14 November 2012
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual harassment can occur anywhere, especially in the workplace. In fact, approximately 15,000 sexual harassment cases are brought to the attention of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) each year. (Risman) This does not include actions brought privately by sexual harassment attorneys. This type of harassment is not only damaging to the victim and the harasser, but also to the organization involved and could potentially cost them a lot of money. Sexual harassment is not only unethical; it is illegal. Managers and other individuals of authority are ethically obligated to ensure that they, their coworkers and their subordinates never engage in this type of conduct, even unintentionally. Victims of sexual harassment can be both men and women, and their harassers do not have to be of the opposite sex. However, women are the most frequent victims of sexual harassment. Women who are employed in male-dominated occupations or positions stereotypically associated with certain gender relationships, such as a female secretary reporting to a male boss, are more likely to be sexually harassed. “Of the 607 women surveyed by the National Association for Female Executives, 60% indicated that they had experienced some form of sexual harassment.” (Jones, George 169)
According to the EEOC’s website, sexual harassment is described as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment and when this conduct explicitly and implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.” Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, there are two types of sexual harassment: hostile working environment and quid pro quo.
Hostile working environment sexual harassment consists of actions such as telling lewd jokes, displaying pornography, making sexually oriented remarks about someone’s personal appearance, and other sex-related actions that make the work environment unpleasant. (Jones, George 169) Courts have held employers and harassers liable for this type of harassment. A hostile work environment interferes with an employee’s ability to perform their jobs effectively and is considered illegal. Claims of hostile working environments are very “fact intensive.” (Sexual Harassment That Creates a Hostile Work Environment) There are various circumstances that are severe or persuasive enough in order to constitute a legal violation. Managers who engage in this type of harassment or allow others to do so risk costly lawsuits for their employer. For example, in February 2004 a federal jury awarded Marion Schwab $3.24 million after reflecting on her sexual harassment case against FedEx. From 1997 to 2000, Schwab was the only female tractor-trailer driver at the FedEx facility serving the Harrisburg International Airport vicinity in Middletown, PA. During her employment at the facility she was the target of sexual suggestions, given more work assignments, and was the center of derogatory comments about her appearance and the role of women in society. The breaks on her truck were tampered with five times also. The EEOC sued FedEx and Schwab was a part of that lawsuit. (Jones, George 169-70)
Quid pro quo is Latin for “this for that.” This type of sexual harassment can occur when an employee is asked or forced to perform sexual favors in exchange for job benefits. These benefits can include employment, promotion, salary increases, shift or work assignments, performance expectations or other conditions of employment. It can also occur if rejection of a sexual advance or request for a sexual favor results in the loss of job benefits as described above. (Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment) This type of sexual harassment is prohibited as a matter of...