Understanding Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Mark Dacanay
July 24, 2009 — 2,716 views  
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In 2008 alone, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has received a total of 13, 867 sexual harassment charges. That number is the highest it's been in 6 years.

Sexual harassment is one of the most prevalent employment discrimination abuses in the country. But what is sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment refers to inappropriate and unwelcome actions like intimidation, bullying or coercion that are sexual in nature.

A person can file a sexual harassment charge for a variety of unwelcome actions ranging from seemingly mild transgressions to actual physical sexual assault and sexual abuse.

There are two types of sexual harassment. They are Quid Pro Quo and Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment.


Quid Pro Quo

Quid Pro Quo in Latin actually means something-for-something and indicates a more-or-less equal exchange of goods and services.

As the name implies, Quid Pro Quo sexual harassment refers to the act of asking for sexual favors in exchange for certain benefits.

This usually involves people in management or supervisory positions who have powers to grant extra benefits like promotion, allowances and other perks.

Hostile Environment Sexual Harassment

Hostile environment sexual harassment refers to situations or conditions where employees are exposed to unwanted sexual behavior from other people in the workplace and the supervisors and managers takes no steps to discourage or stop said behavior.

Some actions that may constitute hostile environment sexual harassment are:

* Posting and dissemination of pornographic materials in workplace areas like employee cubicles

* Consistently telling "dirty" jokes and/or stories where all or most employees can hear

* Management tolerating employees who make suggestive remarks about their co-employees

* Management tolerating co-employees, clients, suppliers, delivery people and even customers to persistently give an employee unwanted attention (e.g. asking for a date)

* Management tolerating or using derogatory terms that has some sexual connotation (e.g. pussy, bitch, player)

* Management tolerating frequent physical contact (even not sexual)

Effects of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment charges do not do any good for both the employers and the employees. Both experiences negative effects brought about by these unwanted actions.

Effects of sexual harassment on employees are the following:

* Decreased work performance

* Increase in absences

* Being the subject of embarrassing and humiliating gossip

* Loss of job and income

* Being evaluated by peers sexually because of the unwanted attention

* Loss of trust in similar work environments and with similar types of people

* Defamation of character and reputation

* Weakening of support network or being ostracized at work

* Difficulty in relating with other people like co-employees

Effects of Sexual harassment to employers and the business organization

* Decreased productivity from employees

* Decreased job satisfaction

* Increased tension within the workplace

* Loss of qualified employees

* Damaged image and reputation

* Legal costs if the problem is ignored and becomes a lawsuit

Take Action

A person does not have to be the subject of the unwanted sexual attention to file sexual harassment charges. According to the EEOC, the victim does not have to be the person being harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

According to the law, any discrimination based on sex so long as it places the victim in an objectively disadvantageous working condition is sexual harassment.

Consult with an attorney to explain your rights.

About the Author

To help you deal with the issues on employment sexual harassment charges, consult with our expert employment attorneys. Visit our website and call us toll free for legal assistance.

Mark Dacanay