Term Paper: Harassment and Sexual

Pages: 4 (1295 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 2  ·  Level: College Junior  ·  Topic: Business - Law  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Preventing Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a difficult concept to grasp because it can be interpreted in so many ways. To some people, a compliment about how they look is considered to be sexual harassment, while for others the offenses need to be much more severe. The courts have attempted to define what is and what is not tolerated however the law remains ambiguous. Companies, organizations and universities have attempted to install their own codes of ethics addressing sexual harassment, however most people remain confused as to what is allowed and what is not.

Prior to the feminist movement in America, there was relatively little concern about a boss telling his secretary she had nice legs, or a student asking another student on a date more than once, hoping to get a different answer. Today such seemingly innocent actions can ruin lives. With so much at stake, it seems only logical that companies, organizations and universities would be willing to clear up the confusion associated with sexual harassment by providing mandatory training seminars.

Orlov and Roumell (2005) report that sexual harassment training costs substantially less than it would cost a company or a school dealing with the legal ramifications of a law suit. Therefore sexual harassment training would be well worth the investment for just about any type of organization, as long as the training is handled properly. Saguy (2003) warns that if misinformation is given in the training, or if the delicate topics are not handled in the right way, the result may just be increased hostility between men and women. Therefore, it is critical that the training is conducted by a professional consultant rather than just 'the boss' or a human resources professional.

Prior to training, everyone is better off by knowing at least the basics about sexual harassment. It is important to know what sexual harassment is under the law, as well as how it is handled specifically at one's university or place of employment. Also important to be aware of are the different types of sexual harassment and what they mean. Finally, it is imperative to be aware of what type of actions to take if a person feels they have been a victim of sexual harassment.

According to Siegel and MacKinnon (2004), the difference between sexual harassment and harmless flirtation is based on whether or not there is mutual consent. It is the coercive nature of harassment that makes it objectionable; in other words, when the flirtations, comments or advances are both unwanted and offensive. In order to recognize the occurrence of sexual harassment, it is essential to make this distinction.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission describes sexual harassment as "Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of 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." The primary law regarding sexual harassment is in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits discrimination against an individual "with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's race, color, religion, sex or national origin." (Siegel and MacKinnon 22) Even though the statute does specifically identify sexual harassment as being prohibited, over the years, the courts have come to see sexual harassment as being a form of sex discrimination.

Essentially, the law views sexual harassment as an incident that occurs due to unequal treatment of an individual in a sexual nature. This includes verbal abuse which "could include sexual comments, suggestions, jokes, or innuendos; nonverbal harassment could include suggestive looks, leering, or ogling; and physical harassment could include accidentally brushing against someone's body, 'friendly' pats, squeezes or pinches, and forced sexual relations" (Gordon 5).

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