Sexual harassment is considered to be a type of discrimination which is based on sex. It can occur in different circumstances, for example a victim and a harasser may be a man and a woman, the harasser may be a co-worker, an agent of the employer, or the supervisor of the victim.
Sexual harassment includes playing music which is sexually suggestive, display of sexually suggestive objects, pictures, or posters, unwanted joking, requests for sexual favors, gestures, unwelcome comments or repartee, giving personal gifts, staring at someone, hanging around a person, hugging, patting, kissing, or stroking, sexually suggestive signals, facial expressions, throwing kisses, winking, or licking lips, unwelcome sexual advances, repeated requests for dates or unwanted flirting, touching and any other bodily contact or interfering with an employee’s ability to move, transmitting or posting emails or pictures of a sexual nature, any other physical or verbal conduct of a sexual nature. Submission or rejection of these actions may affect the employment of an individual, create a hostile or offensive work environment, interfere with the person’s work, undermine the sense of personal dignity, prevent from earning a living and doing the job effectively, difficulty to focus on the work, poison the environment for other people, ill mental and physical health, and post-traumatic signs of stress disorder, decreased job satisfaction, lowered organizational commitment, and others.
The causes of sexual harassment at work are complex, mostly steeped in politics, socialization, and psychology. Sometimes relationships at work can be quite intense and intimate, furthermore people involved in harassment often share common interests. Employees are dependent on their co-worker for support and teamwork, or approval of their supervisors for career success. Employers and supervisors can easily get used to the power which they have over the employees. Such boundaries can lead to stepping over the line. In many cases, politics is considered to be a catalyst, poor management, frustration, bullying at work, financial insecurity and others may lead to hostile environments and relationships at work. Sexual harassment may also be the result of personal problems, the effect of such life traumas as the death of a spouse or divorce (Sexual Harassment in the Workplace).
In spite of the fact that sexual harassment is one of the most offensive and demeaning torments which can be undergone by an employee, estimates suggest that one of every two women experiences this type of misconduct during their lives at work.
The most effective way to solve the problem of sexual harassment in the workplace is prevention. The most common forms of sexual harassment prevention are providing sessions of appropriate training, adopting policies of sexual harassment, and establishing processes of a formal complaint processes.
Sexual harassment policy prevents the incidents related to sexual harassment and protects an organization from damages which may be caused by sexual harassment. The policy should be clear and contain the definition of the sexual harassment, prohibition, procedure of investigation, information concerning making a complaint, a non-retaliation statement, duties of managerial personnel, and others. Furthermore, in order to help not only new employees, but also to the old ones, the sexual harassment policy should be committed throughout the workplace and at least continuously posted around the workplace.
An organization can facilitate sexual harassment prevention by trainings which should be used to educate employees about the sexual harassment, how to deal with it, and its consequences. Employees should be periodically reenrolled into training sessions in order to refresh their memory. The training should be conducted at least once a year. It is also advisable to conduct training sessions for managers and supervisors which are separate from the employee sessions. It will educate them about sexual harassment and explain how to deal with complaints.
The establishment of a formal channel for reporting sexual harassment may definitely encourage employees to report incidents of sexual harassment and discourage the misconduct. Among the features of a sound complaint channel are the support of top management for enforcing the policies of sexual harassment, the commitment of the corporation to anonymity and privacy, and implementation of supportive and fair processes of investigation.
Even the most comprehensive policies of comprehensive sexual and procedures may be bound to fail if an organization does not enforce them consistently, quickly, and aggressively. While dealing with problems of sexual harassment, organizations should not take any measures that penalize those who have lodged a complaint.
Employees who do not face sexual harassment are interested in their jobs; they show the high productivity level and desire to move up the career ladder. Unfortunately, sexual harassment deprives women and men from active economic and social participation and costs hundreds of millions of dollars in lost opportunities for education and the profession.
Nowadays, sexual harassment in the workplace presents a growing and ongoing risk to businesses. Prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace requires a great investment of time and personnel. The challenge which is before employers and managers today is to develop strategies in order to protect the organization from sexual harassment complaints. Effective ways of prevention and mechanisms of correction can successfully reduce the occurrence and damage of sexual harassment to the minimum. Thus, the main fact is that no person or occupation is safe from sexual harassment. All the prevention strategies, as well as laws that prohibit sexual harassment, aim to protect workers regardless the salary they get, the position they occupy, and their gender.