Sexual harassment has been a pathological problem that has affected many people in different workplaces across the globe. The root of sexual harassment is confirmed to emanate largely from power relations and cultural practices at the workplace. Due to its rampancy, many human rights activists and adherents have carried various researches to decipher the rationale behind the perpetuation of this inhumane practice. Sexual harassment has mostly affected women, a scenario that has attracted impassioned focus on the subject to understand the perennial propagation of the vice. Rationally, legal intervention has been viewed as a prudent manner to eliminate the vice but the results of its viability have been disappointing. In effect, sexual harassment is vividly a complex issue that requires the most circumspect practices, procedures, and intervention to ensure its successful elimination. The unlawfulness of sexual harassment depicts its gravity since it can have severe adverse effects on the victims that affect their psychology apart from bodily sexual abuse. Different valid researches on the subject have articulated confirmations from their results that sexual harassment is a predominant stressor that causes varied negative consequences for the victims as well as the entire organizations that the victims are employed. Thus, this thesis on the subject focuses on how sexual harassment is a stressor, its effects on the working environment, the most viable policies to combat it as well as feasible social controls that can be employed to combat it and its social and economic merits.
How sexual harassment affects employees and the working environment
Sexual harassment mainly affects a large portion of female employees, and various researches have validated the statistics. The effects of this vice are usually dire for both the victims and their female colleagues in the working environment. The common form of sexual harassment is sexual manipulation of women in junior positions by their seniors. The harassment affects the women psychologically due to the distress they undergo when pressured to give in to forced sexual relations by their seniors so that they can be promoted or earn a salary increment. Sexual harassment also affects the victims in their emotional well-being. It jeopardizes the mental and emotional health of the victim, which resultantly leads the victim to succumb to low self-esteem and even affect the various personal relationships of the victim with different people. In essence, sexual harassment is a major cause of anxiety and stress, which can degenerate into clinical depression that can gravely affect the victim’s life.
Baugh, (1997) articulates in his profound article that there is a connection between emotional and physical health. When sexual harassment victims undergo emotional and mental troubles, it can easily cause various adverse health problems. These problems can include sleep disturbances, headaches, weight fluctuations, and loss of appetite. However, health issues such as sleep disturbances can worsen into critical hormone imbalances that consequently cause a weakened immune system, hypertension or any other anxiety-related problem. Apart from causing various health problems, sexual harassment can lead to die financial constraints due to issues such as unpaid leave or lost wages. A considerable few of the victims at times suffer more severe career consequences such as losing job references. Often, the victims can terminate their work contract to avoid the perpetuation of sexual harassment on them and the hostile working environment.
Houle et al. (2011) explain in their article that in a working environment, sexual harassment on a single employee can negatively affect work motivation. Employees usually have great productivity when working in a team, a factor that can be affected when one employee in the workplace undergoes distress. The distress emanating from sexual harassment can cause the victim to suffer the emotional trauma that negatively influences the work morale of his or her counterparts. When an employee is troubled after being harassed sexually, it is ease to affect other employees about the manipulation and the possibility of recurring on them. Additionally, an air of fearfulness often surrounds employees upon realizing that one of them has been harassed sexually, which consequently can cause reduced work productivity because of the restlessness.
How to combat it
Combating sexual harassment can be done in numerous feasible ways and practices in the workplace. An organization’s management and all employers must make an assertion in the organization about the unacceptability of sexual harassment. All the employees must be aware of legal, social rights in the workplace, and that sexual harassment is a serious illegality that is punishable by the law. The importance of the awareness is to ensure that employees have the latitude of exercising their employee rights without being subjected to sexual harassment unbeknown to them that it is wrong. The assertion is simply the inculcation of sexual harassment policies that give invaluable lessons to employees on the circumstances that can be described as sexual harassment, the repercussions, and all the legalities surrounding the case. Moreover, the management must model sexual behaviors in the workplace to ensure that the chances of perpetrating sexual harassment as slim as possible.
