18SP-MG630-144 – Org. Behavior & Leadership in 21st Centu
Karleen N John
King Graduate School Monroe College
July 28, 2018
Generally speaking, the aim of this research paper is to identify and bring to light the key issues relating to sexual harassment and discrimination as well as the parties involved. Sexual harassment can be seen as any unwanted activity of a sexual nature that affects an individual’s employment and creates a hostile work environment. Next, is discrimination which is noting the difference between things; often we refer to unfair discrimination, like making judgment about individuals based on stereotypes regarding their demographic group. Many different sub-topics will be discussed, for instance the history of sexual harassment, the types, behavior and factors of sexual harassment.
Further in this paper a legal case will be quoted as well as a company H;M will be used as a reference and good example of reducing sexual harassment. Moreover, the responding to the harassment, and the part the law plays in situations, as well the liabilities and consequences that come along with it. Additionally, the strategies to stop the harassment and of course the role of the Human Resource Department and the supervisors, also to be considered is the government intervention. The ways in which it could be avoided because of the detrimental impact that is being left in the victims, and how the involvement of the supervisors and manager can play a critical role in avoided the situation.
“Sexual harassment is a subtle rape and rape is more about fear than sex,” a psychologist; Dr. John Gottman from the University of Washington quoted “Harassment is a way for a man to make a woman vulnerable.” At companies in today’s world Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has developed into a key subject. CSR is a type of responsibility which denotes the ongoing obligation of businesses to willingly act ethically and participate in economic growth while at the same time refining the quality of life of the families as well as the workforce and society on a whole. This responsibility is not news to our ears hence it is nothing new that companies should behave in a social responsible manner. Sexual harassment is one of the many contents that fall under the CSR category, ethic codes and guidelines are developed in the matter as well as working conditions, environmental issues, child labor and wages just to name a few. Many companies have benefit from participating in this responsibility program, their profits have strengthened and are many, the employment relation were boosted, also brand recognition enhanced. Therefore, behind any good CSR program is justifiable change and social advancement, this brings forth a company who possesses credible standards whom is a viable brand and can manage risk efficiently.
Sexual harassment can be seen as any unwanted activity of a sexual nature that affects an individual’s employment and creates an intimidating work setting. Next, is discrimination which is noting the difference between things; often we refer to prejudicial discrimination, like making judgment about individuals based on stereotypes regarding their demographic group. The unwanted activity can mean request for sexual favors, unwelcome sexual advances, or other bodily or verbal conduct. Once belligerent comments are made about a person’s sex and may not even be of a sexual manner it is also considered as harassment.
Sexual harassment is a sub-category of sex discrimination, it encroaches upon Title VII of the Civil rights Act of 1964. This title is a federal law that bans discrimination in the workplace based on sex, color, race, religion and ethnic origin; it is applied to all companies with fifteen or more personnel. Also stated in the law, it makes it illegal to strike back against a person who partook in an employment discrimination lawsuit or investigation or because they filed a complaint about discrimination. In 1991, after a huge sexual harassment scandal at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York; the Civil Rights Act was amended to permit victims to a jury trial when in search of compensatory and disciplinary damages under Title VII. From then on, the cases on sexual harassment rose from 6,127 in that same year to 15,342 by 1996. Yet still with all these acts, laws and Title VII’s protection, a lot of people over the world still are challenged sexual harassment in their workplace. Sexual harassment is unethical as it disrupts the right to freedom of conscience.
Sexual harassment stems way back in time, it is natural for women and men to find each other attracted in many ways including sexually. Based on research men are more aggressive creatures than women in their advances sexually, and again this is not anything new to society. Women are being hassled at work ever since they have to work together with men. This act of harassment traces all the way in the 1840’s, when women were working in the mines and being continuously stressed for sexual favors by the men workers. A time goes by it was clear that women occupied the workforce on a whole, to the point where there were women dominated the workforce which automatically means the cases of sexual harassment will significantly increase. Though, different studies were undertaken ever since this act became more popular and causes more of a problem, they began to go in depth with the definition from various people and of what was said and done.
