Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment has been linked to decreased job satisfaction, and can lead to a loss of staff and expertise because of resignations to avoid harassment, or because of resignations or firings of alleged harassers. Every year, hundreds of millions of dollars are lost in productivity because of effects such as employee absenteeism to avoid harassment, and increased team conflict in environments where harassment is occurring. The increased team conflict also leads to problems with team cohesion and less success in meeting financial goals.

The knowledge that harassment is permitted can undermine ethical standards, and discipline in the organization. Prekel writes, “…staff lose respect for, and trust in, their seniors who indulge in, or turn a blind eye to, sexual harassment. ” If the problem is ignored, a company’s image can suffer amongst clients, employees, potential customers, and the general public. Health care costs can increase because of the health consequences of harassment, not to mention the legal costs if a victim files a lawsuit after complaints are ignored or mishandled.

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Some of the effects a sexual harassment victim can experience: Decreased work performance as the victim must focus on dealing with the harassment and the surrounding dynamics and/or effects; psychological effects of harassment can also decrease work performance • Increased absenteeism to avoid harassment, or because of illness from the stress • Having to drop courses, or change academic plans; academic transcripts may be weakened because of decreased school performance • Retaliation from the harasser, or friends of the harasser, should the victim complain or file a grievance (retaliation can involve revenge along with more sexual harassment, and often involves stalking the complainant)

• Having one’s personal life offered up for public scrutiny –the victim becomes the “accused,” and their dress, lifestyle, and private life will often come under attack.

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(Note: this rarely occurs for the perpetrator. ) • Being objectified and humiliated by scrutiny and gossip • Becoming publicly sexualized Defamation of character and reputation • Loss of trust in environments similar to where the harassment occurred

• Loss of trust in the types of people that occupy similar positions as the harasser • upon relationships with significant others, sometimes resulting in divorce; extreme stress on peer relationships, or relationships with colleagues • Being ostracized from professional or academic circles • Having to relocate to another city, another job, • Loss of job and income • Loss of career • Weakening of support network: friends, and even family may distance themselves from the victim or abandon them altogether. Prevent sexual harassment by organization Company Policy

Companies that want to manage their risk prudently must act before a problem occurs. The EEOC encourages employers to “take all steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring, such as affirmatively raising the subject, expressing strong disapproval, developing appropriate sanctions, informing employees of their right to raise, and how to raise, the issue of harassment under Title VII, and developing methods to sensitize all concerned. First, companies need a comprehensive, detailed written policy on sexual harassment. The CEO should issue the policy and make it a high priority of the company. Second, they need to distribute this policy to all workers, supervisors, and even some non-employees.

A basic policy should set forth the following: · an express commitment to eradicate and prevent sexual harassment; · a definition of sexual harassment including both quid pro quo and hostile work environment; · an explanation of penalties (including termination) the employer will impose for substantiated sexual harassment conduct; · a detailed outline of the grievance procedure employees should use; · additional resource or contact persons available for consultation; · an express commitment to keep all sexual harassment complaints and personnel actions confidential. To help employees grasp the nature of sexual harassment, companies may want to provide their workers with examples of behavior that they consider inappropriate. Professor Catherine MacKinnon advises companies to warn employees against posting suggestive photographs, telling sexual jokes or making innuendoes, or romancing subordinates.

She also suggests that workers be advised against referring to female employees as “girls,” assigning work according to an individual’s gender, or promoting employees based on gender. In addition, Professor MacKinnon says workers should be told to refrain from requesting sexual favors, from touching or flirting with unwilling or even willing subordinates, and from making similar unwelcome sexual advances to co-workers. Finally, she says that the company should prohibit everyone in the company from retaliating against a worker who files a sexual harassment complaint. Once a company develops a sexual harassment policy, it should circulate it widely. Companies should provide copies not only to newly hired employees, but also to current ones.

In addition, companies should post copies throughout office and break areas, issue periodic memos about the policy, and hold informal and formal departmental meetings to discuss the topic. In particular, companies need to train their supervisors to deal with sexual harassment. Even small businesses will find it useful to educate their workers through videos and seminars. Companies may also wish to seek help from an outside consultant. Procedure Despite prudent measures, companies will always face the possibility, if not the probability, that sexual harassment will occur. However, as the Supreme Court indicated in Meritor, an employer greatly improves its position by having grievance procedures that encourage employees to come forward with sexual harassment complaints. Lower courts have supported this view even more strongly.

With any grievance procedure, one element is paramount: A sexual harassment victim must not be required to address complaints to a supervisor who is involved in, condones, or ignores the harassment. Consequently, an effective grievance procedure should provide the complainant with alternative routes for reporting harassment. In setting up grievance procedures, a company may want to consider that women lodge the vast majority of sexual harassment complaints, and that the courts have found differences of perception to exist between men and women. As a result, an employer is better protected if a female employee is involved in assessing sexual harassment complaints.

That way, female victims may be more willing to come forward, thus enhancing an employer’s ability to take prompt and effective remedial action. As with any grievance procedure, of course, a company must maintain confidentiality, both for the sake of the victim and the accused. Enforcement Even the most comprehensive sexual harassment policies and procedures are bound to fail if a company does not enforce them quickly, consistently, and aggressively. To be effective, companies must take sexual harassment seriously. They need to make certain that personnel responsible for enforcement conduct prompt, thorough, and documented investigations of all complaints, even those that appear trivial. Employers should also keep tabs on their supervisors.

This can be accomplished by means of monthly meetings with higher management, unscheduled spot checks, or periodic sexual harassment training sessions. Depending on management style, some businesses may find it useful to survey subordinates about sexual harassment issues, as a way to gauge supervisors attitudes about the problem. Finally, companies may want to screen annual data on hiring, firing, promotions, and compensation packages for any pattern of overt gender discrimination that may also be occurring. Once a company has received notice of sexual harassment, its liability may be reduced or eliminated depending on how promptly and effectively it responds.

Prompt means precisely that: under no circumstance should a company delay an investigation of sexual harassment more than a few days. Notably egregious sexual misconduct should be handled immediately. Whatever the situation, a company should take action that is reasonably calculated to end the harassment. Such action must be directed toward the harasser, and may include verbal warnings, written warnings, job transfers, suspension of employment, and, if necessary, termination. In dealing with problems, companies must avoid any measures that penalize the individual who has lodged a sexual harassment complaint. This can occur, for example, when a company transfers the complainant to a less desirable position as a way to avoid interaction between the victim and the accused.

As the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals has warned, A remedial measure that makes the victim of sexual harassment worse off is ineffective per se. A company should also be careful not to allow too much time to elapse before achieving a satisfactory resolution of the harassment. Once matters have been brought under control, a company should continue to monitor the situation to ensure compliance. Toward this end, follow-up interviews with all parties and witnesses are highly recommended. When claims of sexual harassment cannot be substantiated, an employer should still take the opportunity to reemphasize to employees that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.

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Sexual Harassment. (2017, Feb 24). Retrieved from

Sexual Harassment

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