Tejani (2004) also asserts that decent dressing is also an important practice in the fight against sexual harassment. Indecent dressing is usually a pathway that the perpetrators of the vice use as an excuse to perpetuate it. However, when female employees dress decently, the chances of being manipulated by people sexually are slimmed. Moreover, a decent dress code should match modest behaviors. Female employees should not behave suggestively to their male seniors since they can easily be sexually manipulated because they initiated it. It is easy for a male senior to pursue sexual advances at a junior that acts sexually suggestive to them, unlike a female employee that acts modestly.
The management can also combat sexual harassment by organizing occasional lessons to their employees to teach them about sexual harassment policies. If the policies are incumbent, the lessons, which can be meetings, will be significant in reviewing the policies to remind the employees of their rights. The reviews will entail the imparting of invaluable information about what constitutes the selfish practice of sexual harassment. Importantly, employees must understand it as well as the legal repercussions that befall a person that perpetuates the retrogressive vice. The meetings must always be mandatory to ensure that all the employees are aware of the sexual harassment practices, their effects, and consequences (Tejani, 2004).
Managers must also ensure that they make occasional operations enquire about any sexual harassment concerns that have been raised by the employees. It is important to hold such operations since it gives employees the leeway to articulate themselves and address any issues that have been affecting them. Trained supervisors, whose work will be to ask relevant questions to the employees and stand as recipients of any sexual harassment concerns, can easily execute such a motive. After which, the supervisors will articulate any case of sexual harassment to the management, and legal action will take course against the perpetrator (Houle et al., 2011).
However, to ensure that even the supervisors are not covering themselves through the role, selected employees might stand as watchdogs. They can report any case that suggests sexual harassment directly to the management with adequate proof for the course of law to punish the perpetrator. Such structures at the workplace are fundamental in creating an environment that is averse to sexual harassment. The importance of setting various policies that prevent the managers from perpetuating the vice is a primary strategy that helps in reducing the chances of recurrence. Moreover, when the employees are fully aware and cognizant of their social and human rights, the management culprits cannot take advantage of their naivety and harass them sexually.
The various social controls that can be put in place
The social controls to consider in this situation mainly depend on special jurisdictions as well as human rights legislation. However, there is a possibility of assuming that the common law principle provides that it would not be appropriate to subject punitive damages against an employer that might have taken preventive steps. In this case, the preventive steps apply to cases to do with sexual harassment in the different workplaces. However, ultimately, employers have the responsibility of acting on different cases related to sexual harassment. The legal considerations would be inclusive of meeting the Supreme Court’s ultimate goal of ensuring human rights laws identify and eliminate any form of sexual discrimination or harassment (Gottfried & Reese, 2004).
Since employers are responsible for controlling organizations, they are the only ones that can reverse the undesirable effects emanating from sexual harassment. Such a consideration is essential for promoting a suitable working environment. The promotion should be universal since an employer’s responsibility is to ensure that either their fellow employees or their superiors do not harass employees. However, a significant number of people have provided reports pointing to being harassed in the workplace. In such cases, employers should do everything in their capacity to prevent subsequent occurrences or alleviate the effects that emanate from such practices. For this reason, employers should provide anti-harassment policies that would protect their employees. The policies should provide clear provisions that determine the types of behaviors that should be considered undesirable.
Conversely, organizations should consider developing policy or training programs that would be essential for preventing some of the liability issues that might emanate from sexual harassment cases. For instance, it would be essential for companies to provide anti-harassment training to their employees. Since employers are responsible for the preparation of appropriate policies, implementing the anti-harassment training programs would assist in providing the employees with the knowledge of the unsuitable behaviors. Conversely, the other most essential aspect is that employers should keep the employees updated with the anti-harassment policies, which is only achievable through the implementation of the anti-harassment training. Monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the policies is also necessary.
