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Ethical Implications of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace


It is a common perception that employees’ behavior reflects a company’s values. The digital era helped many victims to obtain a way to share their adverse experiences and garner sufficient courage to push against the toxicity they were subjected to in their workplaces. With the rise of the #MeToo movement, the issue became a prominent topic in mass and social media, causing an incredible amount of support shown towards victims of sexual harassment. It is up to companies to effectively eliminate this toxic behavior while considering possible ethical issues that may arise out of their attempts to counteract it. Such incidents present a challenge for a company, as their detection, evaluation, and prevention have numerous ethical issues related to this damaging behavior. This paper will analyze the ethical implications of sexual harassment in the workplace.

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Ethical Implications

While this topic often becomes prominent after such a case occurs, it is vital for a company to understand why and how it should be prevented in the first place to avoid its consequences. The detrimental impact of reporting sexual harassment among employees can appear due to inadequate policies established by a company. Any prohibited actions must be clearly determined and outlined within a company’s code of conduct for employees. Judging one’s actions requires a great deal of competence and emotional intelligence, as the majority of policymakers are unable to adequately pinpoint norms that will not damage a work environment through excessive control and fearmongering (Clarke, 2020). Self-reports are not an entirely reliable method of preventing sexual harassment, which makes policies regarding reporting any observations is also critical (Goodwin et al., 2020). At the same time, there are limitations to promoting reports, as such claims must be substantiated by evidence.

Firms should seek assistance from outside experts to establish the most unintrusive yet efficient guidelines. These policies must be explained to a firm’s workers and easily applicable by them in appropriate situations, as a significant portion of employees may be left without notice about implemented anti-harassment measures (Clarke, 2020). It is a company’s duty to uphold a balance between extensive coverage of such policies and their possible adverse effects on workplace communication.

It is vital to encourage employees to report these incidents with a promise of all necessary measures to prevent their interests from being misrepresented. A company’s policies must ensure that this process will not cause victims any suffering or ostracizing (Brown & Battle, 2019). Suppression of reporting is common among victims of sexual harassment, especially in organizations that did not prevent these cases via extensive policies (Brown & Battle, 2019). Social stigmas related to victims that can cause further harassment must be considered within a company’s documents.

While companies play their part in resolving such conflicts, it is critical for employees to properly assess their and their peers’ actions that may be deemed as sexual harassment. Defining sexual harassment remains a challenge, as personal perceptions on the issue vary significantly among the population (Arnold et al., 2019). At the same time, people who have a solid moral compass have greater chances to identify, avoid, and report such incidents (Mainiero, 2020). Sharing their views on the issue may prevent others from acting upon improper judgments. Therefore, teaching employees how to both avoid and detect sexual harassment is the key to a positive work environment.

This decision-making process has an ethical implication, as one’s perception may not accurately describe others’ actions. Pervasive behavior can be judged via a reasonable person test, yet it is deemed to be less suitable for a male employee to use such an assessment (Clarke, 2020). Therefore, a viable approach to assessing peers’ actions requires emotional intelligence and empathy among employees that is commonly not required by jobs’ listings. However, these traits are commonly found among leaders, which allows managers to lead others by example and promote appropriate responses through personal attitudes and actions.

It is vital to understand that not only do employees suffer from the presence of sexual harassment in the workplace but a company as a whole is being dragged down by such incidents. It is an obligation of companies to ensure that their employees’ well-being is not being disturbed by organizational factors, including the workplace environment (Clarke, 2020). Sexual harassment has a detrimental impact on a company’s overall performance through decreased motivation, the loss of workforce, changes in work attitudes, and failing teamwork (Clarke, 2020). This ethical implication has the potential to drive the company to bankruptcy.

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Negative outcomes from sexual harassment are apparent inside a company, yet the primary threat to a firm comes from outside sources. Nowadays, sexual harassment incidents have a tendency to become a significant threat to businesses if companies fail to prevent their occurrence (Nuseir & Ghandour, 2019). As shown in the example of the #MeToo movement, customers are able to drive a company’s reputation down and make its products and services unfavorable for purchase (Goodwin et al., 2020). Moreover, leadership issues are often being found to be a primary reason for sexual harassment in a workplace without the possibility of retaliation (Mainiero, 2020). Other companies are more likely to be compelled to avoid partnerships with a firm that has failed to address the issues in its work environment, further decreasing its competitiveness. The ethical implications of a hostile work environment is a concern for a company as a whole.


In conclusion, sexual harassment in the workplace is a critical issue for any business and must be the top priority for elimination through an ethical organizational culture and adequate policies. Judgment of such actions must be based on reasonable claims that are not based on personal perceptions. Moreover, employees must be encouraged to report such incidents when encountering them. Companies have to have policies against sexual harassment to avoid being liable for such cases. Without any adequate methods of counteracting this adverse behavior, companies will lose employees, customers, and the value of their brand, as these facts often become headlines among news outlets. It is a moral obligation of businesses to establish a work environment that nurtures communication and peaceful resolutions of any conflicts on grounds provided by the established policies.

Both workers and companies are responsible for preventing and responding to sexual harassment. There are many outlets that give them ways to do so, and society punishes companies that fail to do so with great efficiency. Being knowledgeable on how to avoid damaging one’s reputation and causing harm to others may require additional training and consideration, yet it is worth the investment. Offensive acts must be abruptly stopped by a combined force of all employees, otherwise, the work environment may devolve into a hostile atmosphere that prohibits any beneficial social interactions.


Arnold, D. G., Beauchamp, T. L., & Bowie, N. E. (2019). Ethical theory and business (10th ed.). Cambridge University Press.

Brown, S. E., & Battle, J. S. (2019). Ostracizing targets of workplace sexual harassment before and after the #MeToo movement. Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion: An International Journal, 39(1), 53-67. Web.

Clarke, H. M. (2020). Organizational failure to ethically manage sexual harassment: Limits to #metoo. Business Ethics: A European Review, 29(3), 544-556. Web.

Goodwin, R., Graham, J., & Diekmann, K. A. (2020). Good intentions aren’t good enough: Moral courage in opposing sexual harassment. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 86, 103894. Web.

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Mainiero, L. (2020). Workplace romance versus sexual harassment: A call to action regarding sexual hubris and sexploitation in the #MeToo era. Gender in Management: An International Journal, 35(4), 329-347. Web.

Nuseir, M. T., & Ghandour, A. (2019). Ethical issues in modern business management. International Journal of Procurement Management, 12(5), 592. Web.

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