In order to sub-categorize sexual harassment, it is divided into two parts; quid pro quo and hostile. Quid pro quo has taken place when a person feels that they need to accept the behavior to keep their job, most times it will come from a person in a position power who demands such sexual request. For example; hypothetically speaking at my place of work at the National Bank of Dominica, someone in a supervisory role like the floor manager makes the victim like a basic cash teller, that their job is at risk if they do not fulfill with the said requests. Based on the changing laws, the complaints of quid pro quo have decreased. The other is hostile harassment, basically this is when there is an incessant pattern of physical or verbal by the wrongdoer, in other words it is when an employee is confronted with extreme unwelcome sexual behaviors and remarks over months or even years. With the laws amended, the hostile harassment did not decrease like the quid pro quo, matter of fact it continued. Based on the two types of sexual harassment, it is studied that only five to fifteen percent of women take legal action, and out of the five to fifteen, only fifty percent are found to have a valid and solid cause. In the public eye, women who report these harassments are seen as weak and hypersensitive; since women are also seen as emotional creatures the public tend to think they are fabricating stories or trying to seek revenge on a male colleague and always blowing things out of proportion.
There are many behaviors that may constitute of sexual harassment, below is a short list of basic actions that can be unwanted.
pinching women’s body parts
conversation of one’s partner’s sexual shortfalls
remarks about women’s physical being
‘unintentionally’ brushing sexual parts of the body
fictions of sexual manipulation
intimidating and lewd pieces of writing
explicit images of pornography
pressure to be taken out on dates
sexually unambiguous motions
unsolicited touching and embracing
sexist and rude graffiti
demanding, “Hey, baby, give me a wink”
inappropriate offers (e.g., bedroom)
hostile insults of females
exaggerated, contemptuous ‘courtesy’
indecent telephone calls
insisting that employees wear skimpy attires
unsuitable gifts (ex. sex toys)
lip-smacking and animal noises
rubbing up against the target
soliciting sexual amenities
stalking and pestering
invading a personal space
In all the listed above, each one includes glaring and they are the types of things males do to females in an effort to display they are sexually attracted to them. They make these advances pretty much anywhere they can for example walking down the street, the mall, the beach, in the night clubs, and the most disgraceful place their place of employment.
In addition, there are many factors of sexual harassment at the workplace, but the main four are power, victim’s attitude, working environment and moral values and cultural differences. First is power, men usually feel threatened by women who are enhancing their career and they are uncomfortable with a woman’s independence, with this insecurity they believe that they need to show authority. The famous quote from the University of Illinois psychologist, Dr. Louise Fitzgerald is as follows; “Only about twenty-five percent of cases of sexual harassment are botched seductions, in which the man is trying to get someone into bed and in less than five percent of cases the harassment involves a bribe or threat for sex, when the man is saying, If you do this for me, I’ll help you at work and if you don’t I’ll make things difficult for you. The rest are assertion of power.” Secondly is the victim’s attitude, some just do not have the ability to overcome the act, they are also afraid of being fired, furthermore a lot of embarrassment comes with any sexual harassment case, and females tends to think that it was their fault that is escalading so much. Another psychologist, Dr. Michelle Paludi from the Hunter College, quotes “We find that close to ninety percent of women who have been sexually harassed want to leave but cannot because they need the job.” Next is the working environment, women tend to suffer due to the lack of the company policy about sexual harassment. Similarly, an unprofessional environment is a very compelling factor for example the disrespect and obscenity among employees, and likewise some of the employees can have sexist attitude. In the city of Los Angeles, a study was conducted by a psychologist;
Dr. Nancy Baker, she said, and I quote “On all twenty-eight items of sexual harassment scale, ranging from lewd remarks to sexual assault, the women in white-collar jobs, the same holds true. The more non-traditional the job for women, the more sexual harassment. Women surgeons and investment bankers rank among the highest for harassment.” Lastly is moral values and cultural differences, this is a very diverse factor, confusion may result from the cultural differences, moreover emotional distress of the victim as well as the perpetrator can lead to the risk of sexual harassment. “Most of the women said that sexual harassment started at the first lunch, when he talked about her private life instead of her work. Most of the men said that sexual harassment began at the point he fondled her” The psychologist Dr. Michelle Paludi again stated the above, she went on to further say “There is a difference between intent and impact. Many may not intend it, but some things they do may be experienced by women as sexual harassment. A touch or comment can be seen very differently.”
