Sexual harassment

All posts tagged Sexual harassment

Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Laws – Conclusion

Published September 27, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

Legal Definition and Application of the Law

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Laws are enforced to protect the innocent. Seaquist (2012) explains that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination with regards to a person’s sex. Section 703 of Title VII clearly states that it is an unlawful act for employers to refuse or fail to hire or fire individuals, or otherwise discriminate against them with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment based on a person’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The statutory definition of sexual harassment is found at 29 C.F.R. § 1604.11 and states that harassment on the basis of sex is a violation and consists of such components like unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. In addition, a plaintiff can charge an employer for allowing or condoning an atmosphere of abusive words or acts with a hostile environment lawsuit. An employee that has been discriminated against, as in Harris v. Forklift Systems, 510, U.S. 17 (1993) in which the plaintiff filed suit because of the insults that were endured with respect to gender. The individual was well within their rights to seek justice and is directed to do so with their state’s discrimination agency or with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC) prior to pursuing litigation (Seaquist, 2012). This arrangement provides many advantages, one of which is to preserve the plaintiff’s rights to state a claim should they fail to do so through federal channels. If the plaintiff can provide a burden of proof, then the defendant must rebut the presumption of discrimination by presenting evidence there was another legitimate reason that was nondiscriminatory.

There are a number of ways a plaintiff can defend their position. Gordon (2007) suggests that to establish a prima facie, or clear case of sexual harassment, the plaintiff must produce detailed evidence to support their claims. Title VII, with state and local laws that are modeled after it, grant employees rights that were traditionally withheld from them. In addition, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 protects them as it prohibits paying different wages based on gender for jobs that any sex can perform that possess equal skill, effort, and responsibility (Gordon, 2007). In other words, in a contemporary business atmosphere, any employer that treats women differently than men simply because of their gender is in violation of the law.

Recommendations

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Liability Exposure

Leaders that establish an ethical environment lower the risk of sexual misconduct and litigation. Gordon’s (2007) research revealed that a typical Fortune 500 company, for example, loses $6.7 million a year in absenteeism, experiences low productivity, and high employee turnover because of sexual harassment situations. In addition, the average jury award for a sexual harassment lawsuit is $450.000. Furthermore, one out of two sexually harassed individuals is by the victim’s supervisor. Sadly, most people that experience this situation do or say nothing about it for fear of repercussions including: (a) punishment, (b) accusations of slander, (c) dismissal or being ignored, and (d) termination. Studies also reveal that 95 out of 100 working women have received sexual material, such as letters, emails, phone calls, photos, and text messages at work. The toll this takes on their well-being is revealed by statistics that conclude that nine out of every ten sexually harassed women suffer from debilitating anxiety reactions including depression, headaches, immune disorders, and other physical ailments (Gordon, 2007). These are but a few of the liabilities employers face when they confront sexual discrimination and harassment issues in the workplace.

Employers must have a working knowledge of labor law and their obligations with respect to dealing with employees. Rassas (2011) reminds us that sexual harassment is not a kind of romantic behavior between two consenting adults. In a social environment, where there is a desire to please one another, for instance, both people respect and accept each other’s boundaries. In a work situation, however, one party is often unable to object the other’s behavior. In a supervisor-subordinate relationship, the subordinate is under the influence of the manager and is fearful of demotion or losing their job. Staff members expect their supervisors to make demands related to work, not cross barriers to ask for intimate favors (Rassas, 2011). For example, many employees at my former place of employment in the music industry, were encouraged to participate in after hour events to support the bands. These events took place at local bars and nightclubs. In one incident, a vice president from another department, acting as a concerned supervisor, used safety issue concerns as a reason to make sexual advances. In this situation, the man behaved in a friendly manner, as a concerned parent or trusted family member, taking on the role of protector and rescuer to earn trust. In other words, the executive used the issue of protection as guise to lure a subordinate employee into a false sense of security and friendship. Once the subordinate felt safe that the initial gesture was innocent, interpreting it as an act of kindness, the executive perceived this as a green light to continue his advances. He then proceeded to take the young employee’s hand and held it in a manner that intimate couples do. This behavior was supposed to make the new recruit feel more comforted and safe in the hostile bar room environment the manipulative executive painted it out to be. However, quite the opposite transpired. To the new employee it was extremely uncomfortable and perceived as inappropriate behavior. The executive continued with his ruse because in his perception, the advances were not rejected. In reality, the new recruit out of nervousness and fear was merely being polite. The subordinate was a new employee at the organization and did not have the support system to seek guidance, help, or protection for that matter. She relied on the only means of defense she felt she had available: playing dumb and ignoring the gestures.

