Sexual harassment has become an important policy issue in workplaces today. Legal consequences derived from the occurrence of sexual harassment in the workplace have made managers focus more effort to control its occurrence than confrontation with the law. Every state in the United States of America has categorical policies and laws that prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace and other aspects of life. Despite the obvious prohibition, controlling sexual harassment in the workplace is a challenge to most managers. Managers’ dedications to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace determine whether the fight against sexual harassment would be successful.
The issue of sexual harassment has been a major social and legal issue in the country. However, sexual harassment in the workplace was brought to light in 1991, in a legal issue raised by Anita Hill (Ritvo, Litwin & Butler, 1999, par 2). The legal issue brought to light an issue that had been ignored by management for a long time. With this legal issue, managers cannot continue to ignore sexual harassment in their firm, lest they get involved in expensive litigations. Sexual harassment is, in fact, a major issue in the workplace that is usually imagined. With the increase in consciousness on sexual harassment among workers, it becomes imperative that managers should confront the issue other than avoiding it.
Although there could be difficulties in definition, sexual harassment is known among many people. In conventional terms, sexual harassment refers to unapproved sexual advances toward another person. Sexual harassment can take the form of physical sexual harassment, verbal or indirect harassment. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a legal term that was adopted as a way to fight sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace (Ritvo, Litwin & Butler, 1999, par 5).
A more objective definition of sexual harassment is provided by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The commission defined the term to include the unapproved sexual advances or conduct when used to discriminate against some workers. Despite this, any conduct of sexual nature in the workplace does not qualify as sexual harassment. The motive, frequency, and extent of the conduct are just as well to be considered.
Sexual harassment in the workplace may take more than one form. The harasser may come from either of the two genders. Either the act may also be perpetrated by the senior individuals against their subordinates or it can be between individuals at the same level in the workplace (Ritvo, Litwin & Butler, 1999, par 7). In legal definition, sexual harassment also extends to include individuals not directly involved but affected by the offense.
Managers’ responsibility to sexual harassment
Sexual harassment can affect a company in a deep and extended way. Sexual harassment in the workplace may not only raise a legal issue against a company but also affect the company’s productivity in a bigger way. As leaders in the company, the managers should take responsibility for preventing and solving sexual harassment issues in the company (Ritvo, Litwin & Butler, 1999, par 5). If sexual harassment occurs in a company where the management had not taken the necessary steps to prevent it, then legal issues can be raised against the manager or the company. For this reason, it is the responsibility of the managers to understand sexual harassment in their companies and take the necessary steps to prevent it.
Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Company
The consequences of sexual harassment in the workplace are severe to a company. Instead of waiting for a sexual harassment act to happen, it becomes important to take preventive measures. The most important to prevent sexual harassment in a company is to develop and implement a sexual harassment policy (Ritvo, Litwin & Butler, 1999, par 8).
A sexual harassment policy defines sexual harassment in the company’s context, states how such harassment would be reported, state the consequence of such an offense to the offenders and highlight how sexual harassment issues would be handled in the company. As a legal document, a sexual harassment policy protects the company from litigation that can evolve from sexual harassment in the company. The manager should provide close monitoring of workplaces in order to observe and prevent sexual harassment from occurring. Sexual harassment workshops are also necessary for educating the workers on sexual harassment.
The nature of sexual harassment in the workplace complicates how it can be controlled. In most cases, sexual harassers are individuals in higher positions and commit the offense against their subordinates. In such a situation, it becomes difficult to implement sexual harassment policy in a company. However, the prevalent culture in the company affects the conduct of all the workers. Building a workplace culture that respects each individual is imperative for success in preventing sexual harassment. The way a manager conducts himself or herself, then becomes very important (Ritvo, Litwin & Butler, 1999, par 11); the manager should provide leadership in complying with sexual harassment policy.
Sexual harassment in the workplace is a major source of legal issues in workplaces today. Sexual harassment is one of the workplace discriminations that are prevented by law. Sexual harassment in the workplace does not only bring about legal issues against a company but also affects its productivity. Preventing sexual harassment is the best approach for handling sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment policy, frequent monitoring of the workplace, and sexual harassment workshops are some of the measures that can control sexual harassment from taking place in a workplace.
Ritvo, R., Litwin, A. & Butler, L. (1999). Combating Harassment. Web.