Under the law, organizations should promote an inclusive as well as a non-discriminatory environment for their employees, which meet the human rights code. This code considers sexual harassment within the working environment as a violation of the law. When organizations are reluctant to take satisfactory steps to address and prevent sexual harassment, the code dictates that they will be held liable. This provision is identified as vicarious liability. In order to avoid such liability, corporate involvement is essential. The principles that a corporate entity should consider when coming up with policies for preventing sexual harassment are inclusive of the respect of their employees’ psychological as well as physical integrity. The respect should go beyond the two provisions to include the privacy and the dignity of individuals (Armstrong, 2010). These principles are essential for the promotion of reasonable and fair conditions in the different working environments. Human rights legislations encourage the consideration of such principles when an organization considers coming up with policies for protecting their employees from sexual harassment cases.
The social and economic benefits that may result if the changes considered were put in place
When an organization ignores problems brought about by sexual harassment cases, there is a possibility of determining that the ignorance is likely to cost the company a considerable amount. The costs emanate from employees’ low productivity, possible absenteeism, low moral or employee turnover. Conversely, the losses might be derivatives of some of the possible litigation as well as other legal costs that the company might be forced to pay (Gottfried & Reese, 2004). For this reason, when staffs follow clear formal policies set for preventing sexual harassment, an organization is likely to prevent the economic costs mentioned above. The few sexual harassment cases that get to the federal court can take a significant number of years to conclude. The victims can receive several remedies if they win the case, and the damages might cost an institution a considerable amount of money. The benefits might be inclusive of wages lost during the period the case was in court, attorney’s fees, injury relief, or a possible reinstatement and subsequent promotion. An organization can avoid incurring such costs when it implements appropriate policies and training programs.
The social benefits that can be derived from implementing the considerations include the elimination of degrading manners as well as the promotion of proper behavior in the workplace. Conversely, the human rights code encourages the freedom of each individual in employment, which is likely to promote a suitable working environment. A considerable number of sexual harassment complaints come from female workers (Armstrong, 2010). However, when a company implements suitable policies, it might lead to the creation of more inroads for women in the different workplaces. Conversely, the policies make women more confident in pursuing their careers, which leads to the promotion of women’s rights and prevents discrimination. These social benefits are also likely to influence economic benefits since employees are likely to become more productive.
The problem of sexual harassment has become a pervasive issue for a considerable number of women around the world. It is a form of workplace discrimination. Conversely, it deprives employees their full performance potential. The culture of a given organization or region influences the tolerance level for sexual harassment. However, the issue affects the economic and social status as well as the psychological or physical health of a considerable number of victims. For this reason, the reported effects have prompted the creation of various legislations preventing this form of discrimination. Concerns of discrimination have become vital in the contemporary business environment since they have an effect on the production levels of various businesses institutions. Businesses deal with employees from a variety of cultures. For this reason, it would be essential to develop policies that will encourage a harmonious environment and promote an organization from legal risks.
An essential aspect to consider in relation to combating sexual harassment incidences in the workplace includes creating clear policies. Employers bear the greater responsibility of acting against this issue. Consequently, the necessities that organizations have to consider for the prevention of liabilities or any other problem include training employees and creating appropriate anti-harassment policies. The issue is a growing and ongoing risk affecting the operation of various organizations in the world. Accordingly, companies should take adequate steps, the vital ones being the implementation of the necessities mentioned before, which will assist the businesses to manage their risks wisely.
Armstrong, M. (2010). Armstrong’s essential human resource management practice: A guide to people management. London: Kogan Page.
Baugh, S. G. (1997). On the persistence of sexual harassment in the workplace. In Women in Corporate Management (pp. 27-36). Springer Netherlands.
Gottfried, H., & Reese, L. A. (2004). Equity in the workplace: Gendering workplace policy analysis. Lanham: Lexington Books.
Houle, J. N., Staff, J., Mortimer, J. T., Uggen, C., & Blackstone, A. (2011). The impact of sexual harassment on depressive symptoms during the early occupational career. Society and mental health, 1(2), 89-105.
Tejani, S. (2004). Sexual harassment at the workplace: Emerging problems and debates. Economic and Political Weekly, 4491-4494.