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A common scenario that occurs with many women that experience date rape is a woman says no to the man assaulting her, however, he perceives this as a yes answer because it presents a challenge in his mind and a new goal to a focus on: her submission. These individuals are clearly imbalanced and have distorted perceptions of safe boundaries. From their given position of power, they view the rejection as a game of cat and mouse. In other words, they believe the woman is saying, “No! Don’t stop please!”  In reality the woman is actually saying, “No! Don’t! Stop! Please!” In short, leaders that behave like this are blinded by their ambition and sexual passions which can dull their perceptions beyond all reason. The music executive was determined to continue with his efforts of pursuit because of the trophy that awaited him, “bragging rights to his colleagues.” Many executives are so driven by their ego and lust for power they do not perceive their behavior as inappropriate. In their view, sneaking away with a subordinate for cocktails, or enticing them with a meal at a trendy Hollywood restaurant, concocting work related business as an excuse to lure the employee into having a dinner date with him is not unheard of.  In short, it is how business is conducted in many industries. This is just one way harassment problems evolve. Supervisors with huge egos, personality, and worse, mental disorders, lack common sense because of their condition. In addition, some of these individuals justify their actions because of their position and a sense of entitlement. They disrespect the views and rights of others and quite frankly are in dire need of psychological management and education in what constitutes proper behavior and safe boundaries. These individuals are so focused with their personal agenda they lose sight of all reason including to uphold their responsibilities as a leader. Additionally, they use their power to manipulate and engage in tactics of deception to achieve their own goals. McGraw (2012) suggests that there are many reasons as to why this can happen including a person’s life experiences, mental illness, drugs, greed, the environment, and poor role modeling. These are components that can forge damaged people so that they do not have a clear conception of how to develop and build healthy relationships (McGraw, 2012). Regardless of their background however, there are just people in the world that take advantage and hurt others for their own personal gain. Needless to say, a case against the music executive was never filed because at the time, the culture cultivated at the company did not view this behavior as an act of violation. In other words, it was accepted conduct in the boy’s club climate of the company that had been established during that era.

When victimized employees file a sexual harassment claim against a supervisor, it is equally important that employers know what to expect. Seaquist (2012) postulates that are two general kinds of defenses employers may use as a strategy (a) present evidence to substantiate that the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct the behavior promptly and (b) present evidence that the plaintiff (employee) unreasonably failed to take measures of prevention or corrective strategies provided by the employer to avoid harm. The plaintiff on the other hand, must provide substantial evidence to support their claim (Seaquist, 2012). Unfortunately the process entails that the plaintiff reveal intimate details of that emotionally charged experience. Because of this many lack the courage or confidence to come forward to avoid further humiliation and chastisement from colleagues.

Improvement and Prevention

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Employers that are educated in sexual discrimination and harassment laws can protect themselves and their employees. Advances in technology also create new opportunities for other forms of sexual abuse including sending pornographic material via electronic communication or the trending sexting behavior many engage in. To avoid this, successful leaders can propose and implement strategies to prevent this conduct in the work place. Gordon (2007) suggests leaders incorporate programs that offer guidance for staff members including special problems like sexual misbehavior in unique environments, including educational, military, religious, and governmental facilities (Gordon, 2007). In addition, strategies that offer to help employees learn how to communicate in an appropriate manner and deal with power and sexuality can also be effective. These include the development of guidelines and Codes of Conduct that can also serve to: (a) protect whistle blowers, (b) monitor policies to make sure they are being complied with, (c) hire good people, (d) apply techniques to discipline workers, (e) set an ethical tone, and (f) create an ethical conflict management team to assist in the behavioral management process.

