Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace is a very serious problem that needs to be dealt with effectively. What is sexual harassment? Sexual harassment is defined as a form of sex discrimination, which is a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It involves unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, especially when submission to this conduct is made a term or condition of one's employment (www.business.strose.edu). However, sexual harassment is not limited to sexual advances. It also includes the creation of a intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment based on one's sex. Although men also face harassment, women are the most likely victims. Harm caused by sexual harassment is often extreme, including loss of dignity, psychological injury, and damage to professional reputation and career. The victims often face a choice between their work and their self-esteem. Sometimes, they even face a choice between their jobs and their own safety. There has been a great deal of debate on sexual harassment in the last few years. What exactly constitutes sexual harassment? There are many arguments of this nature. Many people think sexual harassment is something other than what it really is. Many people agree on the pro quo form of sexual harassment (sexual advances, requesting sexual favors, etc..). However, the "hostile working environment" harassment is still under great debate. This type of harassment is done when the workplace is full of discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult. It can make people feel very uncomfortable and is often less easy to recognize. This is where the law gets tricky. If the victim does not perceive the environment to be hostile, then it is not a violation of the law. One must look at the whole picture. This leads to many questions however. Is it okay to tell off-color jokes? What is unwelcome? When is conduct based on sex? Are employees allowed to flirt on the job? What happens when someone gets offended? Who decides what is appropriate? Should employees be required to tolerate some behavior but not another? Today, courts will more likely find an illegal hostile environment present when the workplace includes sexual propositions, pornography, extremely vulgar language, sexual touching, degrading comments, or embarrassing questions or jokes. There are many examples of court cases which back this up. "(1) In Hall v. Gus Construction Co., a construction company had hired three woman to work at road construction sites. Male co-workers continually subjected these women to verbal sexual abuse. One woman even developed a skin reaction to the sun which the men immediately labeled "Herpes." The women often found obscenities written in the dust on their co-worker. Male co-workers continuously asked the women for sexual favors. IN addition to the verbal abuse, the women were constantly subjected to offensive and unwelcome physical contact. On one occasion, the men help up one of the female employees so that the driver of a truck could touch her. The men subjected all three women to other types of abuse including "mooning" them, showing them pornographic pictures, and urinating in their water bottles and automobile gas tanks. The company's supervisor was well aware of all of these activities. The court found this conduct violated Title Vii because it was unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature, even though it did not contain "explicit sexual overtones." (Roberts, Mann) "(2) In Robinson v. Jacksonville Shipyards, Inc., a shipyard company employed a female welder who was continually subjected to nude and partially nude pictures posted by her male co-workers. The men also referred to the victim as "baby," "sugar," "momma", and "dear." In addition, the men wrote obscene graffiti directed at the victim all over the plant. The victim complained about this atmosphere of harassment on a number...
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