History & the Law Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. Federal law as well as various state fair-employment laws prohibit employers with 15 or more employees from treating members of one sex or race differently from members of the opposite sex or another race in terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. The statutory and regulatory laws govern the entire employment process from pre-employment activities such as recruiting, through an employee’s career with the organization, including termination. The prohibition against sex discrimination imposes responsibility upon employers to afford their employees an environment free from sexual harassment and from the fear that it may occur. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can file lawsuits on behalf of victims of sexual harassment, women who take their accusations to court face even bigger obstacles than mere public disapproval.
The legal process is long and cumbersome – it can be years from the first complaint to the final verdict and in the meanwhile, the woman is in a legal, professional and often financial limbo. Women are not entitled to collect damages under the Civil Rights Act – just back pay; so many women don’t see this process as worth the trouble. Even those, however, who do file a complaint and win a harassment case, may feel lost. Though, Title VII offers reinstatement to previous job, the individual may be shunned or harassed by co-worker thus making conditions even more uncomfortable than they were beforehand. Common law tort lawsuits, such as intentional infliction of emotional distress and assault and battery, provide a remedy in certain types of sexual harassment cases that is totally dependent of any of the statutes and governmental agencies. However, the solutions proposed might seem comprehensive in plans to lessen sexual harassment in the workplace and punishment of harassers, women still face formidable obstacles in preventing harassment from continuing.
The proposed measures fail to cover all aspects of harassment, though the truth is, it is virtually impossible to formulate a plan to do so. Anti-harassment policies in the workplace can significantly lessen the occurrences of harassment by co-workers, but in reality, corporate policies are only as good as the supervisors that enforce them. Evidently, sexual harassment has manifested itself into the everyday work environment, and has now unfortunately become a common occurrence for some women. Though government procedure countering this problem has improved considerably over the past few years, as long as there are women in the work force, they will inevitably be subjected to the torture that is sexual harassment.
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