Employers that are able to break free from old paradigms and release outdated views of how the sexes interact can help develop a culture where employees feel not only safe, but feel confident to discuss issues when they occur. These tactics help people to resolve issues before they reach crisis level. In addition, employers can implement systems that include a designated person to manage claims and support individuals that have been victimized by acknowledging that this is a form of abuse that requires disciplinary action including termination from the perpetrator should they be found guilty. Take the following situation for example, an employer pinches a woman on the backside, or makes comments like, “You’re a good lookin’ broad! Why don’t you come over here and sit on my lap so we can discuss the first thing that pops up?” If this occurs, all staff members must be made aware, that although this behavior may have been funny and tolerated fifty years ago, it is no longer acceptable conduct in a business environment. In fact, that behavior can now get a person terminated.

Conclusion

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Business leaders that educate and empower their employees in legal issues with respect to sexual discrimination and harassment issues can help them defend their constitutional rights. Chopra (2013) reminds us that healthy relationships require healthy boundaries. They are an important component that helps determine how people perceive, behave, and honor each other (Chopra, 2013). Federal, state, and local laws protect workers from discrimination. These laws make employers responsible for the working conditions their employees are exposed to and remove obstacles that can hinder fair treatment to workers. In addition, women nearly constitute one out of every two workers in the workplace. This continual evolution of demographics is slowly shifting the social climate in American businesses.

Employers that are highly educated and well versed in business law can make more effective decisions. For example, many people that enter the work force come from environments that consist of problems including sexual misbehavior, domestic abuse, incest, and the sexual molestation of children. Plus, the public school system offers very little education and lacks effective programs to help students understand how to manage these issues. Consequently, many of them graduate and enter the work force with self-esteem and efficacy issues. Because their boundaries were violated by the people they trusted most, many are confused about what is appropriate behavior and what is not. Business leaders that are cognizant of these statistics are better equipped to develop strategies that support their employees and cultivate an ethical climate. These employers provide programs that offer education and devise codes of conduct that clearly establish rules and regulations to help deter ethical misconduct. Vietnamese Buddhist Monk Hanh (2012) asserts that the employment a person engages in should be an expression of their entire being. In other words, the vocation they choose can be a wonderful opportunity to express their deepest desires, provide a significant source of nourishment, happiness, transformation, and healing. On the other hand, the job a person engages in can also create a considerable amount of hostility, abuse, discontent, and suffering (Hanh, 2012). When individuals bring awareness and are mindful of their words and actions, they can help cultivate an ethical climate of understanding and compassion where workers feel safe to work in harmony with their colleagues, free of discrimination and harassment.

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No one should ever have to struggle or suffer additional discourse or humiliation on top of the emotional distress and crisis they experience from the effects of sexual discrimination and harassment. Wilde (1987) purported that life is not meant to be a struggle. In nature, for instance, life requires a certain effort to sustain itself, but it does not struggle. In other words, a lion does not wake up each morning and roar, “I’m going to struggle like a wild cat today and hopefully by the time dinner rolls around I will have something hefty to chow down.” In other words, there is a big difference between the concept of struggling and that of making an effort (Wilde, 1987). Leaders that make an effort and devise support systems that discourage ethical misconduct, encourage victims to come forward, and do not punish the whistle blowers, can create a healthy environment where employees do not have to struggle to feel safe. The findings of this research deduced that while it may take considerable time and energy to examine legal situations in the workplace, employers that do so can prevent litigation because it helps them identify laws that have been developed to protect employees as well as help business leaders avoid facing penalties or fines they are liable for due to issues like sexual discrimination and harassment. Hanh (2012) purported that business leaders do not have to sacrifice their values to be successful (Hanh, 2012). In conclusion, employers that cultivate an ethical climate will most certainly operate their organization within the framework of the law and incorporate this stance into their codes of conduct. This effective leadership strategy is one that is likely to ensure an organization’s long term success.

