Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Philosophy Class 218
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
What is sexual harassment?
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), "sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual's employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual's work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment." I think sexual harassment in the workplace is a social responsibility of business, unlike Milton Friedman's thoughts. Friedman believes corporations are there only to make a profit. He states, "there is one and only one social responsibility of business - to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits
" George Brenkert another author in Business Ethics believes that corporations should assume some of the social responsibility to help alleviate "public welfare deficiencies" , areas such as inner city, drug problems, and poverty. Brenkert's article does not speak to social responsibilities within the workplace, only how corporations should help with society issues in the public scheme of things. One other author, Norman Bowie, takes a neoclassical view that "corporations are to make a profit while honoring the moral minimum and respecting individual rights and justice." The corporate social responsibility doctrine is most often conceived of as having to do mainly with what the corporation owes society. So the responsibility of corporations to treat their employees well is not often raised in this context. From my perspective, I agree with Norman Bowie. Sexual behavior in the workplace is an appearance of general male dominance since it presents a moral etiquette and a lack of respect of an individual's rights and justice. In our social culture, I think most people believe that men and women are held in a structure of dominance and subordination. Men are thought to be the dominate gender and women the subordinate. I believe most corporations, whether conscious or not, reward male employees for their aggressive and assertive behavior, whereas women are seen as passive, mild mannered or weak. Therefore, the majority of sexual harassment claims are from women against men. Within the workplace, sexual harassment is about exclusionary treatment and the abuse of personal power by management to subordinates. Exploration into sexual harassment did not occur until the mid 1970's as in such controversial books by feminist authors such as Lin Farley's Sexual Shakedown: The Sexual Harassment of Women on The Job (1978) and Catherine MacKinnon's Sexual Harassment of Working Women (1979). Sexual harassment in the workplace is not a recent problem, although legal liability for it is. With widespread publicity, surveys have shown that many companies in the United States still have not taken the proper steps to protect themselves and their employees. In 1978, anthropologist Margaret Mead, then a writer for Redbook, spoke about the problems of sexual harassment in the workplace this way, "it isn't more laws that we need now, but new taboos." "You don't make passes at or sleep with the people you work with." (Mead 1978) Mead felt corporations and employees needed better morals and ethics within the workplace instead of laws governing our movements. Some authors such as Kenneth Cooper want us to believe that the sexual harassment pendulum swings from one extreme to the other with various steps between including such things as offensive language and flirting. Kenneth Cooper is the author of, The Six Levels of Sexual Harassment; he proposed, "managers explain the concept to employees primarily through description of...
Citations: 5 Mead, Margaret; A Proposal: We Need Taboos on Sex at Work, Redbook (April, 1978) 31-33, 38
6 Kenneth Cooper is a leading analyst and speaker in the area of verbal and nonverbal communications and sexual harassment
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