Sexual harassment at the workplace is a sever issue jeopardizing teamwork and overall wellbeing of the company. It affects both female and male workers; however, more women than men. The Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission (EEOC) estimates that three out of five women face sexual harassment in the workplace, though fewer cases of formal complaints are registered. Current laws in the US consider sexual harassment as a type of gender discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The EEOC has come up with a framework defining sexual harassment and urges organizations to develop the policy on this issue and communicate it to all organizational members. All organizational members should understand that any unwelcome sexual behavior, be it verbal or physical, constitutes sexual harassment. The employer should realize that basing aspect such as promotion, compensation, and other employment-related issues on sexual favors may be considered as sexual harassment. Besides, sexual harassment entails making the employees feel uncomfortable or affecting their performance.
Mostly, the liability of sexual harassment in the workplaces lies on the employer. While under Title VII, an individual employee is not responsible for sexual harassment. Therefore, the employer should not ignore the cases of sexual harassment since it does not free him/her of responsibility. Similarly, the employer could be liable for the conduct of nonemployees within his/her workplace. For example, the employer is guilty if is aware of the alleged sexual harassment by the nonemployees and fails to control them or chooses to remain inactive. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the employer to ensure that sexual harassment is unwelcome in the organization. The courts can only apply for injunctions directing the affected employees to desist from this behavior. However, it does not mean that an employee is free to subject his/her colleagues to sexual provocation because such an employee can be charged under the existing EEOC’s rules in his/her state. The organization and the employees should be ready to pay damages as well as other legal consequences for engaging in sexual harassment. It is only trivial comments and isolated incidents of less severity that do not qualify as sexual harassment, meaning that there is less defense for this conduct.
- Prevention is, therefore, the best solution to avoiding liability for sexual harassment. It is recommendable for employers to undertake the following steps to safeguard themselves from the law:
- develop sexual a harassment policy for the organization that defines and gives examples of incidents that can constitute this conduct.
- highlight the procedures for reporting and filing sexual harassment complaints in the organization. The organization should ensure that the channels of communicating are secure to encourage victims to come out.
- communicate and increase the awareness of sexual harassment within the organization through conferences and campaigns. The communication should be able to reach all the members of the organization.
- show commitment to eradicating sexual harassment by starting investigations at the earliest time possible and giving harsh punishment to members found engaging in this conduct.send a clear message that sexual harassment is unwelcome in the organization by ensuring that all employees sign agreements stating their commitment and willingness not to engage in sexual harassment.
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