This concludes my research in business law. Next week my research work focuses on marketing! Until then … have a great weekend and thanks for being a part of this educational experience with me.

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References

Adler, L. (2013). The essential guide for hiring and getting hired. Atlanta, GA: Workbench Media.

Chopra, D. (2013, August 16). 21 day meditation challenge: Miraculous relationships. Retrieved August 16, 2103, from chopracentermeditation.com: https://chopracentermeditation.com

Clarkson, K., & Miller, R. (2012). Business law: Text and cases: Legal, ethical, global and corporate environment. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Fredman, S. (2011). Discrimination law. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Gordon, L. (2007). The sexual harrassment handbook. Franklin Lakes, NJ: The Career Press, Inc.

Hanh, T. (2012). Work: How to find joy and meaning in each hour of the day. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.

MacKinnon, C. (1979). Sexual harrassment of working women. Boston, MA: Yale University.

McGraw, P. (2012). Life code. Los Angeles, CA, USA: Bird Street Books.

Palumbo, C., & Wolfson, B. (2011). The law of sex discrimination (Fourth ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Rassas, L. (2011). Employment law: a guide to hiring, managing, and firing employers and employees. New York, NY: Aspen Publishers.

Seaquist, G. (2012). Business law for managers. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

Walsh, D. (2013). Employment law for human resource practice. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Wilde, S. (1987). Life was never meant to be a struggle. Carlsbad, CA, USA: Hay House, Inc.

Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Laws – Part 2

Published September 25, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

Ethics

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Theories

Managers with an awareness of discrimination laws from a variety of vantage points, including ethics, can produce a more successful working environment and avoid lawsuits. Ethical theories help leaders decide what is morally acceptable. Geisler (1989) suggests that ethics can be defined in terms of what the organization deems as morally right and that each company creates its own set of ethical standards (Geisler, 1989). In a business environment, leaders look to their own views of morality and ethics to assist them in the decision making process. However, there are times when a leader is confronted with making a decision and is required to determine whether it is more important for the organization to engage in ethical practices or lawful ones. For example, when a claimant files a sexual harassment charge, they are seeking restitution for the violations they experience. In this situation, employers are obligated to manage both the legal ramifications as well as the ethical ones. In other words, while the proceedings are taking place, the employer must take the necessary steps to allow the justice system to prevail, while employers do what they can to support the individual that is suffering, rather than participate in efforts to isolate and humiliate the plaintiff further.

It is the employer’s responsibility to cultivate a climate that personnel feel safe in. Employees that experience discrimination feel unvalued and inadequate. In addition, employees that are subjected to sexual discrimination and harassment experience more physical and psychological problems. Employers need to protect themselves from these events occurring because victims have the support of the legal system to engage attorneys that will pursue restitution. Seaquist (2012) explains laws concern themselves with issues of right and wrong with the administration of justice. Business leaders should also take into consideration the topics of ethics and morality to help their personnel identify more clearly what is considered acceptable and unacceptable conduct (Seaquist, 2012). For example, business leaders that apply the ethical absolutism theory, accept that there are certain universal parameters that determine what is right and wrong. If stealing is wrong for instance, then it is always considered wrong regardless of the situation. Therefore a business leader that incorporates ethical absolutism will always consider stealing morally wrong. However, if the culture in a business has an open attitude towards sexual harassment and views this behavior as boys just being boys, then in an ethical absolutism environment, sexual harassment is accepted as morally right. Simply put, in an environment where many of the employees in upper management are engaged in extramarital affairs, these executives tend to hire employees that embrace the same attitude, or have a disposition in which they are happy to look the other way, or go with the flow, when it comes to ethical misconduct. Not only are personnel conditioned to accept this behavior, many in fact subscribe that there is nothing morally wrong with it. Corporations that cultivate a culture of religious fundamentalism on the other hand, base their code of ethics on scriptures written by prophets and would most likely reject a concept like this.  It is highly probable that they would view sexual discrimination and harassment as a sin and morally incomprehensible.

