The Ontario Human Rights Code states that sexual harassment occurs in situations when one individual is bothering the other by saying or doing unwanted or unwelcome things of a sexual or gender-related nature. This could be characterize in terms of inappropriate touching, offensive remarks about individual, sexual suggestions, unsuitable comments about body parts, exposure to sexually offensive pictures, verbal abuse due to the gender, etc. It is also considered to be a form of illegal discrimination and is a form of sexual and psychological abuse.
In terms of the case, this is a clear case of sexual harassment because Rosetta is one of the two women in the department that every morning got called by her male co-workers as risotto, meaning Italian rice with gravy, and teased with Italian greetings. In addition, occasionally they asked her what she was doing with her Italian boyfriend and whether she had a good time with him the night before. Moreover, one of the co-workers asked her whether she prefer Italian over Canadian men and occasionally they loudly bragged to each other about their experience with their girlfriends so that Rosetta can hear it, just to embarrass her. Furthermore, her male co-workers told a dirty jock and asked Rosetta if she understood or if she could tell one as well.
Usually, sexual harassment is a pattern of behaviour that happens frequently over a period of time. In this case, there is a pattern of different incidents that occurred over the period of Rosetta’s employment, which created a poisoned effect on the places where she worked. This type of sexual comments made her feel uncomfortable, in some situations even cry, which indicated that the work environment is poisoned.
Although, Rosetta tried to make the harassment stop, it is not her responsibility alone, Al also has to make sure that sexual harassment does not occur in his workplaces because sexualized environment can create atmospheres that encourage more serious and direct sexual harassment, such as sexual joking n this case.
If in the future more women would have positions in this department, this can create decrease in productivity, increase in team conflict and furthermore, lead to decrease in success at meeting financial goals because of team conflict. Moreover, it can create job dissatisfaction, loss of employees from resignations, and increase absenteeism by employees. In addition, the knowledge that harassment is permitted can damage ethical standards and discipline in the organization in general. Overtime, employees will lose respect and trust in their supervisors who encourage and/or ignored the problem, which can lead to a negative image of the company and create legal actions against the organization. The ignorance of the problem can create large costs to organization through damaged morale, lawsuits and absenteeism.
People who harass will have no reasons to stop unless they are challenged. Therefore, it is necessary to support and encourage Rosetta to come forward. Eva can offer suggestions how to solve the problem but only Rosetta must choose what will be the best choice for her. Moreover, Eva can encourage Rosetta to seek help from a counsellor and provide her with helpful telephone numbers; however, it’s up to Rosetta to make her own decisions. In terms of their conversations, Eva should know that conversations that were between Eva and Rosetta are confidential and Eva cannot just go and tell it to somebody. The only time Eva may have to tell someone about Rosetta’s problem without her permission is if Rosetta is in immediate physical danger, which is not the case in this situation. Yet, ignoring or minimizing the problem will not make it go away.
To conclude, it’s up to Rosetta to make complains to appropriate authority or to pursue a legal actions against the company in this matter. Eva can only morally support and advise Rosetta but cannot do any legal actions for her. The only think that Eva can try to do is to inform a human resources department in the organization about the situation and ask for the proper investigation about it. The other option that Eva can consider is to have a consultation with the lawyer about this whole situation; however, she should not say any names. All of these options have a good chance for success, as long as all of them conducted in accordance of law.
Al’s first responsibility in this case is to properly deal with workplace sexual harassment issues involve the appropriate distribution of the organization’s policy on sexual harassment in the workplace. However, he did not take it serious when Rosetta complained to him, thus she was forced to terminate her employment.
The other responsibility that Al should have carried is to show Rosetta that he, as a supervisor of the organization have responded to complain with the process of preventing sexual harassment in the workplace and are dealing with it in a timely and effective manner when it does occur. Al also felled to carry it appropriately, moreover, he blamed Rosetta to be too sensitive and that she takes herself too seriously. And based on his philosophy, such as to be able to laugh at ourselves now and the, it shows that he encourages this type of behaviour in the work place.
Furthermore, Al has to take approach to sexual harassment where it involves the development of an internal system for the fair and balanced investigation of every complaint of this nature. Every complaint should be taken seriously. Employees must be aware that they are free to put forward complaints about sexual harassment in their workplace and that they will be free from retaliation and intimidation as a result. They should be encouraged to use and rely upon the company’s internal complaint mechanism and resolution system.
In this step, Al also felled to follow the appropriate road. His behaviour with employees encourages them to joke around, which may discourage other employees to complain due to fear of retaliation and intimidation, if Al tells employees about complain.
It is absolutely critical that employer who has not yet adopted appropriate policies and attitudes towards sexual harassment in the workplace join the movement towards zero tolerance for these workplace problems.
It is critical for the employer not only live up to their legal responsibility when dealing with issues of sexual harassment, but perhaps more importantly is to show that they have done something. Accordingly, proactive steps are to create sexual harassment policies and well publicized complaint procedures set, which would create the correct tone for the elimination of sexual harassment in the workplace. As a bi-product, the same visible procedures will also help to reduce the employer’s potential exposure to vicarious liability for the acts of employees.
Ontario Women’s Justice Network. 6 Jan. 2002. Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children. 10 Feb. 2006
The Ontario Human Rights Commission. 11 Feb. 2007. The Ontario Human Rights Commission. 11 Feb. 2007
Ontario Women’s Directorate. 1 May 2003. Government of Ontario. 9 Feb. 2006
The Canadian Human Rights Commission. 9 July 2004. Government of Canada. 9 Feb. 2006.
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