This paper attempts to analyze the deeper meaning of the term sexual harassment and its classification. It also captures the different remedies awarded to an employee who files his complaint in a legal lawsuit or under the federal agencies concerned with sexual harassment. It explains various measures that a firm can take to regulate sexual harassment cases. These regulatory measures include setting up a sexual harassment policy and introducing ways of taking action upon the occurrence of a sexual harassment act.
The term sexual harassment refers to a number of illegal and discriminatory acts. Such actions range from undesirable sexual advances to an oral conduct of the sexual nature. These actions normally create an abusive or rather a hostile working environment. Sexual harassment includes unwanted feeling, touching and groping (Crouch, 2001). It consists in frequent unpleasant demeaning remarks intended for an employee. The target is that the reaction of the employee towards the advances would change their employment status, or lead to a promotion if the response is positive. A negative response consequently brings further discrimination to the employee, threats of demotion, or even loss of job in some cases.
Different states classify sexual harassment differently. In some states, it is considered as a civil wrong under the tort law, while in others it is considered as an unfair labor practice. There are also other states which classify sexual harassment as a private nuisance. When sexual harassment is classified under the tort law, it becomes a basis for a lawsuit against a person who made the sexual harassment advances towards an employer (Crouch, 2001). This employer basically in this case happens not to have taken any steps to stop the harassment.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 1998 ruled under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that regardless of an employer’s awareness of a sexual harassment incident, he can be held liable. Sexual allegations are hazardous, especially in the increasingly litigious society and the era of the ever increasing employees’ rights (Wagner, 1992). Employers are thus urged to be ready to respond accordingly as sexual harassment issues become complex everyday both in the courts and in the workplace (Gray, 1991).
If a law firm is aware of a partner who is notorious in sexual harassment towards employees, they are liable to pay compensation to the harassed employee under nuisance. Sexual harassment unreasonably interferes with the employee’s work performance and brings intimidation as it brings out a hostile working environment. Experts on legal matters advice managers and business owners on sexual harassment issues as its meaning is extensive and does not automatically involve a conduct of a sexual nature. Managers and business owners may be liable due to the conduct, such as profanity and other rude behaviors if it is gender based.
The Employment Discrimination Law is basically the core area that covers Sexual Harassment Law. Sexual Harassment Law can also be a part of the Civil Rights Law or even Personal Injury lawsuits in some cases (Crouch, 2001). Various courts interpret sexual harassment as unsolicited physical advances of a sexual nature, offensive or demeaning comments. These courts also interpret that sexual harassment would involve activities that can or cannot bear the insinuation that the persons subjected to these advances are likely to experience school-related or rather job-related vengeance if they decline them.
There are two broad divisions, in which sexual harassment can be categorized. These categories are Hostile Environment and Quid Pro Quo. The most explicit form of the two is Quid Pro Quo. It refers to a person in a high rank who demands sexual favors. This individual in return of the sexual favors would offer action or inaction like a promise not to terminate the employee or a promotion. It is very likely for one to lose sexual harassment lawsuit regardless of the implicitness of sexual activity or suggestion.
A good example can be given in a case where the supervisor constantly asks the subordinate to go out for a date. The supervisor may be considered to be implicitly seeking sexual favors, particularly if the subordinate continually turns the invitations down. Thus, due to the nature of the reporting relationship, the matter is termed to offer a ‘’quid pro quo’’ implicitly. It is important to note that a company can be held responsible for sexual harassment even in the occurrence of a single situation of ‘’quid pro quo’’ (Rushing, 2001). This may negatively affect the firm regardless of the senior management’s knowledge of the issue or the sexual harassment policies the company has put in place.
A hostile environment is the second type of sexual harassment. This category is very difficult to prove, despite the fact that it is the most common practice. Generally, this type of sexual harassment happens when an employee is subjected to conditions that make them feel awkward and he in turn suffers from mental or emotional strain. Such incidences would occur if the employee is frequently exposed to repeated unwelcome sexual harassments, abusive sexual utterances, and pornographic images. The hostile environment does not include threats of termination of the employee or professional advancement. The type of sexual harassment such as hostile environment has repeatedly been interpreted by legislative actions and case law.