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Culture

American culture is slowly emerging from a patriarchal society that supported the male sexual dominance of women and employers that control their workers. For example, many corporate department heads from a former place of employment, hired assistants that were physically attractive with an uninhibited free spirit and disposition. Furthermore, they supported an environment that consisted of an open flirtatious atmosphere established by the leaders with various incentives like compensation, pay raises, promotions, free merchandise, or tickets and backstage passes to special events, the use of company limousines, and other similar perks to encourage and support that behavior. Sexual harassment complaints in this kind of culture are typically nonexistent because of the climate that has been cultivated by the supervisors that everyone conforms to, including low level employees.  In other words, they are able to maintain an unethical atmosphere because candidates for hire were only considered and remained as long as they embraced the established culture.

Employers also set the tone of a work environment by the people they hire. Adler’s (2013) research also indicates that many employers have a difficult time hiring and recruiting the best candidates because they are ineffective at implementing strategies to attract top performers (Adler, 2013).  One of the reasons for this is that many leaders have unhealthy perceptions of employee and subordinate roles in the workplace, especially those hired as personal or administrative assistants. Many executives view their assistants for example, as a reflection of themselves and therefore hire staff members that represent of a certain kind of image they deem appropriate for their department. For instance, in a corporate situation, the head of the legal department may hire staff members that adopt a conservative style based on skills and knowledge to represent the group of attorneys that operate that division. The publicity and promotion departments on the other hand, may hire staff members based on artistic and creative skills.  Staff members may consist of  more free spirited people with an open attitude, youthful drive and energy. In other words, the department heads set the atmosphere for the climate and ethical culture they develop and hire staff members that are an organizational fit in that arena.

There is no single law that covers all workers in the US. Walsh (2013) reminds us that employment laws consist of a patchwork of federal, state, and local laws that continue to evolve and are contingent upon many components including the size of the organization (Walsh, 2013). For example, as mentioned previously, many supervisors hire personal assistants based on certain components including, age, appearance, and physical type rather than seek individuals that are qualified with skills and knowledge. In addition, there are many executives that tend to view assistants as their trophy, rather than a skilled person best qualified for the job. This is indicative of a climate where women are perceived as objects, rather than individuals capable of innovation and considerable contribution to an organization’s success. In addition, these females are also viewed and discriminated against by other staff members of the same sex as well. For example, when I was hired as an administrative assistant in the music industry, issues of discrimination immediately began to surface in the corporate arena.  It was evident from the behavior of other staff members of the same gender and equal rank that I was an outsider to them. I later discovered that some of the women even jokingly referred to me as the new dish. In short, other staff members automatically made a judgment based on appearances, not because of my level of skills and knowledge. Rather than embrace and welcome me as a new employee, they engaged in acts of discrimination, making me feel isolated and friendless. In some cases, many employers and employees do not have a clear set of identifying acceptable and unacceptable relationship boundaries. This also fosters unhealthy relationships.

Legalities

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Legal and Political Aspects

Business leaders that understand the legal and political perspective of discrimination issues, are more likely to achieve the best legal outcomes. Palumbo and Wolfson (2011) suggest that patriarchal systems can also influence behavioral patterns that are enforced, legitimized, and perpetuated in a business arena (Palumbo & Wolfson, 2011). These systems can have a significant influence on politics and policy making. For instance, fundamental religion has played a significant role in the world in that many leaders use this position to justify totalitarian actions that are based on absolutist ideals. Leaders in this climate, reveal their ethical principles by the type of legal systems that support them. For example, the civil law system that is common in most of the European Countries (EC) meticulously outlines individual rights and responsibilities. In its quick implementation of justice and with limited power of judicial interpretation, it reinforces an absolutist kind of ethical philosophy with systems that require strict compliance to statutes that guide behavior and leave little room for deviation.