The moral rights approach declares that actions are only ethical if they do interfere with the rights of others. People must ask themselves ‘if all or most people acted in accordance with a decision, would society be better off?’ This approach proclaims that liberties and rights of a person cannot be taken away by someone’s decision. Study shows that there are six moral rights that should be taken into consideration when a decision is being made.
The right of free consent; meaning that person supposed to be treated only as they easily consent to be treated.
The right to privacy; basically, people have the choice to do as they please out of the work environment and control the amount of private information inflows into the workplace.
The right of freedom of conscience, according to persons religious customs and standards they are to refrain from undertaking a task.
The right of free speech, essentially this is being able to criticize frankly the action of others.
The right to due process, humans should have the right to fair treatment.
The right to life and safety, living without violation and endangerment is very crucial for one’s health and safety.
In order to better understand the reality of sexual harassment, the case Aldridge v Booth, it was held by Justice Spender that “… when a woman is subjected to sexual harassment ..she is subjected to that conduct because she is a woman, and a male employee would not be so harassed; the discrimination is on the basis of sex. The woman employee would not have been subjected to the advance, request or conduct but for the fact that she was a woman.” After this case was held, the case law has reinforced the understanding of sexual harassment as a type of sex discrimination against women.
A victim should report the sexual harassment immediately, and as said above there are local and federal laws that will defend them. Women who are deciding to file complaints with an external agency, is recommended to consult a prosecutor. Lawyers in the field of sexual abuse can be contacted through women’s organizations whether local or national, or the company’s union, legal aid community services and many more sources even friends and family. So not being able to contact a lawyer is impossible and is considered an excuse to not bring forth the case. It is also important to interview all the lawyers who could possibly represent the victim, choosing a lawyer who is specialized in the sex harassment or discrimination field, and be aware of the outcome of the cases they took on. The jury; most of the time, decides that the perpetrator is guilty if the victim truly feels that the wrongdoing has taken place. Simply because committing sexual harassment is just wrong, and should be quickly and effectively dealt with, so in that case the victim does not have to be repeating the nightmare time after time. The victim needs to be re-assured that, the harassment needs to cease, and help is everywhere and is accessible.
A perfect example of a company that is very strict on sexual harassment and other means of ill-treatment in the workplace is H&M. This brand has stores in over twenty-four countries and are the number one largest fashion chain. H&M was founded by Hennes Persson and Mauritz Wildforss in 1947 in Sweden, and slowly expanded to countries like Norway and The United States of America. The company then launched their website where goods were sold via the internet. Currently they retail in clothes, accessories, shoes and cosmetics for men, children, women and teenagers of all sizes and even produce for the big and tall. They do not actually manufacture the clothing themselves, however they work closely with over seven hundred sovereign suppliers all over the world. H&M’s corporate social responsibility is what caught a lot of people attention.
According to H&M, (CSR report, 2005) corporate social responsibility is said to be “integrating social and environmental concern into business operations.” This company CSR is based on free will, and clearly interpret the fact that companies have the responsibility to act right and also in a way which positively influence H&M shareholders. Furthermore, the fundamental values of H&M as a franchise is very dependent on the CSR being an important strategic matter. One of the directors of the company went on to proclaim that CSR must be integrated in everything H&M does. This company takes the time to connect their CSR to their suppliers, hence high standards are set and continuously improves the working condition of the manufacturers; simply because quality is their number one concentration. H&M made an effort to include in the company’s code of conduct, in the worker’s rights sub section number four that ‘Under no circumstances do we accept that our suppliers or their subcontractors use corporal punishment or other forms of mental or physical disciplinary actions or engage in sexual harassment.’
