Nowadays, sexual harassment is a burning issue, and it is largely discussed in society. As far as I understand it, sexual harassment is a type of inappropriate behavior in society, when a person gives someone hints with a sexual overtone or expresses their sexual desires explicitly. Gutek (2015) defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome verbal or physical sexual overtures that may be made a condition of employment or otherwise affect one’s job or Careers and/or create a hostile or intimidating work environment” (1). In this paper, an example of this type of discrimination will be discussed, as well as the role of an HR manager in such situations will be reviewed.
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To my mind, the situation described in the scenario is the manifestation of sexual harassment as it fits its legal definition, which was mentioned above. It is evident that offensive text messages with a sexual connotation that the senior doctor sends to the nurse disrupt relationships between employees and create a hostile atmosphere at work. In this case, we deal with a verbal form of sexual harassment. Moreover, the abuser makes obscene gestures, which can be regarded as a physical expression of discrimination. The fact that the victim has complained about it means that this problem is acute and requires urgent measures as it may lead to the nurse leaving her job.
It should be noted that it is not always easy for managers to detect sexual harassment at work and for an employee to prove that it exists. However, if the complaint is found true, there will be negative implications both for the harasser and the organization. In more than 75 countries, workplace sexual harassment is illegal, and the US is on the list (Hersch, 2015). Hence, the HR manager might fire the senior doctor and bring the case to court. Other consequences of sexual harassment for its culprit may include referral for counseling or training, written or verbal reprimand, reassignment, suspension, or demotion (Ramapo College, 2020). Furthermore, sexual harassment may be costly to the company where it occurs, and the victims (Hersch, 2015). The expenses connected with employing and training new staff, as well as the cost of lawsuits, maybe high. Such incidents in the workplace can also harm the company’s brand name and reputation. For the healthcare facility, the damage caused by sexual harassment may be even more considerable as professional doctors are usually at a premium, and it may take much time to find and train a new one.
It is of paramount importance for an HR manager to take prompt measures when their employee makes complaints about sexual harassment. If I were in the position of an HRM, I would not lose time to determine whether the claim is true or not and address it immediately. First of all, I would assure the victim that I would keep everything confidential as often employees are afraid of talking about the problem. Then, I would conduct a just and fair investigation of the case and interview the senior doctor and all potential witnesses to find facts supporting the nurse’s complaint. According to the scenario, the harasser sent obscene text messages to the victim; that is why I will ask the nurse to show them to me. Moreover, if the senior doctor showed offensive gestures to the nurse, the surveillance cameras could have caught it. As such, I will not only ask if other nurses and doctors have seen the gestures but also check the cameras. It would also be a good idea to consult with other colleagues and an attorney to make sure that I am acting right.
According to the law, HR managers must take all complaints of possible harassment seriously. SHRM (2020) suggests that managers must also “take any appropriate action to prevent retaliation or prohibited conduct from recurring during and after any investigations or complaints” (Managers and supervisors). Thus, if they tolerate or allow retaliation and sexual harassment at work, they violate the policy. For this reason, an HR manager must immediately address the claim, even if there is no formal complaint as an allegation is sufficient to start the investigation.
One of the most important measures in fighting sexual harassment in organizations is its prevention. Effective supervisors and managers should take certain steps to ensure that such situations will not happen in the future. As an HR manager, I would create sexual harassment policies and make all staff familiar with them. I believe that the more people know about the problem and possible implications, the fewer cases of inappropriate behavior will be in the organization. In addition, I would make sure that all staff members feel comfortable reporting sexual harassment. Hence, I will create a friendly atmosphere in the workplace and establish good relationships with all employees.
All in all, sexual harassment at work is an acute problem that calls for close attention and prompt intervention. HR managers should address every complaint about sexual discrimination from their employees and take measures even if it is not found true yet. A situation such as described in the scenario may cause negative implications for the harasser and the company and cost them a large sum of money. That is why it is better to prevent such situations by promoting good relationships in the workplace and creating comfortable working conditions.
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Gutek, B. A. (2015). Sexual harassment. Wiley Encyclopedia of Management, 11, 1-1. Web.
Hersch, J. (2015). Sexual harassment in the workplace. IZA world of Labor, 1-10. Web.
Ramapo College of New Jersey. (2020). Consequences of sexual harassment. Web.
SHRM. (2020). Sexual harassment policy and complaint/investigation procedure. Web.