Common law systems, on the other hand, like those established in the US, leave wide latitude for interpretation and provide a multi-faceted frame for the appellate courts to determine (Palumbo & Wolfson, 2011). In other words, civil laws leave little room for misinterpretation, while common law offers latitude for litigants to argue. For example, in a country where civil laws pervade, a sexual harassment issue can be resolved quickly by the laws. In a country where common law systems pervade, both sides of the case must produce substantial evidence to support their position and in many instances, the defense will engage in tactics that degrade, belittle, and present the victim in an unfavorable manner to provide reasonable doubt with respect to a claim. Because of this, many victims do not come forward to avoid the humiliation of such an experience in addition to the violation they are processing and working to recover from.

References:

Adler, L. (2013). The essential guide for hiring and getting hired. Atlanta, GA: Workbench Media.

Chopra, D. (2013, August 16). 21 day meditation challenge: Miraculous relationships. Retrieved August 16, 2103, from chopracentermeditation.com: https://chopracentermeditation.com

Clarkson, K., & Miller, R. (2012). Business law: Text and cases: Legal, ethical, global and corporate environment. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Fredman, S. (2011). Discrimination law. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Gordon, L. (2007). The sexual harrassment handbook. Franklin Lakes, NJ: The Career Press, Inc.

Hanh, T. (2012). Work: How to find joy and meaning in each hour of the day. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.

MacKinnon, C. (1979). Sexual harrassment of working women. Boston, MA: Yale University.

McGraw, P. (2012). Life code. Los Angeles, CA, USA: Bird Street Books.

Palumbo, C., & Wolfson, B. (2011). The law of sex discrimination (Fourth ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Rassas, L. (2011). Employment law: a guide to hiring, managing, and firing employers and employees. New York, NY: Aspen Publishers.

Seaquist, G. (2012). Business law for managers. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc.

Walsh, D. (2013). Employment law for human resource practice. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Wilde, S. (1987). Life was never meant to be a struggle. Carlsbad, CA, USA: Hay House, Inc.

Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Laws – Part 1

Published September 23, 2013 by Mayrbear's Lair

Introduction

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Business leaders face many challenges and issues in the work place and are required to manage them effectively as they surface in order to maintain a successful and comfortably safe working environment. Clarkson and Miller (2012) recommend that organizational leaders become educated in business law in order to function in the modern world citing that anyone who embarks on a professional career, whether in medicine, science, entertainment, government, or accounting, will benefit from knowledge of contracts, real and intellectual property law, landlord-tenant partnerships as well as other significant legal matters (Clarkson & Miller, 2012). For example, when a manager invites a new employee to join the organization and makes it clear the candidate was chosen because of their credentials and top performance levels, rather than being welcomed or embraced, the new hire discovers many are jealous and exclude the individual from participating in significant meetings or social events. Soon, the new recruit starts to feel alone and isolated. This is an example of one form of discrimination that takes place in the business world. One of the most difficult forms of discrimination employers can face, however, is sexual discrimination, if and when they are forced to deal with a complaint that is filed. Seaquist (2012) suggests that although many of these cases can be settled out of court or through mediation, charges of sexual discrimination are a very serious matter that continues to present problems businesses and women confront on a daily basis in the modern world (Seaquist, 2012). The focus of this research is centered on the analysis of the legal and ethical situations relating to sexual discrimination and harassment issues in a business environment. The analysis will include a brief explanation to offer a more concise definition as well as provide a brief background on the subject. In addition, it will include a discussion on the ethical concerns and how discrimination laws are applied citing examples to support the study. The research will also include a look at the liability exposure employers can face as well as provide recommendations for improvement and suggest prevention plans that leaders can implement to avoid facing litigation and costly damages. The study will conclude that even though it takes an enormous amount of energy, understanding the legalities and complexities of business law with respect to discrimination and sexual harassment situations can help employers avoid litigation and maintain a safe working environment.

