What is Harassment?
Harassment is defined as a “course of conduct directed at a specific person, that causes substantial emotional distress in such a person, and serves no legitimate purpose.” Sexual harassment is specifically harassment of a sexual nature, and this sort of behavior is often seen in the workplace. Disrespectful or offensive behavior by supervisors, employees, co-workers, students, or third parties is inappropriate; and in some cases, may be an abuse of authority. When abusive and demeaning behavior is tolerated in our workplace, or on campus, we all suffer.
Get our Free “Sexual Harassment Prevention” whitepaper today [pdf]: http://www.learnsmartsystems.com/corporate/010/
Sexual harassment is a behavior, and adults are responsible for their own behavior… and its consequences. This whitepaper will help define the boundaries of appropriate behavior, to help prevent harassment in the workplace.
How Harassment Begins
We each have the responsibility to treat others with respect, and an obligation to maintain a workplace that’s respectful for all. If you stay aware of your responsibility, and conduct yourself in a professional manner, you will have taken an important step toward eliminating sexual harassment. But changing behavior requires more than just knowledge. You need to recognize the likely consequences of negative behavior, and base your actions accordingly.
The balance of risks and rewards is heavily stacked against offenders. Many people have lost their jobs, faced disciplinary action, and ruined their careers by engaging in sexual harassment. To prevent such incidents from occurring, it is important to recognize and avoid behaviors that are not acceptable in today’s workplace, to know what to do if you encounter unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature at work, and how to respond if you become aware of such behavior occurring within the organization.
How Common is Sexual Harassment?
On-the-job sexual harassment is not a recent problem, although legal liability for it is. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. Yet the American court system did not decide the first sexual harassment case under Title VII until 1976. The problem’s scope came to national attention in 1991, when the Senate Judiciary Committee held hearings on Anita Hill’s charges against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Sexual harassment is common throughout workplaces; in all occupations and professions; educational backgrounds; age, racial and ethnic groups; and income levels. While the majority of reported cases involve a male harassing a female, such cases can also involve a female harassing a male, or either men or women harassing members of their own sex.
In 1976, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia resolved the first Title VII sexual harassment case. That same year, a Redbook magazine poll found that 9 out of 10 women said they had been subjected to unwanted sexual advances at work. And according to a report issued by the Government Accountability Office, 42 percent of female government employees stated they had experienced some form of work-related sexual harassment. That same report stated that 15 percent of male federal employees reported being sexually harassed as well. Surveys done in the private sector revealed similar results.
As high as those numbers are, they may not even begin to tell the whole story. In 2010, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that almost 12,000 cases of sexual harassment reached their office. Yet the EEOC believes that this total represents only 5 to 15 percent of actual incidents. The rest go unreported, or no formal complaint is filed. Based on those statistics, there may actually have been a staggering two million cases of sexual harassment in the United States in 2010. In the federal government’s first sexual harassment survey, it discovered that – between 1978 and 1980 – the government lost $189 million from the effects of sexual harassment. In its next survey, covering 1985 to 1987, those losses jumped to $267 million – even though the rate of sexual harassment had not changed. Today, a typical Fortune 500 corporation can expect to lose $6.7 million dollars annually due to sexual harassment. That figure includes losses that result from absenteeism, lower productivity, increased health-care costs, poor morale, and employee turnover. These losses do not include litigation costs or court-awarded damages. Nor do they include damage to a company’s image, which can cost a business not only its reputation, but also customers and revenue.
In recent years, the number of sexual harassment cases filed with the EEOC, as well as in federal and state courts, has climbed dramatically. In 1992, for example, the number of cases jumped 50 percent over the previous year. Complaints about sexual harassment have ranged from the fostering of a hostile work environment to demands for prostitution. So how common is sexual harassment in the workplace? It can be summed up in the remarks of Alex Kozinski, justice in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Kozinski said, “It is a sobering revelation that every woman — every woman — who has spent time in the workforce in the last two decades can tell at least one story about being the object of sexual harassment.”
Protect your employees and your organization with LearnSmart’s 45 page guide to Sexual Harassment Prevention. This in-depth whitepaper defines Sexual Harassment, how to identify a “hostile” work environment and the legal implications of harassment. Protect yourself from individuals’ irresponsible actions. Get the free whitepaper today [pdf]: http://www.learnsmartsystems.com/corporate/010/