(O’Donohue, 1997, p. 43)Harassment in the workplace causes hostility and tension. These attributes arenot conducive to a worker-friendly atmosphere. According to research by theAmerican Psychological Association, “Many women who have been harassed onthe job report a cornucopia of symptoms similar to other forms of severestress” (Petrocelli, 1997, p. 87).
These include problems ranging fromdepression, insecurity, and lethargy to headaches and decreased job satisfactionand productivity. Therefore, employers must prevent and enforce “sexualharassment” so that they will be better able to prevent further instancesof the offense. Its occurrence decreases productivity and warrants unnecessarydebt. What is sexual harassment? The ambiguity of words allows for manyinterpretations of “sexual harassment”, but the United States EqualEmployment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) defines sexual harassment in the 29thCode of Federal Regulations (CFR) #1604. 11(a) when: 1. Conduct and/or commentsare understood to be sexual in nature 2.
Submission to or rejection of suchconduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affectingsuch individual, or 3. Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonablyinterfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating,hostile or offensive working environment. (MacKinnon, 1990, pp. 67-68) Defining;sexual in nature; ;Sexual harassment encompasses a wide range ofconduct, from offensive sexual innuendoes all the way to borderline cases ofrape; (MacKinnon, 1990, p. 92).
It is hard for the courts to draw the fineline where actions become offensive and sexual in nature. Such conduct, however,needs not be restricted to any physical harassment. Verbal assaults and visualdegradation also carry substance in the definition of sexual harassment (O’Donohue,1997). Verbal sexual harassment includes crude sexual jokes, sexual requests orfavors, and references to the physical attributes of the victim.
If theseassaults are unwarranted and unwanted, they constitute sexual harassment. Harassment can be any derogatory action or comment (Petrocelli, 1997). Anotheroffense that can be included into the realm of sexual harassment is visualinsult. Any pictures, gestures, or looks that are sexually explicit fall intothis category. Written notes or letters to a colleague with sexual content ornature also constitute a violation of the 29th code of the Code of FederalRegulations imposed by the EEOC.
(MacKinnon, 1990) “Hostile workingenvironment” vs. “quid pro quo” demand When cases of sexualharassment first appeared in the courts, only cases of quid pro quo wererecognized. These instances of the offense threaten the employment of the victimif they are unwilling to submit to sexual requests. This type of harassmentusually occurs when the offender is in a superior position than that of thevictim.
“Almost 2/3 of sexual harassment complaints were brought against awoman’s immediate supervisor or another person with greater power; (Petrocelli,1997, p. 121). The harasser explicitly explains or implies that refusal ofcompliance will result in job-loss. This request need not be sexual intercourse.
A more recent recognition of sexual harassment is those cases causing a hostileworking environment. While it can be associated with quid pro quo offenses, itstands alone as a justifiable claim. In this type of harassment, the conduct isso severe or pervasive that it changes the very conditions of employment, makingthe work environment hostile. For example, an employee arrives at work onemorning to find that someone has left suggestive literature on her desk.
If thisbehavior occurs for a prolonged period, the harasser has created a hostileworking environment. Why employers should not accept responsibility Thosecritics, many of whom are employers, that feel they should not bear the burdenof their employees’ actions will say that it is the responsibility of the workerto act maturely in the workplace. If employers are not personally responsiblefor the harassment, .