Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Types of sexual harassment
  3. Sexual harassment statistics
  4. Personal experience
  5. Ways to prevent sexual harassment in the working place
  6. Bystander approaches
  7. Conclusion
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Comfortable and equal treatment at work is a civil right under federal and state laws. Sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination that involves unwelcome sexual conduct or pressure at the workplace. The law says that no one is obligated to work in an intensive atmosphere, and no one has the right to harass another person at work. Sexual harassment is the most distressing experience both for employers and for employees. Sexual harassment is unsolicited sexual behavior that is rude, offensive and aggressive.

Nevertheless, the number of cases of sexual harassment increases from year to year. This type of harassment can cause fear and confusion, and can have long-term physical and psychological consequences. Both men and women can be the victims of sexual harassment, however, very few of them report about the incident. The purpose of the paper is to determine the meaning of sexual harassment, to develop the understanding of the concept and to explain a persons role and responsibility in preventing sexual harassment at the workplace.

2 Types of Sexual Harassment

According to the US Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances or conduct of sexual nature, which unreasonably interferes with the performance of a persons job or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment (Sexual harassment).

  1. Quid Pro Quo

The US Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) determines two types of sexual harassment: quid pro quo (something for something) and hostile work environment (Sexual harassment). Quid pro quo is the most commonly recognized form of sexual harassment. In fact, it usually occurs, when an employee can achieve his/ her career benefits in exchange for a sexual favor.

In other words, this is the situation, when a person, who has authority over the victim, demands to satisfy his/ her sexual needs in exchange for a promotion, new office, opportunity to travel or salary raise. Quid pro quo may include threats of work related punishments if the victim refuses to obey. Quid pro quo sexual harassment may be exercised in the following forms:

  • male to female;
  • female to male;
  • same-sex.
  1. Hostile Work Environment

Another type of persecution a hostile work environment occurs when the environment at the workplace is very strained and the conduct is so severe that the circumstances can affect a persons labor efficiency and even personal life.

5 Main Sexual Harassment Actions

The following actions are directly related to sexual harassment:

  1. Displaying the pictures, images or toys of a sexual nature publicly.
  2. Telling jokes, stories or comments of a sexual nature.
  3. Persistent touching without permission.
  4. Intentional blocking a persons movement.
  5. E-mails, messages or other communications with a sexual background (Sexual harassment).

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Sexual Harassment Statistics

Any person can be an object of a sexual molestation at the workplace. Males can be harassed by other males and females can be harassed by other females. According to the reports of Australian Human Rights Commission, over 21% of people were sexually abused since the age of fifteen in the past five years and 69% of them were harassed at the workplace.

Sexual solicitation usually has a stronger effect on females than on males. 33% of women and 9% of men were harassed since the age of 15. Almost 25% of women and 16% of men (15 years old or older) were sexually harassed at the workplace in the past five years (fig.1) (Working without Fear 15-16).

Personal Experience with Sexual Harassment at Work

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that protects individuals from discrimination based on sex (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964). According to the law, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate individuals based on sex in the process of hiring, firing, and other terms and conditions of employment, such as promotions, salary raises, and other job opportunities (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964). Despite the prohibitions of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, many people face this problem at the workplace (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964).

Sexual harassment has an influence both on individuals and on institutions. In fact, it decreases job satisfaction, success and productivity. Corporations suffer financially and lose their reputation. Such incidents lead to disrespect and distrust among employees and their authorities. Very often individuals lose their jobs, careers and incomes. The disclosure to the public can lead to shame, guilt, depression, humiliation and extreme stress. As a rule, it is difficult to cope with the stress and depression independently. So, I would like to share a story about my personal experience.

Few years ago, I decided to find a job. After a successful interview, I got a position of a secretary in a very respectable company. My boss was a very pleasant man. He was forty-five years old and he was handsome and well mannered. The boss promised me a high salary and a friendly working environment. My cabinet was next to my bosss office.

