Behind Closed Doors
Over the years, many people have believed that the issue of sexual harassment should not be discussed in public. Sexual harassment was to be discussed behind closed doors. In spite of this, the social and political systems have changed instantaneously. This social problem has affected men and women throughout time; however, it seems that the women of our society more closely look at this issue. This social topic has encouraged women to establish organizations in order to help them discuss the issues more openly and to demand equality including fairness and justice throughout the workplace and in their social lives as well. In recent years, sexual harassment has been one of the most serious and widespread problems found in the workplace. For this reason, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaimed, by the United Nations in 1948, to help everyone in their fight for self-respect and dignity. Indeed sexual harassment is an issue that complicates employment decisions. People also recognize that it is an issue involving the creation of an antagonistic or offensive work environment. In many instances, the issue of sexual harassment is not something minor that can be easily solved.
Sexual harassment, in most cases, involves a superior s behavior towards a subordinate. As mentioned before, most forms of sexual harassment occur in the workplace. An employee can charge an employer with sexual harassment as a result of the misconduct of managers, fellow employees, vendors, and even customers. Eventually, sexual harassment can cause a hostile work environment. It is true, for the most part, that sexual harassment comes in many forms in the workplace.
There are two significant ways in which one can identify sexual harassment. They are called the Quid Pro Quo and the Hostile Environment Harassment. The essence of the Quid Pro Quo theory of sexual harassment occurs when an employee is confronted with sexual demands to keep her job or obtain a promotion. This is a true violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is also referred to as the Title VII Act. Even though sexual harassment by its very nature is complicated to define, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission provides a general description of sexual advances. [The several basic varieties of the Quid Pro Quo harassment indicate the unwelcome sexual advances and requests for sexual favors. It also consists of other verbal or physical conducts dealing with a sexual nature. This constitutes sexual harassment when the submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly just because of a term or a condition of an individual s employment. Secondly, the individual is used as a basis for employment decisions affecting such individual. Finally, the result of such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.] (Aggarwal, 89-93)
Another form of sexual harassment is a hostile work environment. The hostile environment theory involves sexual advances between the supervisor and the employee. An employee s work performance will be less effective due to these so-called sexual advances. However, a victim can file a complaint against their harasser so that they do not continuously force them to participate. Consequently, they will be forced to hand in their resignation. [This is an issue of power and has nothing to do with sex. For this reason, both male and females can be the harasser. The harasser s main purpose is to force another to feel or act in a certain way. Sometimes, sexual harassment causes an individual from effectively performing his/her job. As a result, is undermines an individual s dignity. In our society, there are three essential factors that relate to the issue of sexual advances. These elements are a divergence of perceptions, the complexity of human behavior and the attitudes of a sexist.] (Lindemann, 46-48)
It is often difficult to draw a line between what is acceptable and what is unacceptable in a working environment because of the existence of these ingredients. Sexual harassment is a form of discrimination, which can manifest itself in terms of physical and psychological acts. Physically, the recipient may be the victim of pinching, grabbing, hugging, patting, leering, brushing against and forms of touching. Psychological harassment can occur through the proposal of physical intimacy by requesting dates and sexual favors.
In 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was established to prohibit sex discrimination in the working environment. After a decade of the enactment of Title VII, the Supreme Court confronted its first case, Barnes vs. Train, that pertained to the issue of sexual harassment. In the case of Barnes vs. Train a woman was hired as an administrative assistant. She filed a lawsuit against her male director through the Environment Protection Agency s equal opportunities Division because she refused to engage in sexual relations with him. Nevertheless, the district court dismissed this case. The district court believed that even though Barnes was treated unjustly, the discrimination was not because she was a woman. It was because she refused to engage in sexual behavior with her supervisor. (Baridon, 12,13)
The rate of sexual harassment increased dramatically in recent years. Most respondents think that sexual harassment is a major problem in this country. Not surprisingly, 82% of women and 43% of men recognize this problem in our society. Only 42% categorize it as a minor problem. During 1987, a spokesman who works in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Company realized that the agency s limited statistics on the number of claims filed were not published. At this time, the agency began to collect and record this data. The number of claims filed since that year has been unbelievable. There were 5,499 reported cases in 1988. In 1989 there were 5,623 cases and the cases have been increasing annually. By 1993, 64% of females and 17% of males have experienced some form of sexual harassment. (Serepca 23) Many people assume that sexual harassment is an expression of sexuality. But most experts see it as a reflection of unequal power in the workplace. Certainly, most victims are women in lowly positions. As more victims of harassment have gone public, the damage the practice causes people to repeatedly quite their jobs, switch professions, change majors or even drop out of college. Sexuality is emotional, not rational. It may be an important aspect of life, however it is also viewed as a frivolous concern at work compared to the matters of government and education. For this reason, most biologists, philosophers and theologians have a different notion pertaining to the issue of sexual harassment due to their professional standpoints.
The reason that I chose to write on this subject is because a friend of mine has been through this ordeal. She worked at a cleaners with mostly males, and a male boss. My friend is a very attractive woman and always catches men s eyes. Well the men at the cleaners were no different. It started with name-calling, like hey cutie , what s up sexy , and other derogatory statements. From there it went to touching, a hand brushing up against her bottom or a breast. She had had enough. She went to her boss and told him what was going on. His response was, If you don t like it you can leave. Your not the only woman working hear, and I don t hear anyone else complaining. Frustrated with her boss she decided to talk to the owner. She called him at home and set up a time to talk. The met one afternoon at a restaurant near the cleaners. She told him what the employees were doing and her boss had told her. To her dismay the owner said that he agrees with her boss. If no one else is complaning than it can t be that bad, and if she didn t like it she could quit. So she quit. I told her that this wasn t right and that she should call the EEOC. I knew all about sexual harassment from when I was a manager at McDonalds. They make you take classes on the subject. Anyway she got a hold of someone at the EEOC and told them what happened. They began an investigation into the cleaners and the employees. The result is still undetermined. Though we do know that two other women came forward and told the EEOC investigators that they were being harassed. The boss was even blackmailing one. Apparently he found out she was stealing money and he told her the only way she wouldn t go to jail is if she had sex with him. She had bee going on with his sick plan for six months. The owner as far as we know hasn t been charged with anything, but the boss is in jail for some felony concerning the blackmail. My friend still has deep seeded emotional problems with the men that she works with. She has been to a psychiatrist only to be told that it is a healing process and that it takes time. I think that this ordeal has hurt her mentally more than anything else.
In conclusion I d like to ask everyone, male and female, to think before you act. What you might think is a harmless joke could be just the opposite to someone else. What can we do as individuals and as a group to stop this to commonly practiced act?
Lindemann, Barbara and Kadue, David D. Sexual Harassment in Employmet Law
Caggiano, Christopher The Inc. Faxpoll Multimedia Publications Inc. 1992
Baridon, Andrea P. The New Rules and Realities for Managing Men and Women at Work McGraw Hill Inc. 1994
Serepca, Beth Sexual Harassment Internal Auditor October 1995