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Jean’s Case: Federal Employment Laws

Introduction

The Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.” (EEOC, 1997) Sexual harassment faced by Jean in her workplace complies with a type of sexual discrimination which violates Title VII as given above. Also, according to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or EEOC sexual harassment in a workplace can be defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature”. (EEOC, 2009) Thus, Jean’s male colleagues sexually harassed her by calling her names, like “babe,” “sweet thing,” and “chick.” Unwelcome is the key term which defines sexual harassment. It clearly defines the impact of the behavior which Jean has to face in her workplace. Although Jean tried to ignore the name calling, her colleagues went further by patting her behind and whistling at her whenever she walked past them. This is clearly a violation of the EEOC which says that “verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment”. (CYC, 2007) Jean’s colleagues have created a hostile and offensive working condition for her which is the most pervasive type of sexual harassment. The working environment in the company is completely hostile for a woman like her.

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Jean’s colleagues have not only passed sexist remarks on her and physically brushed against her but have also displayed obscene photos by taping a picture of her face over the top of another picture belonging to a nude woman. Transmission of pictures with sexual content intended for harassment or display of sexually suggestive pictures also contributes to sexual harassment. Due to the stress of all of these incidences and the unwelcome behavior she has to put up with from her male colleagues, Jean has been suffering from migraine headaches. Since, the EEOC clearly says that those instances which affects a person’s employment and unjustly interferes with his or hers work performance qualify as sexual harassment, the unlawful activities that Jean has been facing in her workplace are absolutely not in compliance with any of the established federal employment laws. Jean should file a complaint either through a grievance system or by the employment complaint mechanism. It is also legally required that once an employee complains about sexual harassment to his or hers supervisor, the latter must take immediate action investigating the applied charges. The supervisor must then immediately notify the Human Resources office. (Stamato, 2002)

Development of policy to correct the issue and bring the organization into compliance

An organization’s sexual harassment policy should be applicable for all the employees. It must be incorporated within their service conditions and must come into force immediately after it has been coined. The policy should cover:

  1. Unwelcome sexual demands, advances or requests for sexual acts made implicitly or explicitly, in exchange for evaluation, promotion, employment or examination of an individual for any of the organization’s activities.
  2. Unwelcome sexual advances that may involve physical, verbal or non-verbal behaviors including molestation, teasing or physical contact, stalking, sexual remarks, e-mail, phone calls, letters, jokes or gestures having sexual overtones, innuendos, lurid sounds or stares, display of pornography, signs or pictures, taunts, offensive verbal or non-verbal interactions which may affect an individual’s performance.
  3. Any behavior which may intrude into an individual’s privacy, result in physical imprisonment against an individual’s will, creates an intimidating and hostile environment at an individual’s workplace.
  4. Sexual harassment may also take place as a result of an unwelcome behavior of an outsider or third party, which includes the customers, suppliers and clients. (Browne, 2006)

A sexual harassment policy should include the following points:

  1. The proper definition of sexual harassment along with its types – hostile work environment and quid pro quo. Quid pro quo means “something for something”. Thus, when an individual seeks sexual advances or favors in return of work profits, refusal to which may result in the victim’s demotion or dismissal, then this type of sexual harassment is termed as quid pro quo.
  2. A comprehensive outline of both the grievance system and employment complaint mechanism which an individual can use for filing his or her complaint.
  3. A comprehensive outline stating the legal rules against sexual harassments so that they are clearly understood by all the employees as well as the third parties. It should be clearly communicated to all that sexual harassment in any form will not be tolerated within the premises of the organization.
  4. A comprehensive statement clearly explaining the penalties to be employed by the employer on any employee who is found guilty of any form of sexual harassment. This may also include an individual’s permanent termination from the organization.
  5. A comprehensive statement clearly explaining the disciplinary actions to be subjected on anybody found guilty of sexual harassment after an investigation has been carried out.
  6. A detailed express commitment for preventing, prohibiting and eradicating acts and behaviors of sexual harassment. This commitment should also include confidentiality of all the sexual harassment charges, complaints and procedures.
  7. Contact information of individuals and additional resources that are necessary for consultation and support. It should also have provisions for sexual harassment training of the employees.
  8. An anti-retaliation policy promising protection from retaliation to the witnesses, committee members, plaintiffs and other workers who are involved in the resolution process. (Olswang, 2004)

The sexual harassment policies must be adopted only after consulting the employee representative so that the strategies are created while maintaining and respecting the dignity of all the employees. After the policy has been prepared it needs to be communicated to all the employees by the topmost authorities while maintaining a zero tolerance attitude. It should reach all the employees either by means of a memo form or through an employee handbook or along with their appointment letter or with their pay packages. The employees must read the policies and acknowledge by signing them after which a copy of the policy must be posted in the organization. The same procedure should be repeated with all new employees and also with third parties. The policy should be continuously reviewed to ensure that its guidelines are in compliance with federal laws and policies. (Browne, 2006)

The next step is enforcement of the policy. All sexual harassment charges need to be taken sincerely and investigated in a professional and through manner, quickly. Accurate investigative records need to be maintained confidentially so that the plaintiffs and others involved do not have to face any retaliation. Supervisors and managers should not allow any form of sexual harassment in their workplaces and by immediately reporting any such incidences demonstrating that appropriate steps will be taken against such unlawful acts.

References

Browne, K. R. (2006). Sex, power, and dominance: the evolutionary psychology of sexual harassment. Managerial and Decision Economics, 27(2-3), 145-158.

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CYC. (2007). Sexual Harassment. Web.

EEOC. (1997). Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Web.

EEOC. (2009). Sexual Harassment. Web.

Olswang, S. G. (2004). Reassessing effective procedures in cases of sexual harassment. New Directions for Institutional Research, 59(76), 49-56.

Stamato, L. (2002). Sexual harassment in the workplace: Is mediation an appropriate forum? Mediation Quarterly, 10(2), 167-172

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