In the current political forum and corporate world, Sexual Harassment has become a heated issue. The federal courts of the United States have addressed the pressing issue of this violation and are forcing corporations to assume responsibility for the actions of their employees by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.
In Code 29 of the Code of Federal Regulation, it states that in cases involving employees, An employer may be responsible for the acts of employees, with respect to sexual harassment of employees in the workplace, where the employer, its agents, or supervisory employees knows, or should have known, of the conduct and fails to take appropriate corrective action. In reviewing these cases, the Commission will consider the extent of the employer’s control and any other legal responsibility, which the employer may have with respect to the conduct of such non-employees.Order now
(O’Donohue, 1997, p. 43)Harassment in the workplace causes hostility and tension. These attributes are not conducive to a worker-friendly atmosphere. According to research by the American Psychological Association, “Many women who have been harassed on the job report a cornucopia of symptoms similar to other forms of severe stress” (Petrocelli, 1997, p. 87).
These include problems ranging from depression, insecurity, and lethargy to headaches and decreased job satisfaction and productivity. Therefore, employers must prevent and enforce “sexual harassment” so that they will be better able to prevent further instances of the offense. Its occurrence decreases productivity and warrants unnecessary debt. What is sexual harassment? The ambiguity of words allows for many interpretations of “sexual harassment”, but the United States EqualEmployment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment in the 29thCode of Federal Regulations (CFR) #1604. 11(a) when: 1. Conduct and/or comments are understood to be sexual in nature 2.
Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or 3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating,hostile or offensive working environment. (MacKinnon, 1990, pp. 67-68) Defining;sexual in nature; ;Sexual harassment encompasses a wide range of conduct, from offensive sexual innuendoes all the way to borderline cases of rape; (MacKinnon, 1990, p. 92).
It is hard for the courts to draw the fine line where actions become offensive and sexual in nature. Such conduct, however,needs not be restricted to any physical harassment. Verbal assaults and visual degradation also carry substance in the definition of sexual harassment (O’Donohue,1997). Verbal sexual harassment includes crude sexual jokes, sexual requests or favors, and references to the physical attributes of the victim.
If these assaults are unwarranted and unwanted, they constitute sexual harassment. Harassment can be any derogatory action or comment (Petrocelli, 1997). Another offense that can be included into the realm of sexual harassment is visual insult. Any pictures, gestures, or looks that are sexually explicit fall into this category. Written notes or letters to a colleague with sexual content or nature also constitute a violation of the 29th code of the Code of Federal Regulations imposed by the EEOC.
(MacKinnon, 1990) “Hostile working environment” vs. “quid pro quo” demand When cases of sexual harassment first appeared in the courts, only cases of quid pro quo were recognized. These instances of the offense threaten the employment of the victim if they are unwilling to submit to sexual requests. This type of harassment usually occurs when the offender is in a superior position than that of the victim.
“Almost 2/3 of sexual harassment complaints were brought against a woman’s immediate supervisor or another person with greater power; (Petrocelli,1997, p. 121). The harasser explicitly explains or implies that refusal of compliance will result in job loss. This request need not be sexual intercourse.
A more recent recognition of sexual harassment is those cases causing a hostile working environment. While it can be associated with quid pro quo offenses, it stands alone as a justifiable claim. In this type of harassment, the conduct is so severe or pervasive that it changes the very conditions of employment, making the work environment hostile. For example, an employee arrives at work one morning to find that someone has left suggestive literature on her desk.
If this behavior occurs for a prolonged period, the harasser has created a hostile working environment. Why employers should not accept responsibility Thosecritics, many of whom are employers, that feel they should not bear the burden of their employees’ actions will say that it is the responsibility of the worker to act maturely in the workplace. If employers are not personally responsible for the harassment, .