Sexual Harassment Laws: Are They Effective Enough?

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Kristen Eason-Dedeaux
BUS3004
December 16, 2012
Sexual harassment laws: Are they effective enough?

Sexual harassment laws: Are they effective enough?

Sexual harassment is a very touchy topic among people. In this paper we will discuss whether or not sexual harassment laws are strong enough. It is often discussed if the laws should be strengthened , or if perhaps the problem solely lies within employers not enforcing the laws that are set into place. How can this be corrected? Should the laws in general be strengthened, or should there be stronger penalties against the employers who refuse to enforce such laws? One thing that we know for sure, is that sexual harassment has been around for decades. It seems that each year we are having an influx of cases. What can be done to minimize the occurrence of sexual harassment in our lives?

History of sexual harassment laws

Unheard of until the 1970's, sexual harassment has become a dominant concern of employer's, schools, and other organizations throughout the country. It is one of the most litigated areas of sexual discrimination law, and virtually all major companies, government organizations, colleges and universities and even the military now have sexual harassment policies in place. Even the President of the United States has been subject to sexual harassment lawsuit (Encyclopedia of Everyday Law). In fact, sexual harassment was first declared to be illegal in the context of employment. In the 1970's, courts began interpreting preexisting laws that prohibited sex discrimination in employment to bar sexual harassment of workers (Laura W. Stein).

Enforcement of sexual harassment laws

Employer's must satisfy the requirement of sexual harassment laws by distributing a policy to help prevent it from occurring in the workplace. It is often mentioned that perhaps the laws are not strong enough. Another common occurrence could be that the harassment is not being reported properly. If the company fails to intervene or enforce sexual harassment laws, they are immediately held liable legally for the offense at hand. It is generally believed that employers can encourage greater reporting of sexual harassment by establishing and maintaining effective sexual harassment complaint mechanisms and a policy prohibiting retaliation against complainants (U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission).

In recent years, lower federal courts have recognized sexual harassment as a form of sex discrimination. In Meritor Savings Bank versus Vinson, the ruling suggests that an employer that chooses to ignore or remain indifferent to an abusive or offensive environment will be held liable for its supervisors' actions. However, an employer that implements the steps of developing a grievance procedure to protect harassed employees, encouraging victims to come forward and promptly taking action, will escape liability (Stacey J. Garvin).

Employer's liability for sexual harassment

Employer's should have a written policy against sexual harassment. These policies should be taught to managers and supervisors in order to effectively teach against the harassment in the workplace. Currently the United States Supreme Court is contemplating whether or not employer's should be held legally responsible for sexual harassment even if they were unaware of it.

There are no specific actions that an employer must take to satisfy the requirement that it take reasonable care to prevent or stop sexual harassment. An employer may satisfy the requirement of reasonable care to prevent sexual harassment by having and distributing to employees a policy prohibiting sexual harassment and informing employees how to make a complaint. However, if an employer has a policy but does not enforce it or if an employer fails to investigate sexual harassment complaints but investigates other complaints of misconduct, then the employer may...
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