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Sexual Harassment in the Work Place
The Clarence Thomas Supreme Court case confirmation hearings in 1991 were the first to bring the issue of sexual harassment into increased standing. Anita Hill, a former employee of Thomas, alleged that he had sexually harassed her while she was working under his supervision. Although the allegations where never sustained, the hearing made many people more aware of how often employees are sexually harassed in the work place. This, combined with other events lead to a tremendous increase in the number of sexual harassment complaints bring filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (Chapter 3, 123).
In addition to the early allegations, there have been more recent incidents that have brought more attention to sexual harassment in the workplace. One major incident took place after President Clinton took office and faced a sexual harassment lawsuit by Paula Corbin Jones. Jones alleged that Clinton sexual harassed her during a business trip in a Little Rock hotel room. This caused the number of sexual harassment complaints to jump in number, again, between 1993 and 1994. However, the number of cases filed has decreased substantially since 2000 (Chapter 3, 123).
There are two specific legal definitions of sexual harassment that have been established in employment law. Quid Pro Quo Harassment; this is transferred into “something for something,” or “you do something for me and I'll do something for you” (Sexual Harassment, 2009). This happens when unwelcome sexual advances are expected in exchange for certain job benefits. An example of this would be an employee being offered a raise or a promotion if they go out on a date with the particular supervisor. This also happens when an employee makes a decision, or provides or withholds certain opportunities based on another employee's submission to verbal, non verbal or physical conduct (Sexual Harassment, 2009). Quid pro quo harassment is just as unlawful whether the victim resists and suffers the threatened harm or submits to avoid the harm (Sexual Harassment, 2009).
The Bundy v. Jackson case illustrates quid for quo sexual harassment. Bundy was a personnel clerk with District of Columbia Department of Corrections. She received repeated sexual propositions from Delbert Jackson, who was currently another employee when this happened. He later became the director of the agency. After this she began to receive propositions from two of her supervisors. She took the issue to their supervisor, Lawrence Swain, who dismissed her complaints; telling her that “any man in his right mind would want to rape you,” then proceeded to ask her to begin a sexual relationship with him (Chapter 3, 123). When Bundy was eligible for a promotion, she was passed over because of her “inadequate work performance,” although she had never been told that her work performance was unsatisfactory (Chapter 3, 123).
The second definition is Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment. This happens when an employee is “subjected to comments of sexual nature, offensive sexual materials, or unwelcomed physical contact as a regular part of the work environment” (Chapter 3, 123). Normally if this were to happen once it would not be considered hostile environment harassment unless it is extremely outrageous conduct. Under this definition the courts look to see whether the conduct is both serious and frequent. Supervisors, managers, co-workers and even customers can create a hostile environment (Chapter 3, 123).
These types of behaviors are also covered under Title VII because they treat individuals differently based on their sex. Also, although most harassment cases involve male on female harassment, any individual can be harassed. For example, male employees at Jenny Craig alleged that they were sexually harassed, and a federal jury found that a male employee had been sexually harassed by his male boss (Chapter 3, 123). In addition, Ron Clark Ford of Amarillo, Texas, recently agreed to pay 140,000 dollars to six male plaintiffs who alleged that they and others were subjected to a sexually hostile work environment and treated differently because of their gender by male managers (Chapter 3, 123).
There are three critical issues when dealing with sexual harassment cases. First, the plaintiff cannot have “invited or incited” the advances (Chapter 3, 123). Most of the time the plaintiff's sexual history, whether she or he wear provocative clothing, and whether she or he engages in sexually explicit conversations are used to prove or disprove that the advance was unwelcome (Elements, 648).
The second critical issue if that the harassment must have been severe enough to alter the “terms conditions and privileges of the employment” (Chapter 3, 123). Many courts have used the “reasonable woman” standard in determining the severity or pervasiveness of the harassment (Elements, 648). This consists of assessing whether a reasonable woman, faced with the same situation, would have reacted similarly. This recognizes that behavior that might be considered appropriate by a man may not be considered appropriate by a woman (Elements, 648).
The third issue is that the courts must determine whether the organization is liable for the actions of it employees. To determine this, the courts normally examine two things. First, did the employer know about the harassment? Second, did the employer do anything to stop this behavior? Normally if the employer knew about the actions and didn't do anything to stop them then the court would find the employer guilty of not appropriately stopping the harassment (Elements, 648).
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) describes sexual harassment as a “form of gender discrimination that is in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act” (Abdulaziz, S. 2009). In 1998, the US Supreme Court made employers more liable for sexual harassment of their employees. Since then, the Society for Human Resource Management has reported that 62 percent of companies now offer sexual harassment prevention training programs, and 97 percent have a written sexual harassment policy (Abdulaziz, S. 2009).
The number of cases filed with the EEOC has gradually decreased. In 1997, close to 16,000 charges were filled. Ten years later in 2007, only 12,510 were filed. “A telephone poll done by Louis Harris and Associates on 782 US workers revealed the following statistics: 31 percent of the female workers and only 7 percent of male workers reported they had been harassed at work, 62 percent of targets took no action, 100 percent of female workers were harassed by men, where as, 59 percent of men reported the harasser was a woman and 41 percent said the harasser was another man” (Elements, 648).
Remedies for sexual harassment depend on the severity of sexual harassment complaints and findings of the investigator, as well as, the situation. When the person lost an employment opportunity the following could happen: hiring the person for the job or opportunity lost, providing the person with the opportunity with he or she missed to the extent possible, and providing financial compensation for the lost opportunity (Discrimination, 2009).
If the person has lost wages the following could happen: all or part of the lost wages or salary would be compensated, lost pension or other benefits would be compensated, lost raises, overtime, shift bonuses, or higher rates of pay which should have been earned by promotion would be compensated, and any lost wages or benefits which can reasonably be linked to the act of sexual harassment would be compensated (Discrimination, 2009).
Typically all expenses attributed to the enforcement of the person's rights can be compensated. Such expenses include: medical expenses, such as psychological care, travel expenses for attending physician, preparation of reports and costs of experts' attendance at a trial, travel costs to attend a hearing, and wages and/or tips lost as a result of attending a hearing (Discrimination, 2009).
Sexual harassment in a work place is any form of unwanted or unwelcomed behavior, or attention of a sexual nature that interferes with your ability to function at work. It is also, largely a form of gender discrimination that is covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (Sexual Harassment, 2009).There are many cases that have resulted from sexual harassment and many different forms of remedies of such harassment takes place.