Sexual Harassment in Workplace
Sexual harassment is now emerging out as a major problem in workplace. Every year thousands of females and males report their experiences to their employers. In 1970s, it was found by researchers that every one of two women becomes a victim of sexual harassment. A survey done by Redbook magazine was done asking women if they had experienced sexual harassment in their workplaces. Nine out of ten reported that they had been victims of the sexual harassment .
Sexual harassment occurs in a workplace when an employee acts against another employee’s wishes by making sexual advances, passing offensive remarks and other physical or verbal means of a sexual nature. According to U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassment occurs when this type of misbehavior affects one’s employment, work performance of the employee and makes the work environment hostile to work in .
Sexual harassment, a type of sexual discrimination, is categorized into two types. One is known as quid pro quo, in which progress in career and employment benefits are based on sexual favors. The other type is hostile work environment which creates an offensive and hostile work environment. It happens sometimes that both the types occur in the same case .
Examples of sexual harassment can occur in a variety of forms. For example, unwanted jokes, unwelcome comments, touching other’s body such as patting a coworker without his consent, offensive comments on clothes, displaying pictures and objects that are sexual in nature, unwanted flirting, all of these acts can be categorized under acts of sexual harassment .
The Cost of Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment is indeed costly. It has been noted that during 1990s, sexual harassment cost more than $300 million. But apart from the financial cost, there are some emotional costs associated with sexual harassment as well. Lower productivity of employees is being observed. Higher costs incur due to lower efficiency. The work environment is not comfortable working in which results in low morale of employees . Moreover, relationships outside workplace are also affected. Many victims suffer from psychological effects such as depression, panic attacks, sleeplessness, fatigue, anxiety, loss of motivation and loss of self-esteem. All of these lead to deterioration in victim’s marital life. The victim experiences increased isolation from family and friends .
An employee should make sure that the employer is concerned regarding his employees well-being. Before agreeing to the job, a person should look into a company’s policy handbook which should include sexual harassment policy, general harassment policy, policy regarding how investigations are conducted when such misbehavior is observed in a workplace, and how the company would treat the employee involved in such activities .
Role of Managers in Prevention of Sexual Harassment
It is the duty of managers to supervise their subordinates and ensure that the workplace environment is comfortable working in. When it comes to sexual harassment, it is very crucial for a manager to prove that he took appropriate steps in order to prevent such misconduct. A manager must keep in mind that the employee who is harassing another employee can be of the same sex. He must monitor the workplace carefully. He should socialize with his subordinates frequently. When someone complains about sexual harassment, he must take each complaint of sexual harassment seriously and investigate it .
Steps to be taken
Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination. This matter should not be taken lightly. It is obligated on the employer to prevent it from happening. But one should also accept the fact that the eyes and ears of management cannot be everywhere . As soon as some act of misconduct is observed, one should take the following steps:
Document the incident. Write down the nature of harassment, date, time and location. The documentation should be kept safely at home .
Report it. The affected victim should report the matter immediately to the manager, supervisor or human resources representative. A copy of the documentation should be submitted and the original should be kept in one’s own possession .
Verify it. Verify the claim with the manager, supervisor or HR representative that the victim reported the incident to. Email is the easiest way to do it. It would create a record for the complaint .
Follow-up. There might be a need to follow-up with the person handling the complaint. Keep on doing it by sending emails .
Seek Counsel. If the employer fails to take any serious action, one must go to a lawyer and seek help in filing a formal sexual harassment complaint .
Sexual harassment is a major ethical issue occurring in the workplace. Much work is being done on creating awareness and understanding on the sensitivity of the issue. The Federal Government plays a crucial role in this regard. However, there is still room to refine and refocus the programs and policies. The supervisors and managers of the company need to assure their employees that they care for them. The employees must be fully aware of their rights. The cost associated to sexual harassment is beyond financial cost. One needs to be careful and take the preventive measures mentioned in this paper .
Boland, M. L. (2005). Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Illinois: Sphinx Publishing.
Gold, L. H. (2004). Sexual Harassment: Psychiatric Assessment in Employment Litigation. USA: American Psychiatric Publishing, Inc.
Heathfield, S. M. (2014). Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. Retrieved from http://humanresources.about.com/od/glossarys/a/sexualharassdef.htm
Severson, D. (2014). What Steps Do You Take With Sexual Harassment in the Workplace? Retrieved from http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/steps-sexual-harassment-workplace-4888.html