Another important aspect of sexual harassment in the workplace are the managers, they opt to bring definite personality and behavioral traits to the work environment. The managers value system stems from various factors for example family influence, religious background and personal needs. However, their ethical decisions stem from their self-confidence, ego strength and a robust sense of independence, in addition moral development is another very vital personal trait. It is very likely to encounter a sexual harassment circumstance as a manager, and many times they are the last to know or notice the act, either they find out after the report is filed and place on their desk from the Human Resources department or basically learn about it anecdotally. The burden of preventing sexual harassment is solely on the employer, this is because under the employer’s act, they are accountable for providing their staff with a work atmosphere that does not discriminate and is free from harassment. In other words they are liable for sexual harassment between staff.
As a manager when get in contact with a sexual harassment case, there are some steps that need to be taken carefully. Firstly, the managers should know the process, in other words they should be should aware of all the policies held by the company as well as the protocols and the process of investigation. If the policies and protocols seem unclear, the employer should elucidate and learn them in order to properly deal with the situation. Next the managers should avoid the allure of denial, basically they should take every sexual harassment case like a bankruptcy case; very seriously. Gestures like it’s not worthy of being further investigated and it’s not a big deal is unacceptable.
Also look for the blind spots and those of the employees, they should not let the valuable expertise of a well-established employee blind sight them into seeing the real truth like one’s abusive behavior. That employee may contribute a lot to the company’s profit and earnings but the other employees’ psychological safety as well as diminishes the organizational culture of the company. The acknowledgement of the risk when speaking up should be recognized by the employer, understand the victim and how it is professionally and emotionally risk for them to openly talk about the sexual harassment situation. Managers should exercise empathic listening and courage the staff that it is ok to speak up and come forward.
In order to create a hassle-free working environment, the employees should take several measures, first and foremost they should make it clear that harassment has a zero-tolerance policy in this company, also an effort has to be made in providing informational trainings and education about sexual harassment and any form of discrimination on a regular basis, be it quarterly or semi-annually. Another critical measure is making sure that all supervisory staff comprehend their obligation to promote and deliver an environment free from harassment, and they show too show they mean what they promote by ensuring all the employees understand the policies and procedures that are set for dealing with harassment. There are a lot of preventative methods but as said above all managers must encounter some sort of sexual harassment case in their career. In this case, quickly and efficiently investigating all complaints of sexual harassment is a plus, and of course fittingly penalizing the employees who harass others. In addition, providing support as well as protection for the victims are essential.
Furthermore, avoiding judgement is very critical, legally all sides of the story deserves to be heard, the victim, the perpetrator and the witnesses, jumping to conclusions and passing judgment in ay direction is the wrong way of dealing with the matter. Similarly, be aware of their psychological tensions especially out of the manager’s presence. As a superior, it should be clearly and firmly communicated that a fair, prompt, thorough and confidential investigation is going to be conducted. After a sexual harassment incident, it is wise to issue ongoing trainings and not one-time trainings because the incident occurred. The training should focus on prevention and improving the company’s protocol. Additionally, following up is as significant, because it shows to the employee that the manager cares and wants to stay engage, likewise the company should award managers for their effectiveness in dealing with sexual harassment situations, and they should publicly disapprove of managers that did not deal with the situation accordingly. By law, employers are required to take the essential steps to prevent and deal with harassment at work.
In a sexual harassment case the employer plays a key role however the employees have their part to play as well, they should have an active role in the prevention of sexual harassment. The employees should commit to understanding, observing, examining, confronting, resolving and supporting. They should understand the company’s sexual harassment policy and become acquainted with the important sections, understand and inspect the victim’s attitudes, feelings and behavior. Subsequently, staff should be observant and be aware of possible sexual harassment activities at work, be delicate to victims in one’s verbal and non-verbal behavior and employees should be on the prowl and discourage sexual offences that negatively putting distress the working environment. As part of a company, employees must pay close attention to the reply of others so inadvertent offenses can be avoided, and do not just assume all employees are amused by sexual comments or inappropriate jokes neither by being touched or flirted with. If these gestures are present and makes one feels uncomfortable, do not take it lightly or as a joke and never encourage the perpetrator.
