Sexual harassment in the workplace has increased the need to have and formulate laws that protect employees from exploitation in the workplace. Sexual harassment originates from the need to exercise power in the workplace (Boland, 2005). Sexual harassment in the workplace does not have to involve outright demand for sexual intercourse. It may even involve a simple joke, which is not received well by the other party. Sexual harassment is prevalent in the male dominated workplaces where the number of women employees is fewer. Men will likely be influenced to harass a woman sexually in a workplace. This is the case especially if she has been successful in her career and the only way the man can feel satisfied through harassing the woman.
Sexual harassment usually has negative consequences on the affected parties. According to Schmidt (2013), sexual conduct or comments interfere with the employee’s job performance. Performance of the employee may be reduced, which again may affect the whole performance of the organization. This type of sexual harassment is referred to as hostile-environment harassment (Schmidt, 2013). Additionally, the organizations may incur additional cost if the employee being harassed decides to sue the company for not having appropriate structures or policies to handle cases of sexual harassments. The extent of sexual harassment may involve verbal abuse or physical contact and in certain cases rape.
Sexual harassment may also involve sexual favors. This form of sexual harassment that involves sexual favors is called a quid pro quo sexual harassment (Hamilton, 2013). Commonly experienced in scenarios where there are job promotions, or a threat of a job loss.
Harassment can occur in different scenarios. According to Hamiltion (2013), the harassers conduct must be unwelcomed. Further, sexual harassment can occur when a different individual is affected by certain comments made to another even though the person to whom the comments are directed is not offended. Sexual harassment also occurs when an employee may offend a client or a customer. Additionally, either even general comments towards women or men may constitute sexual harassment (Hamilton, 2013).
Sexual Harassment Timeline
Sexual harassment can be traced back to when African women were treated as slaves without the protection of the law (Siegel, 2004). A formal approach towards ensuring that sexual harassment was addressed in the work place was included in the Civil Rights act of 1964. In the 1970s as more women attained clerical jobs incidences of sexual harassment increased. The 1980’s and the 1990s saw a rapid increase in cases related to sexual harassment, which have helped or influenced how sexual harassment is viewed in organizations today. Currently, most organizations have a form of sexual harassment policy and procedure
Impact of Sexual Harassment on the Company
Sexual harassment in a company may lead to certain negative consequences such as ill health, non-attendance and poor job performance (Subhani, Hasan, Azmat, and Osman, 2012). Further, the company may suffer the loss of qualified individuals who opt to quit rather than stay in an environment that is filled with sexual harassment. Further, the victims of sexual harassment are suing companies for the lack of policies. Companies are paying large amounts of money in terms of settlements. Further, this becomes a bigger challenge when certain victims of sexual harassment use sexual harassment litigation as a tool to make money (Anderson and Bouravenev, 2011). This then has translated to the enormous cost being incurred by a company.
Financial and Non-Financial Cost of Sexual Harassment
Non-financial costs of sexual harassment are normally attributed to the effects the sexual harassment has the victims. According to Kennedy, Herring, Wanbaugh, Essary, and Werner (2012), victims of the sexual harassment may develop mental, physiological, and physical health consequences. Further, if the victim decides to continue in the same job, low productivity may result. Cost related to the loss of productivity because of sexual harassment is estimated at $22,500 per person (Kennedy, Herring, Wanbaugh, Essary, and Werner, 2012). Sexual harassment may also lead to increase in workplace accidents because of the reduced concentration of the victim affected by the harassment (McCann, 2005). Sexual harassment that involves rape may lead to genital damage.
Court Cases on Sexual Harassment
General Electric versus Gilbert
In this case, General electric was being sued for failure of paying benefits of a pregnant woman Martha Gilbert. General electric did not pay benefits to Martha Gilbert on the basis that her pregnancy was a form of special physical disability that was not part of the disability plan for General Electric Company (Cornell Website). An inclusion of pregnancy disabilities plan would result in increasing the cost of Generals Electrics disability plan. The initial District Court ruling indicated that General electric had discriminated based on sex.
