws on sexual harassment, other non-sexual acts can also amount to sexual harassment. If you are harassed as a result of working in a field dominated by members of the opposite sex, then that is sexual harassment (McCollum, and Thomas 16). An example is a woman working in masonry with men who are constantly hiding her tools; then this is considered as sexually harassed. The use of sexually explicit visual expressions such as screensavers, pictures and posters is another kind of sexual harassment.
Despite the widespread publicity on the problem of sexual harassment at the workplace, the practice is still common in many organizations. However, there are a number of ways to prevent and/or resolve this problem. The first step is to inform the harasser to stop as they might not know that their behaviors towards the victim are offensive (Heathfield). Since according to the provisions of the law, an employer must ensure a sexual harassment-free environment for their workers, the harassed must inform the management of any sexual harassment through writing. A copy of this letter should be kept as evidence for reference during legal procedures in the event that the organization failures to address the problem satisfactorily.
The employer has a number of options to resolve sexual harassment concerns among employees. First is the employment of warnings, fine imposition on the harasser for compensating the harassed damages, dismissal of the harasser or even recommended for criminal justice legal proceedings against the harasser (McCollum 17). However, according to the available statistics on sexual harassment at the workplace, most employers apply internal disciplinary actions against offenders. This has been seen as a move for employers to protect the reputation of the company in the public domain.
An effective internal resolution of sexual harassment at a workplace must ensure justice to the harassed as failure to do this could risk legal measures against the company (Shrier 55). Counseling of the harassed and engaging in reconciliation practices between the harasser and the harassed is quite crucial as it serves to realize effective rebuilding of confidence in the employer by the employee (Heathfield). The end result of this move promotes employee morale by instilling some sense of protection at work, a vital element in ensuring sustained reliability of the employee in the organization.
However, it is advisable for victims of sexual harassment to notify their labor unions of the event as well as the anti-sexual harassment at workplace agencies such as the Citizens Advice Bureau among others (Shrier 56). This move is crucial not only for gaining access to advise on legal procedures but can also improve one’s chances of getting fair and just treatment by their employer on concerns of sexual harassment.
There are a number of cases of sexual harassment at the workplace which have been heard and decided in our courts of justice. An example is the 2006 case involving a chef by the name of Alberico Penati of Harry’s Bar in Mayfair, central London and a waitress, Ilaria Signoriello (Duff). The chef was accused of using crude sexual statements and soliciting sexual flavors from the waitress. According to Ilaria, Mr. Penati had verbally told her that he will live to see her punished for failing to admire him (Duff). According to an employment tribunal on the case, Penati was accused of negating his sense of importance as a manager. The tribunal further ordered Ilaria to be paid £124,000 as reinstitution for damages.
In conclusion, sexual harassment at the workplace is a negation of the provisions of the equal employment opportunity policy. There are however many cases of sexual harassment which go unreported. This has been closely attributed to a lack of employee rights awareness. This could also be due to a lack of information on how victims can get help on sexual harassment crimes. It is due to this reason that there is a need for creating awareness to employees on their rights and on how to identify and deal with sexual harassment in the workplace.
Duff, Oliver. “Waitress Awarded £124, 000 in Sexual Harassment Case.” Waitress Awarded £124, 000 in Sexual Harassment Case. 2006. Web.
Heathfield, Susan. “Sexual Harassment.” Harassment and Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. 2010. Web.
McCollum, Stacie, and Tang, Thomas. “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.” Public Personnel Management, 25 (1996): 8-17.
Shrier, Diane. Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and Academia: Psychiatric Issues. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, 1996.