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Analysis of Sexual Discrimination and Harassment

The Backstory

Smart business leaders recognize that knowledge in discrimination law puts them in a better position to create and enforce a climate that will prevent occurrences and behavior that encourages discrimination or sexual harassment because it can lead to costly lawsuits. For example, when women initially entered into the workforce, they began to experience a variety of discrimination issues.  In fact, many were discouraged from working outside of the household and often chastised. This attitude reflected the culture of that time, in that women had been conditioned to accept their role in society as the primary caretaker of the home and family while providing support toward their husbands careers. Once women entered the labor force, however, they were introduced to more kinds of discrimination including lower wages, exclusion from participating in certain occupations, and many were exposed to intimate violation in the form of sexual discrimination, harassment, and abuse at their job. In fact, not only are women victims of this behavior, they are often subjected to society’s failure to recognize that sexual harassment is another form of abuse like bullying and generally accepted as taboo. In other words, this behavior is typical in a patriarchal society that accepts this conduct as boys being boys, while the women are left to confront the traumatic experiences of the effects from it, as well as process and examine their own perceptions, which for the most part, were usually not supported. Today, many women still feel humiliated, ashamed, and fearful to come forward to avoid ridicule and further stress because the system does not provide adequate support systems to defend these victims.

Dating co-workers is not a new concept. People work long hours together, overcome challenges and share victories. As a result, they develop bonds and friendships that can lead to romantic relationships. This can bring great joy and fulfillment as well as create a hostile atmosphere. Many companies have policies against romantic liaisons for those reasons. In fact, it is not uncommon to hear executives spewing remarks like, “We don’t fish off the company pier,” from those resolved to comply with corporate mandates. MacKinnon’s (1979) studies reveal that the intimate violation of both women and men is common in American society and concludes that the behavior is typically contained by a patriarchal structure of power that works diligently to keep the topic nearly inaudible. In addition, men’s control over women’s material survival, education, and occupational advancements for example, have become institutionalized in many patriarchal systems (MacKinnon, 1979). Unfortunately, these patterns have been enforced for thousands of years and slow to change because of the complexities associated with them.

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Identifying Sexual Discrimination and Harassment

Discrimination and harassment issues are difficult to manage because it makes people have to confront the the topic of inequality. The first step business leaders can take to prevent sexual discrimination and harassment is to have a clear understanding of what it means. For example, in a sex discrimination case, if an employer deliberately discriminates against a female in the work place, it is called disparate treatment. Should the claim go to court there is a three step process the plaintiff must go through to present the burdens of proof. Should the defendant succeed in convincing the court there was a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason, the burden then shifts back to the plaintiff to prove the defendant’s position is false and inaccurate. According to Title VII and the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment, the plaintiff must demonstrate a preponderance of evidence that supports the following criteria: (a) the individual is a member of a protected class; (b) the plaintiff was meeting the employer’s expectations; (c) the plaintiff suffered from the experience, (d) other workers of equal status outside the protected class were exposed to differential treatment. Furthermore, MacKinnon (1979) stated that the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution guarantees that no state shall deny an individual equal protection of the law. According to the inequality approach, sexual harassment is viewed as sexual discrimination and seen as a disadvantage to women as a gender within a social context in which a female’s sexuality and material survival depends on, to the woman’s detriment (MacKinnon, 1979). In simple terms sexual discrimination can be defined as the unwanted acts and imposition individuals experience that is based on sexual requirements that takes place in a business relationship of unequal power.

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People have been fighting for equality since they discovered what that term meant. Fredman (2011) however, contends that equality is an ideal whose meaning shifts the closer it is scrutinized. In the meantime, the legal system recognizes and acknowledges two general types of sexual discrimination and harassment issues: (a) quid pro quo harassment, which can translate into the form of a promotion, hiring, or salary hike in exchange for intimate favors; and (b) an environment that promotes sexual harassment where workers are exposed to behavior including unwanted sexual advances, lewd comments, innuendos, or jokes (Fredman, 2011). For example, in the Meritor Savings Bank v. Vinson, 477 U.S. 57 (1986) court case, the plaintiff was required to provide evidence that discrimination had transpired, was based on sex, and created a hostile or abusive environment (Seaquist, 2012). This situation occurs when supervisors and managers have failed to take steps to implement programs and enforce policies that discourage inappropriate actions or have not successfully educated employees to refrain from engaging in this type of ethical misconduct.

