Sexual Harassment 1 Sexual Harassment is defined according to Wikipedia (2009), as an intimidation, bullying or coercion of a sexual nature, or the unwelcome

or inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors. In some situations, sexual harassment is known to be illegal may be described as simple irritating situations to full blown sexual abuse. It is a form of illegal employment discrimination in many countries. Preventing the crime of sexual harassment has been a main goal among many companies around the world. History of the term was first used in 1973 when a woman by the name of Dr Mary Rowe reported Gender discrimination. However, sexual harassment has been known to be discussed earlier in the decade. Other terms were, “sexual intimidation”, “sexual coercion” and “sexual exploitation on the job”. Situations in Sexual Harassment range from the subtle to the flat out asking for trouble, worse; life scaring experiences. Victims are not limited to co-workers, they can be anybody really, a client, a fellow classmate or teacher. While the person that is being harassed is most often the one that is affected, it can be anybody that finds the actions inappropriate. The offender can be ether male or female and can be of the same sex. Misunderstandings can also occur when the behavior of the harasser is not even aware that their actions are in the wrong. It can also be that the person being harassed thinks their point of, “hey this is inappropriate for you to be treating me like this” is not clear and the person does not get the message. According to Blishak (1993), The biggest issue with sexual harassment seems to be the range of behavior types differs so large from person to person and situation to situation. It is often very difficult for the victim to put their finger on what is exactly happening. The harasser can be either very covert about their actions, meaning that in public they manage to maintain a very polite façade, but when alone with the victim, or target, their behavior changes into a more

Sexual Harassment 2 hostile demeanor. Types of sexual harassment can be or may not be limited to the following: The More serious type seems to be the power-player type where the harasser aims for sexual favors in exchange for a promotion or getting a better grade, acquiring credentials, and the list can go on much further. The Mother/Father Figure situation creates a comforting relationship with the victim and in reality their intentions are not at all pure. One of the Gang type of harassment is a situation where the harasser makes the victim embarrassed by either making sexual comments or to impress other members of the group by embarrassing the victim. Often times they will gang up on the person, hence the term; Gang type. A Serial Harasser creates a believable kind and model fellow human being image to make it almost impossible to believe that they can be guilty of a sexual harassment situation. The serial harasser will then strike when he or she is alone with the person. The Groper, as the name mentions; is the one that will actually contact the person physically in a sexual way that is unwelcome. There are other types, but one gets the idea that it is not a simple subject and a person may be in guilt of sexual harassment without even knowing it. The other issue with sexual harassment situations is the person afraid to speak up. The many problems include people criticizing you for being a whistleblower, being afraid of being cast out from the work community, or being afraid of your harasser retaliating against you. According to Blishak, it is contributing to the problem. It is giving a message to the work community and workers everywhere that inappropriate behavior is acceptable.

Sexual Harassment 3 Another problem with sexual harassment seems to be that it is hard to put your finger on what exactly it is and how to identify it. This difficulty is something Blishak (1993), calls “gray lines”, which are the most challenging pit fall with sexual harassment. Some however, are more straightforward and obvious and others are so subtle that the person involved or the target may not even be aware that he or she is a victim of sexual harassment. On the other hand, we have the kind of people that are afraid to come forward and let somebody know they are being harassed. The other issue with sexual harassment situations is the person afraid to speak up. The many problems include people criticizing you for being a whistleblower, being afraid of being cast out from the work community, or being afraid of your harasser retaliating against you. According to Blishak, it is contributing to the problem. It is giving a message to the work community and workers everywhere that inappropriate behavior is acceptable. Another type of sexual harassment is not even harassment at all but would be classified as discrimination. Such an example would be a woman entering a work environment where men would be more commonplace. Such a situation was a woman by the name of Laura; she was a copy clerk at a Silicon Valley company where she would work along side men who were draftsmen. She was both being harassed subtly by the men and being discriminated at the same time. Her salary was lower than the men, which is actually still typical for women in the workforce these days. It was time for raises and Laura did not receive one. Men stood too close to her and just generally behaved like they were friends even though they were simply co-workers. She had taken fewer sick days than any of the men in the department, but was told she took too many and was the

Sexual Harassment 4 reason for the rejection in pay raise. The situation with Laura was never resolved, being that the problem with dealing with sexual harassment is usually a tricky situation to handle. So, the question is, how do we deal with the problem? The way to deal with sexual harassment is on a one to one basis according to Sylvia Ann Blishak, writer. The step-by-step methods he recommends are; Think about the situation, can this simply be a misunderstanding, a mistake in signals? Maybe the man thinks the woman is interested and is just being friendly. The man simply does not realize what the woman will perceive what he is saying to her. The worst case however, could be a power play to gain leverage over a fellow worker that happens to be a woman, and therefore may be a sexual harassment situation. The main idea is to just step back and analyze the situation before pushing any panic buttons and get into a legal battle over a simple misunderstanding. Today, these issues are seriously being addressed; which are even being taken to court. According to (“Confronting a Growing Problem,” 1997) a case such as Lois Robinson vs. Jacksonville Shipyards; Men had littered her work environment with photographs of women undressing and making demeaning slurs about women. The court ruled that the company must have a sexual harassment policy implemented but however, refused Lois any damages for not being able to point of specifically which work days these events occurred. Another such case was Kosmach Et Al vs. Eveleth Teconite Mine in Minnesota in 1991. The 19 women involved won the case by proving the atmosphere at the mine to be “pervasive” and hostile. The women workers of the mine were groped, pressured into having sex, threats of rape, beaten, stalked, and were subjected to offensive language. Although the case dragged on for 12 years, the monetary damages

Sexual Harassment 5 ranged from $2,500 to $25,000 per woman in the last year of the case. We mostly hear about co-workers getting harassed, but what about when they are not a co-worker at all? What if they happen to be a customer that simply gets too friendly, comes onto a worker? How should the employee handle the situation? The following strategy has been proposed by Colter (2009), writer of a publication called The Natural Employer. Step 1 states that the company needs to have a policy. They need to have a policy so that when a customer steps out of line, it is clearly stated in black and white that they are in the wrong. However, there does need to be a witness of the behavior, or the policy does little good in solving the problem. Training your staff on what to say to a customer when they say or do something inappropriate is important. If “I’m not interested in this conversation”, or “I’d prefer not to discuss this” does not work, it is best to call a manager to handle the situation. The third step is the managers need to know what to do. They are required to attend harassment sessions to educate themselves on how to handle sticky situations such as these. Step four is a formal investigation. It involves complaint forms with various questions such as; What events occurred?, Who said what?, When did this happen?, were there any witnesses?, Have you thought about any potential solutions?, and, Is there anything else you can think I should know? Having all the facts is important when meeting with the customer. A solution ultimately needs to be met by finding one that meets the employee’s needs since you cannot discipline a customer. In everyday work environments, sexual harassment videos are a common way to educate workers on the sticky situation. Such a producer of these videos is Vivid Edge Productions. They were awarded the Telly Award in 2000 for the best training and educational video according to (“Sexual Harassment Videos,” 2000). The video was in

Sexual Harassment 6 three parts; they were on awareness, perception, and prevention of sexual harassment in the workforce. This video and others similar are a way to combat sexual harassment before it becomes a problem and a message that it is something to take seriously and to not hold back when confronted with such a situation.

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