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One of the most common problems in the United States today is sexual harassment. Whether it is from a male or female, sexual harassment has created many forms of controversy within both the public and personal lives of many Americans. The most common place to find sexual harassment is in the workplace. In most cases, female employees feel uncomfortable due to sexual harassment, and therefore are uncomfortable with their career.
The most extreme form of sexual harassment occurs when an employee loses a job, benefit or other privilege of employment, is fired or loses an opportunity because the employee has rejected sexual demands. However, a determination of sexual harassment does not depend on whether the victim was threatened with the loss of a job. Law also prohibits conduct that unreasonably interferes with an individual s work performance or which creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment. Sexual harassment is basically broken down into two main categories:
h Unwanted sexual advances, flirtations, or sexual actions directed towards and unwilling victim. This may include requests for sexual favors, sexually oriented jokes directed towards a co-worker, or persistent sexual advances even after the victim has made it clear that this makes him or her uncomfortable, and
h The existence of a hostile work environment, in which an employee feels uncomfortable due to unwelcome sexual actions among other co-workers, even if these actions don t directly involve them. This may include such acts as displaying a sexually suggestive object in plain sight of other co-workers, sexual comments about others, or any unwanted sexual conversations or comments.
Sexual harassment is abundant in today s workplace. Most people don t even realize that they are committing a crime when they make a sexual gesture or joke about another, even if apparently no one minds the comments. Even if a nearby listener finds something offensive about the comment, it could constitute sexual harassment.
Due to the increased counts of sexual harassment cases in the workplace, many companies have taken it upon themselves to educate and inform their employees about sexual harassment laws. An employer should take all steps necessary to prevent sexual harassment from occurring, such as affirmatively raising the subject, expressing strong disapproval, developing appropriate sanctions, informing employees of their right to raise the issue of harassment, and developing methods to sensitize all concerned. There are many suggested methods for companies to take to minimize the occurrence of sexual harassment in the workplace. The best way to avoid sexual harassment in the workplace is for a company to organize programs to help prevent it. A solid anti-harassment program should consist of:
h Develop a written sexual harassment policy statement. This policy statement should begin by stating that sexual harassment is illegal and will not be tolerated. The policy statement may further include the employees’ right to work in an environment free from harassment and from retaliation for reporting harassment, the fact that sexual harassment is a violation of state and federal law, identification of specific behaviors that constitute sexual harassment, and an outline of consequences for engaging in harassing behavior.
h Communicate the policy by posting it in the workplace and including the policy in employee handbooks or policy manuals.
h Develop procedures that will be followed upon filing a claim of sexual harassment and identify the person(s) to whom the employee should report the harassment.
h Charge employees with the responsibility to report harassment or discriminatory practices.
Victims of sexual harassment may wish to seek relief, for which there are a number of options available. An employee may wish to resolve the complaint informally through use of the employer’s established procedures. However, if no complaint procedures have been established in the workplace and the employee feels unable to report the harassment to supervisory personnel, the employee may seek relief in an external forum such as the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
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