Harassment in the Workplace

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There are numerous ethical issues in the workplace. As a student that wishes to pursue a career in Human Resource Management, one ethical topic that appeals to me personally is that of harassment in the workplace. Harassment is often defined as “any unwelcome or unwanted conduct that denigrates or shows hostility or an aversion towards another person” (Workplace Harassment). An unwelcome behavior is defined as anything that “the employee did not solicit, instigate or provoke, and the employee regarded the conduct as undesirable or offensive” (Workplace Harassment). One thing to keep in mind is that anyone that is affected by the behavior of the offender can file a complaint of harassment. This is not limited to the person that is actually being harassed. There can be several different types of harassment in the workplace, including racial, ethnical, religious, age, disability, language, whistle blower, and the most well-known, sexual. Before going into the ethics of harassment, the laws against it, and how to handle and prevent it, I will briefly explain each type.

The first two I mentioned, racial and ethnical, often go hand in hand. This type of harassment occurs when someone says or does something negative to another worker simply because of their race or ethnic background. This can be comments made in comparison of the abilities of different races or ethnic groups, or even jokes the offender does not think are insulting.

Next is religious harassment. This type of harassment would include any comments or actions that use someone's choice of religion against them. An example of this would be if an employer continuously makes comments to the employee about religious practices that the employee participates in, even after the employee has made it clear that he is uncomfortable with the comments.

Harassment because of an individual’s age is an increasing issue. This can occur when someone repeatedly ridicules or compares an older person’s work with that of a younger person, and makes it clear that the difference is based on the age difference of the two.

Another common type of harassment is that of those with disabilities. If someone were to make derogatory comments about how that person should not have been given the job because of their disability, this could be considered harassment.

An area that has recently become protected in the harassment laws is that of language. Surprisingly, it is not required that an employee be able to speak English as long as they are legally able to work in the U.S. It is harassment if anyone were to give the employee a hard time over the fact that they do not speak or understand English.

Another recent addition is the protection against harassment for those that are titled "whistle blowers". A whistle blower is a person that reports a business or person within the business for doing something wrong. It is illegal for a person to retaliate again the person deemed the whistle blower.

Finally is the topic of sexual harassment. As stated before, this is the most common and most talked about type of harassment. Typically it is women that claim to be sexually harassed. This type of harassment is defined as any unwanted comments about one’s body or appearance, solicitations for sexual acts, or physical contact. This topic also includes bribes of sexual acts in exchange for keeping ones job or getting promoted to a different job position.

When it comes to the ethics of harassment, at first glance it would appear that all cases of harassment are the result of unethical behaviors. However that may not always be the case. When determining if an action or behavior that has been accused of being harassment is in fact unethical, it is important to first look at two different aspects of the events; impact and intent. The first aspect, impact, is the task of determining if the reported event did in fact affect the “victim” in a negative way. When making this...
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