The federal law enforcement agency that is concerned with the administration and establishment of regulations and guidelines related to sexual harassment is the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC). The EEOC applies Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to address sexual harassment (Rushing, 2001). An employee who fills a claim through the EEOC may seek remedies in various areas. Such remedies include reinstatement of employment if it was terminated, promotion in case if it was denied unfairly, an award of wages not received as well as an award of other losses that are job related. There are also some cases under the EEOC, where the employee may seek disciplinary money damages and an injunctive relief, which purpose is to make the wrongdoer stop the unwanted sexual harassment. The offender may also be ordered to pay the attorney’s fee of the employee and to construct a comprehensive written sexual harassment policy.
The Fair Employment Practice (FEP) laws have been enacted by many states in order to deal with and to control sexual harassment on the state level. Nevertheless, it is essential to note that these statutes often do not set provisions for the recovery of personal injuries with regard to sexual harassment claims.
Employees are only advised to seek assistance to the state FEP agency or the EEOC if a company’s policy fails to solve the issue. This mostly applies where a company has established a sexual harassment policy. Both the EEOC and the state FEP work towards reducing excessive expenses that are incurred in resolving sexual harassment issues through formal means. They ensure this by offering services, such as the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) (Gray, 1991). Administrative courts have also been established by a marginal of state level agencies in order to resolve issues related to sexual harassment. These courts hear sexual harassment complaints, and have the jurisdiction of awarding compensation in form of monetary damages and personal injuries sustained by the employee.
An employee is supposed to make use of the services of the FEP agencies and the EEOC to air his complaints. One is however allowed to sue if his complaints are not resolved. The government agency issues a legal document which is refereed to as ‘’right-to-sue-letter’’ to the employee allowing them to institute a civil lawsuit against their offenders. It is more beneficial for the employees to institute a lawsuit under the U.S. Civil Rights Act (Rushing, 2001). This is due to the fact that many FEP laws lack the provision for damage recovery for physical, emotional, as well as mental injuries. However the employer is supposed to meet some guidelines that are agreed by this law if he aims to recover the whole amount.
Sexual harassment is known to cause physical, mental and emotional injuries due to stress and physical violent mischief. These results are accompanied by promotion denial, job and wage losses, demotions, as well as other financial losses that are realized due to the job-related benefits. The laws of many states have reduced the size of companies that are supposed to adhere to the regulations on sexual harassment. Often sexual harassment suits for damages are brought against the employers. The company is only liable for managerial behavior concerning discrimination activities.
A company, despite of its small size is supposed to have a written sexual harassment policy. An office that provides employment to only two individuals can create tension on sexual harassment thus also requires a well defined policy. Home offices, in particular, are often considered to provide better avenues and good environments for sexual harassments than big busy offices that have numerous employees, thus such offices have bigger need for a sexual harassment policy.
The drawn policy should exclusively draw guidelines against sexual harassment. The firm is at liberty on citing the behaviors which may be deemed sexually harassing. Likewise the company should put in place a grievance procedure that allows the complainants to air their grievances to another individual other than their supervisor. In addition, proper arrangements should be made to enable the complainants to place their grievances to either a male or female personnel. In case of shortage of the personnel that must take up the complaints, the firm should hire an outsider, favorably their attorney.
The written company policy addressing sexual harassment should be posted in a visible location where all the employees can see. Alternatively, the policy can be distributed to all staff with the inclusion of all new hires (Gray, 1991). Additionally, an overall company meeting should be held where the policy is read to all the employees verbally. The records of such a meeting should be captured and filed for future references.
Any sexual harassment claim by any employee should be given the highest priority among other complains of the employee. It is the entire responsibility of a firm to investigate carefully the complaints of its employees on sexual harassment issues (Crouch, 2001). Some of the issues might be seen insignificant but they need to be looked into since everyone has his personal code for what he regards to be an unpleasant behavior.
Every employee, who shows an unpleasant behavior, should be subjected to the necessary punitive measures. Every sexually offensive behavior should be amended according to its nature. If the nature of the offence is deemed to be light, a counseling session or rather a simple chat with the individual is enough. However, in some cases the offence has an extreme level, so that the termination of employment and payment of damages to personal injuries are the only appropriate remedies.
As a conclusive statement, it is essential to understand that it is not easy to determine appropriate disciplinary measures to an alleged offender. At the same time, the rights of the alleged offender should not be trampled with, lest the firm or the employer ends up being sued by both the alleged offender and the victim. The firm should consult an attorney when facing the ramification of a sexual harassment charge to avoid such instances.