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Sexual Harassment

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Harassment can be described in general terms as aggressive or hostile interaction at the workplace. It is one of the most extreme psychosocial strains that can occur in the work environment which can cause great personal harm as well as litigation and liability issues. According to Walsh (2010), hostile work environment harassment is a form of discrimination burdened with conflict at the workplace. It can happen between colleagues of the same rank as well as between supervisor and subordinates, races, sex, religious sects, and ages to name a few examples. A person or persons are considered to be inferior and are attacked directly or subtly by one or several others in a systematic way and often over a considerable period of time with the result of excluding them or discriminating against them on the job. The harassed person would consider the aggression as discrimination or exclusion. Sexual harassment or any unlawful harassment of any nature violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This negative conduct creates a very hostile environment and can very well affect an employee’s employment status and benefits along with their well being. Anyone from a business representative, to a co-worker, contractor, vendor, or non-employee can commit this act. Victims can be anyone affected by conduct like this, not just an individual that the act is directed to. Sexual harassment can create a very hostile work environment. Individuals or groups can create this kind of environment by making offensive remarks about body parts, looks, or clothing (Federal Communications Commission, 2012). A good example of this came in the 1993 case of Harris v. Forklift Systems. Teresa Harris worked as a manager from 1985 to 1987 and was subjugated to sexual harassment from the company’s president, Charles Hardy. Mr. Hardy proceeded to sexually harass Ms. Harris and eventually was found guilty by the U.S. Supreme Court of creating a sexually hostile working environment as well as making inappropriate gender based remarks, physical gestures, and verbal remarks of a sexual nature (AAUW, 2012). Another form of harassment of a sexual nature is “Quid Pro Quo”. This is sexual harassment which is more obvious and where sexual conduct is the basis of employment. It could come in the form of a manager telling a candidate that if he or she has sex with them then he or she will have the open job or if they don’t have sex with the manager then he or she could lose their job (Schwartz, 2008). There are other actions associated with harassment that are non-sexual in nature but can be just as hostile to protected classes. The use of racially derogatory words, epithets, phrases, negative comments about skin color, ethnic characteristics, remarks about gender but not of a sexual nature, negative references to a physical impairment or mental state, negative stereotyping in regards to ethnicity, ancestry, or birthplace are all examples of what can also create a hostile work environment (Federal Communications Commission, 2012). A great example of this happened in Madison, Wisconsin where a federal jury awarded a former history professor at Madison Area technical College $1.1 million dollars for complaining about religious discriminatory practices and harassment. Michael Dubin, plaintiff, claimed that he was released from his duties as professor as a retaliation for complaining about two other colleagues making negative comments and slurs about his religious belief in Judism (Ziff, 2011). Discrimination in the workplace will not be tolerated. Employees and volunteers have a right to work in an environment free from illegal and unwanted discrimination and unlawful harassment. Employers need to understand that they are liable for this type of conduct in the workplace. Along with applicable state laws employers are required to adhere to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. If employers and business owners are found guilty of discriminating practices they are subject to fines, jail time, and the distinct possibility of losing their business (Utah Department of Human Resource Management, 2010). Unlawful harassment comes in many different forms. It can come in an unwanted vocal or physical form based on national origin, age, gender, race, disability, retaliation, sexual orientation, or religion. Employees must be made aware of the protections given to them through state and federal laws in order to work in a peaceful work environment. Employers must be made aware of these laws to help enforce the policies inscribed or face possible litigation for non-compliance (The Federal Communications Commission, 2012).

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