Offensive words on clothing, unwanted jokes, and gestures, touching, patting or grabbing, interfering with one’s movement, playing suggestive music, repeated requests for dates and unwanted flirting. These are all forms of sexual harassment that take place in the work environment. The technicalities of sexual harassment have been an issue under debate for as long as it has existed.
Sexual harassment can be described as any form of sexual advances whose submission or rejection interfere with the individual’s employment, their performance or create a hostile work environment for them. Though sexual harassment affects both males and females it is more prominent amongst women.
Over the years women have either lacked the appropriate channels to report sexual harassment or in fear of losing their jobs kept it all to themselves. However, various companies are instituting policies that not only safeguard the women against sexual harassment but also provide the right channels to follow incase such an ordeal happens.
Inferior Versus Superior and the #Metoo movement
Sexual harassment in a business setting could be initiated by fellow employees or even the employer. Most sexual harassment cases are as a result of a person in power demanding or wanting sexual favors from their inferior counterparts. Prominent people in the company or in the societies have been accused of sexual harassment more than employees on the same level.
The fear of reporting sexual harassment cases comes in when the assailant holds a more prominent position and reporting may lead to the loss of one’s job. In such cases there may exist precedents which discourage the victim from coming forward with her case. The #Metoo campaign, a movement that is fighting against sexual harassment and assault of women, is currently celebrating as Bill Cosby who is a prominent comedian was recently jailed for sexually assaulting women after drugging them.
The movement that has been ongoing for a couple of years brought together women from different social classes each sharing their own story of how they were either harassed or assaulted by someone that held more power than them. The sentencing of Bill Cosby offers hope to women all over the world who may have undergone sexual harassment or assault. Sexual harassment can also be initiated by other members that may not even be employees or employers in a business, employees can be sexually harassed by clients, suppliers or even vendors.
The addressing of sexual harassment claims should be handled very delicately especially for women. As mentioned before most women do not report their harassment because they are afraid of losing their jobs. Most women have to play along and in most cases agree to granting sexual favors in order to protect their source of income.
Sexual harassment in the work environment is not only restricted to the victim and the assailant, other employees who witness the action can also report it since they are indirectly being harassed by making their work environment uncomfortable. Sexual harassment is also not restricted to a specific gender. The victim could have been harassed by a member of the same sex for instance a woman can sexually harass a fellow woman by either inappropriate touching, inappropriate comments and many other ways. Therefore handling sexual harassment cases should be done with utmost professionalism and care.
Various measures have been put in place to help women that undergo sexual harassment to be able to get justice. Policies such as the Sexual Harassment Policy and the General Harassment Policy contain guidelines that women should follow if they are being harassed in any form of way.
Any person within an organization that hears of a sexual harassment claim from a fellow employee should take it seriously and ensure that the right channels are used to handle the situation. In any situation where sexual harassment is involved or any form of harassment the human resource department should be informed. All sexual harassment cases that reach the human resource office should then be investigated fully in order to ensure whether the claims are true or false. There have been cases where the assailants lost their jobs and even in more serious cases were jailed only for the accusations to be discovered to be false later on. Therefore, the human resource officers should ensure that as they carry out their investigations they do it diligently in order to resolve the issue without causing more problems.
For sexual harassment policies to work, the employees and victims of sexual harassment also have to know that they are obligated to report their cases to either their superiors or the human resource staff. Without reporting, the human resource department will have no claims to follow up on. With campaigns such as the #Metoo campaign women all over the world should feel confident that however prominent their assailants may be their rights are still important and justice will still prevail.
The sexual harassment of women has been an ordeal that has plagued our society for decades. Women in various settings have been victims of sexual harassments and assaults without them ever getting justice. Women live in fear of being sexually harassed or being asked for sexual favors in order for them to keep their jobs which they are equally as qualified for as their male counterparts. The struggles that women have undergone over the years from oppression due to gender paved way for them to be at par with men in the business world and work environment only for them to be faced with the issue of sexual harassment. Women, however, continue to persevere and with the help of institutions such as the human resource departments that are now a requirement in each institution.
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