Every day at 9 oclock, I had to give him a package of documents for signing, to welcome the visitors and offer them drinks or food. I was completely satisfied with my new job. The majority of my co-workers were men, but this fact did not bother me at the beginning of my career. I had a flextime job, so I could spend more time with my family.

After two months, I noticed that my co-workers looked at me in a different manner. Surprisingly, my boss was not an exception. I thought such a situation was natural; therefore, I did not pay much attention to such a fact. After a few months, I was a part of the company and managed my tasks excellently. One day there was a conflict in our office. My boss invited me to his office. He was in a bad mood that day. As soon as I crossed the doorstep of his cabinet, he began to shout at me. The boss blamed me for my carelessness. I could not understand the problem, so I asked to explain everything to me. I heard only mumbling in response. I liked my job and valued it very much.

This incident worried me a lot, and I felt guilty. Unfortunately, that incident was not the last one. My boss shouted at me and accused me of being careless almost every day. At the end of one of my working days, I decided to find out a true reason for bosss complaints. When I entered the office, my boss offered me to sit down. The job meant much to me because my future depended on it. We kept quiet for a while and then he took a sit right next to me. I felt very uncomfortable, but I did not dare to object. I wanted to solve the problem as quickly as possible, so I asked him a few questions about the problem.

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At that moment, my supervisor gently put his arm round my waist. I was confused. I tried to lean forward to release myself from his tight embrace but all my efforts were unsuccessful. We continued our conversation. A few minutes later, the boss told me that everything was fine and I could continue working. When I was about to leave, my boss gave me a note with his personal phone number, and added that I could call him any time. Then he kissed me on my cheek. I was confused and did not know what to say. When I went home, I was angry.

However, I did not ask my female colleagues whether they had the same experience because I was afraid to be fired. The next few months I did not experience much stress at the workplace. From time to time, my boss expressed interest of a sexual nature to me by telling compliments, making sexual comments about my appearance and figure. I knew that I could not stand such a treatment any longer, so I decided to write an e-mail to my boss. In my letter, I pointed out that I did not want to have problems and to reveal any information to the public. I wrote that I considered his actions improper and asked him to stop behaving in such a manner.

The next day I was in the boss's office again. I was ready to listen to the indignation and resentment, but my boss asked me to sleep with him instead. He offered me to have sexual relations with him. The boss knew that the job was very important to me, so he began to manipulate me. My boss promised a promotion and a higher salary in exchange for regular sex. In case of a refusal, my working days would be a nightmare. I was shocked and frustrated. Of course, I refused his proposal because it was beneath my dignity. The boss told me to think twice about his offer. I felt awful.

The next day male colleagues whispered behind my back. They believed that I had sexual relations with the boss in exchange for a higher salary. Sexual jokes, comments, stories, blocking the way and ungrounded reproofs of my boss everything made the working environment terrible. Thus, I decided to quit, as it was impossible to work in the office.

Two years passed after the unpleasant incident. After my discharge, I did not file any complaints because I did not have enough evidence of the harassment. I was afraid of being accused of sexual behavior. I knew that it was a mistake not to file a complaint. Recently the number of cases of sexual harassment at work has increased significantly. The majority of the harassed women do not try to resolve the problem or ask for help.

In fact, it is a social issue, which should be taken into account immediately. So, I decided to help women, who face sexual harassment at the workplace. I work at the womens center for legal advice and support of women, who were sexually harassed at their workplaces. I meet many women who need help, a piece of advice or moral support. All of the victims have overcome fear and filed a complaint against their offenders. Moreover, the women's center organized anti-harassment training for women to prevent the sexual harassment at the workplace.

In fact, women's center provides high-level support for those, who went through harassment by managers, supervisors or colleagues. The center provides all the necessary information about anti- harassment policy and employee rights. Everyone deserves respect and favorable conditions at the workplace.