Court Ruling and Reason
The Supreme Court ruled that firing or penalizing of pregnant workers was not an unlawful form of sex discrimination based on the Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Impact of the Ruling to Business Today
The ruling for this case has been significant in the sense that employers have seen a need to develop policies, which cater for pregnant women in an effort to avoid lawsuits based on sex discrimination.
Meritor Savings Bank versus Vinson Summary
This case involved Mechelle Vinson, who after being dismissed from her job at Meritor Savings bank sued the vice precedent of the bank Sidney Taylor (Cornell Website). Vinson accused the vice president of for sexual harassment for a period of four years, which she argued had created a hostile working environment for her.
The court ruled in favor of Vinson. This was based on the guidelines supplied by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which noted that sexual harassment leading to noneconomic injury was a form of sex discrimination prohibited by Title VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964 (Cornell Website).
Impact of the Ruling to Business Today
The ruling was significant in that businesses realized that sexual harassment could result in scenarios where the victim suffered no economic losses, but the working environment was hostile. The employers have also seen the need to develop appropriate reporting procedures for sexual harassment, which are closely related to the guidelines established by the EEOC.
Sexual Harassment Policy and Procedure
Protecting employees from sexual harassment in the company will require the establishment of effective sexual harassment policies. A sexual harassment reporting procedure is essential as it will provide the victims an avenue to report incidents of sexual harassment. Furthermore, it will be vital to have a definition of sexual harassment in the policy to ensure all employees are aware. The sexual harassment policy and procedure are outlined as follows.
- Sexual Harassment Definition
Sexual harassment in the workplace will involve any unwelcomed conduct, which is sexual in nature and creates a hostile or intimidating working environment to the extent of affecting the victim from performing his or her professional duties.
- Relationships in the Workplace
Voluntary relationships in the workplace do not constitute a form of sexual harassment. However, to ensure job performance and productivity are maintained, the company considers such relationships inappropriate. If parties want to have a relationship in the workplace, one party has to quit the job to ensure that ethics and conduct of the company are maintained. On the contrary, if the both parties wish to continue working in the company, they have to terminate their relationship. Any form of personal relationship between a superior and a subordinate employee is also considered inappropriate in the company.
- Reporting of Sexual Harassment
Any incident of sexual harassment should be reported to the immediate supervisor and the human resources department. It is necessary for the victim to report the offence to the human resource department. The victim can report the matter directly to the human resource department feeling uncomfortable to report the matter to the supervisor.
Supervisors are required to report the sexual harassment incident to the human resources department whether or not it was reported to them. Further, they have to ensure this is done within the shortest time possible after being informed of such an incident.
The human resource department shall be responsible for launching investigations into the cases of sexual harassments. In situations where law has been broken, the human resource department shall be required to present the case to the office of Equal Employment Opportunity.
- Responsibilities Employees
Both the supervisors and their subordinates will be required to create and maintain an environment that is free of sexual harassment. Thus, the conduct of each employee shall be void of any sexual offences either verbal or physical in nature.
Anderson, W. L., & Bouravnev, A. (2011). Sexual Harassment: the Good, the Bad, and the
Ugly? Franklin Business & Law Journal, (4), 31-37.
Boland, M. L. (2005). Sexual harassment in the workplace. Naperville, Ill.: Sphinx Pub.
GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY, Petitioner, v. Martha V. GILBERT et al. Martha V.
GILBERT et al., Petitioners, v. GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY. | Supreme Court | LII / Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). LII | LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved from http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/429/125
Hamilton, C. (2013). Communicating for results: a guide for business and the professions (10th
Ed.). Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Kennedy, B., Herring, S., Wanbaugh, T., Essary, M. and Werner, M., (2012). Prevalence
And Impact of Sexual Harassment in Organizations
McCann, D. (2005). Sexual Harassment at Work: National and International Responses
Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson. (n.d.).LII | LII / Legal Information Institute. Retrieved from
Schmidt, S. W. (2013). American government and politics today, 2013-2014 (Brief Ed.).
Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth.
Siegel, R. (2004). A Short History of Sexual Harassment. Retrieved from
Subhani, M., Hasan, S., Azmat, T., & Osman, A. (2012). Does Work Place Sexual Harassment
Matter? International Research Journal of Finance & Economics, (98), 46-50.