Identifying discrimination laws also protects employees. For example, workers educated in sexual discrimination are better suited to identify it, or come forward to support others they suspect are being exposed to harassment from supervisors or other figures of authority who coercively initiate unwanted advances, favors, or pressures. Furthermore, employees that are not aware of their rights are susceptible to becoming harassment victims themselves, especially in situations where they lack or do not reciprocate feelings towards the individual making the advances.

Many victims are also silent when these events occur, because they are fearful of losing their job or facing other serious repercussions.  Gordon (2007) suggests that there are laws that prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. They require that staff members identify and separate different kinds of sexual interactions. Although the theory seems simple, often it is not easy to approach because there are a variety of effective solutions individuals can take when they are approached by a direct supervisor or an influential authoritative figure that has control over their career (Gordon, 2007). For example, an individual with a history of abuse that enters the workplace may have challenges identifying boundary issues because of the abhorrent conditions and acts of violation from their own past experiences. Most victims of abuse are uneducated and ignorant of their rights. Unfortunately, many out of fear and survival protect their abusers and remain silent. Other individuals with self-esteem issues that typically result from the complexities of a fatherless upbringing can bond and develop affection towards their violators and even protect them. In short, many individuals that have been sexually victimized do not have the effective tools, knowledge, and self-esteem to rely on as a defense mechanism. Many experience anxiety over the possibility of termination from the supervisor that initiated the sexual advances or pressured them using their position of power to do so. People that are not empowered are not only vulnerable to abusers, but are defenseless because they lack the confidence, courage, and support to come forward.

References

Adler, L. (2013). The essential guide for hiring and getting hired. Atlanta, GA: Workbench Media.

Chopra, D. (2013, August 16). 21 day meditation challenge: Miraculous relationships. Retrieved August 16, 2103, from chopracentermeditation.com: https://chopracentermeditation.com

Clarkson, K., & Miller, R. (2012). Business law: Text and cases: Legal, ethical, global and corporate environment. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.

Fredman, S. (2011). Discrimination law. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

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Unethical Behavior in the Workplace

Published December 23, 2012 by Mayrbear's Lair

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I was raised in an environment with substantial cultural differences than the one in which I was educated. Although I was introduced to a high level of morals and values, what I witnessed were highly unethical practices from the ones I loved. I learned through strict disciplinary policies, the importance of being honest. The consequences for getting caught in a lie were dire. As I grew older, internalization shifted my ethical reasoning. My moral framework moved from externally driven behaviors to internal control of what I believed was right or wrong (Kohlberg, 1966). Overcoming abuse and bullying experiences motivated me to increase my own levels of ethical competence. I joined the professional workplace with ethical sensibility. My Achilles heel was the inability to stand up to the unethical behavior of others. This resulted in recurring experiences of sexual harassment and misconduct. I kept silent when I was young and naïve for fear of losing my job. After I became a mother, I found courage to expose exploitative manipulative behavior.

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For instance, one day, wearing a loose fit  denim shirt and baggy jeans, I walked into the copy room at a former place of employment. A co-worker was there. He was an older individual that communicated intrusive messages: showing kindness; asking personal questions; offering advice, etc. I began to trust him as a friend akin to that of a father and greeted him politely. He walked over to me, pulled me in, planted an open mouth kiss and said “Good Morning!” He did not realize this was an unethical action; that he was sending a destructive message! I don’t remember much else after that, being in a state of shock. Perhaps if the man had been younger, looked like Hugh Jackman, I would have reacted differently, I laughingly told my supervisor, nervously explaining what had just transpired.  In truth, the employee lacked ethical reasoning and his behavior was completely inappropriate. I was facing another sexual misconduct situation. This time I did not keep quiet. Rather than pressing charges, and to avoid encouraging further unethical responses from the perpetrator, I told my supervisor to advise him that if he came anywhere near me again, even to say hello, I would press charges. He never bothered me again.

Kohlberg, L. (1966). A cognitive developmental analysis of children’s sex role concept and attitudes. In E. E. Maccoby. (Ed.), The development of sex differences. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University Press