Research Proposal: Sexual Harassment and the Role of Eap

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Sexual Harassment and the Role of EAP's in the Workplace

Sexual harassment in the workplace is defined as any sex related behavior that is unwanted. It can either be done as a condition of employment or can simply be something that creates a hostile working environment. It is important to know what the sexual boundaries are in the workplace and how to deal with situations in which these boundaries are crossed (Plaut, 2008, p.87).

There are several keys to consider when knowing what the boundaries are and when they have been crossed. These keys include:

Be aware of your feelings. One is always going to come into contact with people that they find sexually attractive. It is knowing when it is appropriate to act on these feelings and when it is not that is so important.

Be sensitive to those around you. People respond differently to physical touching and sexual jokes. So being aware of the nonverbal cues that those around you give you may help you to keep from crossing that inappropriate boundary.

Be cautious about crossing inappropriate boundaries and anticipate the consequences of doing so. When making decisions is it important to remember that all actions have consequences, and we should be prepared to deal with those if that is the path that we choose to take.

Take a professional approach if unwanted advances are made towards you. Being educated and knowing what to do if this happens may make the difference in the situation being handled in the correct way or not.

Be aware of what the rules are and how to report violations of these rules. Education is the key to knowing what is considered right and what is wrong, and what to do if you experience something that is wrong.

If in doubt, ask. If there is something in the rules that you are not sure about, be sure that you get clarification before it is too late (Plaut, 2007, p. 91-92).

In 2005, studies showed that one in four women and one in six men have been victims of sexual harassment or abuse. With those kinds of numbers it is a good bet that some of those were experienced in the workplace. Different people deal with situations in different ways. Some people can go through a traumatic event and never show any signs that anything is wrong. And yet others go through several levels when dealing with things. This people are more likely to show visual signs at work that may affect their work performance (Lee, 2005, p.21).

One thing that employers are doing to help with these types of situations is trying to be proactive with their EAP programs. It used to be that the Employee Counseling and Assistance programs where in place for when things went wrong. Now days, these programs are being used proactively to educate employees as well as help to manage the stresses that employees are experiencing. Employers are recognizing that there are many benefits to taking responsibility for the well being of their employees (Employers taking proactive approach to EAP's, 2005, p.5)

It is important for each person to know what the boundaries are in the workplace, especially the sexual boundaries. Many EAP's are trying to educate employees on this so that everyone knows what appropriate behavior is as opposed to inappropriate behavior. It is believed that education is the answer. Most companies already have EAP's in place to help employees deal with such things as: alcohol, drug or mental health issues. Having these programs now include the area of sexual harassment and abuse seems like a natural progression (Lee, 2005, p.21).

An EAP needs to be trauma sensitive along with having effective resources available for those who might need to use them. This information needs to be available to all employees in the company, either through an employee handbook or mandatory training programs. The process of getting help needs to be user friendly and these types of situations need to be handled with a great deal of sensitivity (Lee, 2005, p.21).

In today's world it is not only traditional sexual harassment that an employer has to contend with but also the issue of online sexual behaviors. Online sexual activities (OSA) have become an ever growing concern for employers now days. It has become imperative that Human Resource Departments along with EAP's be in the know about these types of activities and how to handle them. They need to be able to identify them and put into play a plan for how to deal with them. There needs to be training given to all employees as to what constitutes this kind of behavior along with how it ties into the legality of sexual harassment laws. The internet has the possibility of creating sexual harassment situations. This can occur when employees do any of the following:

sends unwelcome emails sends unwelcome links to sexually explicit web sites makes unwanted sexual advances uses disturbing sexual language downloads sexually explicate screen savers

These behaviors need to be addressed with employees as to set the ground rules for what is appropriate behavior and what is not. These behaviors should not be just addressed by HR alone. This is why it is a good idea to involve the company's EAP in order to make sure that all aspects of the problem are discussed. An EAP is usually well informed about available resources in the community and can make recommendations to those that are involved, including both the offender and the victims (Cooper, Golden, & Kent-Ferraro, 2002, p. 158).

The best way that employers and EAP programs can handle both traditional and online sexual harassment is to have awareness and prevention programs in place. These types of programs have two objectives to them. The first is to help employees to perform to their maximum potential. The second is to make sure that each employee is provided with a safe working environment. "Ideally, the competencies taught would be part of an ongoing multi-tiered approach that includes very clear policy and procedure statements, which become part of the corporate culture because they are continual and consistent and not a single training event" (Cooper, Golden, & Kent-Ferraro, 2002, p.162).

The competencies that should be included in these types of programs include:

Knowledge of corporate policies- this would include defining what the employer expects from their employees and providing this information to everyone.

Defining what constitutes OSA- this would include having discussions with employees as to what behavior falls into this category along with what to do if they witness any such behavior.

Making employees aware of gender differences- this would include education on the core differences between the genders and how to deal with sexual situations.

Education of how to deal with situations when they arise- this would include the steps that would need to be followed if an employee believes that they have been a victim of sexual harassment.

Education for managers- this would include teaching managers on how to deal with their subordinates in regards to unacceptable workplace behavior (Cooper, Golden, & Kent-Ferraro, 2002, 162-163).

There is now much less stigma surrounding the use of counseling services than there once was, meaning that using an EAP as a preventative tool to help resolve problems at an early stage can be an attractive option" (Employers taking proactive approach to EAP's, 2005, p.5).

When you think about the fact that we are now entering the age where those born in the internet age are now becoming part of the workforce, we have to accept the idea that a new corporate culture is forming. In order to be successful organizations have to know how to respond to the demands and needs of this new generation of employees. These issues are not going to go away they are only… [END OF PREVIEW]

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