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Ways to Prevent Sexual Harassment in the Working Place

The great number of people, who were sexually harassed, do not file complaints or look for support or advice. According to the 2012 National Sexual Harassment Survey Sexual, only 21% of respondents, who faced the problem, files an official report or complaint (15). The victims were asked why they did not inform legal authorities about the offender. The reasons were mixed. Many of the victims decided to deal with the situation on their own or solve the problem by communicating it to the harasser.

13% of women and 18% of men concluded that the harassment was not very severe. Some individuals decided that it was easier and safer for them to keep quiet than to file an official complaint or ask for help. The majority of men stated that the incident did not bother them, because they were mildly offended or were not offended at all. Moreover, some victims asserted that the harasser did not mean to offend them.

4% of women thought that they could be fired because of filing a complaint about sexual harassment; they also could not rely on the people, who would deal with their problem. Nevertheless, 29% of respondents, who were sexually harassed, looked for support and advice (Boland 67-75; Working without Fear 18-20).

Informing against harassers can be a forceful, effective and decisive way to put an end to sexual harassment at the workplaces. In the majority of cases, the sexual harassment stopped after the official report or complaint; 45% of respondents confirmed this fact. Almost 74% of complaints were satisfied in favor of the victims. However, some respondents experienced negative consequences after complaining (Boland 67-75; Working without Fear 18-20).

Bystander Approaches

Workplace sexual harassment is a continual problem, which demands new solutions. The most powerful weapon against sexual harassment is the initial prevention. In fact, the harassment will deteriorate, when the problem is addressed, and the situation will be more complicated to amend. Bystander approaches provide effective strategies to prevent sexual harassment at the working environment. The Bystander Approaches to Sexual Harassment at the Workplace focus on the ways other individuals, who are not the targets of the conduct, can intervene in violence, harassment or other anti-social behavior in order to prevent and reduce harm to others (3-7).

Individuals, who noticed sexual harassment incidents or hear about them at the workplace, are called bystanders. Many bystanders try to prevent sexual harassment, help victims to cope with the stress and reduce harm caused by the harassment. Usually, bystanders talk to victims and help them to file a complaint or find all the necessary information (Working without Fear 18-20). Moreover, employers are responsible for providing their employees with mild and friendly working environment free of harassment. According to the law, employers are obliged to prevent and deal with all the types of harassment at the workplace. The employers have to regularly monitor the working environment and ensure that all the standards are followed.

Moreover, all the institutions should have an anti-harassment policy, which explains the nature of harassment, defines legal consequences, and displays the ways how both employers and employees should respond to its outbreak. According to Australian Human Right Commission, there are five simple steps, which should be taken into consideration by the employers to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace.

The steps are the following:

  • high-level support from a senior manager to implement a strategy against sexual harassment;
  • carrying out a sexual harassment policy and to distribute it among all the levels of the organization;
  • providing all the necessary information about sexual harassment and anti-harassment policy to new members;
  • realizing regular training on sexual harassment and creating a positive and favorable workplace environment (Effectively Preventing 21-29).
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Sexual harassment at a workplace is an illegal, unwelcome and prohibited behavior. In fact, it has many implications for employers, employees, and organizations. The employers should provide auspicious conditions for the staff. In order to prevent the sexual harassment, the authorities of the organization should supply the staff members with all the necessaries documents, insurance arrangements and policies. Each member of the institution should have a sense of protectability while working with other people.

Every organization should also have an employment policy that will ensure that the career paths of the employee are without sexual harassment or discrimination. The staff should be aware of sexual harassment incidents and all the consequences. They should know the responsibilities and commitments to prevent the occurrence of sexual harassment at the working environment. The organization should provide support for the employees and discuss the subject of sexual harassment on all the levels.

Moreover, employers should support the victims of sexual harassment, help to cope with the stress and overcome the effect of the negative experience. Finally, nobody should be afraid to file an official report or complaint against the offender. Thus, it is much easier to extirpate and prevent sexual harassment when it is visible.

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