If it is possible that a perpetrator is spotted, confront them instantly and explain how these actions whether physical or verbal can be seen as aggressive, and the behavior being portrayed affects the company negatively and will soon affect their job. As an outsider employee looking at the sexual harassment situation present at the workplace and wants to remain anonymous, they can see confidential advice in order to develop a personal resolution approach, or even drafting a letter to the perpetrator and also keeping a copy for evidence. Lastly, sometimes support is all a person needs, knowing that someone is there and able to talk about it freely and aid in taking action to speak up or stop it. This may lead to a co-worker co-filing the sexual harassment case with the victim, and most important when all hits the fan and the harassment is made public and the process has begun, support throughout.
The victim should also try to prove that the sexual harassment incident actually occurred, word is mouth is effective but so is the perpetrator word of mouth. Keeping evidence is also important to strengthen the case, photographing or keeping copies of any invasive material for example emails, texts and any other credible evidence. Some victims very aware that verbal accusation won’t stand firmly on its own, so journaling the information can be useful of the occurrences of the sexual harassment, recording the dates, place, conversations and how frequent the attacks were. Martha Langelen (1993) advises the victims on many occasions, she insist that the victim do the unexpected for example name the behavior or whatever is was the perpetrator did and be detailed. She went on to say to hold the harasser accountable for their actions, basically do not make excuses and do not pretend the crime never happened, be confident in your truth and let people see your view of the situation.
All in all, privacy protects the perpetrators, but visibility weakens them. When speaking the truth, the victims should make direct and honest statements, and should remain blunt, straightforward and serious, as hard as it might be the victim should don’t make any threats, obscenities nor insults. Langelan then stated that the victim should demand to stop the sexual harassment, and also keep in mind that the victim is not the problem, the harasser’s behavior is so dictate the comments made and repeat. Also, to be transparent to all women especially to the women of the jury that females have the right to be free from such abuse. She further advises women to stick to their own agenda and try not to respond to the perpetrator’s justifications and misleading tactics. The victims should strengthen their statements with a sturdy, self-respecting body language that is eye contact has to be kept, head up, shoulders back and a serious stance. Being nervous, shy and afraid and having an acquiescent body language will undermine the message. Moreover, when ask about the matter, respond appropriately with a combination of physical and verbal replies.
A company should also bring awareness of sexual harassment throughout, hands-on workshops can be suggested, discussing topics like what is sexual harassment, the legal terminology should be explained as well as ways in which sexual harassment complaints should be handled. Sexual harassment doesn’t primarily mean the person has to physically touch the other, verbal is as threatening. In most of the countries over the world sexual harassment is illegal because it harms and scar the victim in a physical nature and mentally as well.
Victims should also bear in mind that they are not the only person who can make a statement of the crime, some are fearful for two reasons; firstly, they are uncertain of how the case would be viewed and also of the consequences from the harasser, especially if the harasser is the person in charge or play a critical role within the company. Time after time the harasser claims that the situation is simply a misunderstanding and it was mutual by both parties involved. This can be factual because the harasser usually takes the victim’s silence as permission to continue the crime, this is where the victim has to make very clear that this behavior is unwanted by saying so, or at least some gesture to let the harasser know that you are not comfortable.
Robbins, S. P. Judge, T. A. (2015) Organization Behavior, United States of America: Pearson Education Inc.
Langelan, Martha. (1993) Back Off: How to confront and stop sexual harassment and harassers, Touchstone Inc.
Maypole, D. P, Skaine, R. (1993) “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.” Pp 385 – 390
Tang, T. L, McCollum, S. L. (1996) “Sexual Harassment in the Workplace.” https://doi.org/10.1177/009102609602500105Sexual Harassment: It’s about Power, Not Lust: Retrieved from nytimes.com/1991/10/22/science/sexual-harassment-it-s-about-power-not-lust.html
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H&M Code of Ethics: Retrieved from http://ethics.iit.edu/ecodes/node/5760