Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

sexual harassment in the workplace. The writer discusses how it happens, and what can be done to stop or prevent it. The writer used four sources to complete this paper.

During the last several decades' women have entered the workforce by the millions. The entrance of females to what used to be male dominated setting has brought fresh ideas, new perspectives and other positive attributes to every field. In addition the problem of sexual harassment has moved to the limelight as more cases are heard. Sexual harassment has been a problem since the beginning of working for wages. Historically there have been cases of female workers being harassed by male superior of fellow employees and there have also been occasional charges about male employees being harassed as well. Sexual harassment has been around as long as the workforce has but it was not until the middle 1960's that it became recognized from a legal standpoint and steps began to curb the ability to perpetrate the harassment on someone. Whether the increase is due to more cases actually occurring or the fact that women are now encouraged to speak out is up for debate, but the fact remains that sexual harassment in the workplace is a factor that must be dealt with in today's world.

While many experts and research reports have worked to define the term sexual harassment there has never been one definition. This is because there are many situations under which it can occur and many venues in which it can be played out and still qualify as harassment. If one wanted to compile a list of what constitutes sexual harassment one would have to include the following:

Sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature." It occurs when:

Sexual favors are demanded "as a term or condition of employment." This is referred to as "quid pro-pro" - something for something type harassment. Example: A supervisor demands that a subordinate employee sleep with him, or she will be fired.

Sexual demands, once made, are refused, and the employee faces an adverse consequence for that refusal. Example: An employee rejects the sexual advance of her boss, and she is demoted and later fired for her refusal.

The acts of verbal abuse, physical touching, sexual demands, or other conduct of a sexual nature are so pervasive and persistent as to have "the effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an offensive and intimidating working environment " for an employee. Example: Male employees tease and insult women in the workplace with obscene jokes, sexual innuendoes, or displays of pornography. The female employees are embarrassed and offended by this behavior, which is carried out by co-workers with supervisors doing little to stop it, or by the supervisors themselves with top management doing nothing. This is sometimes referred to as "hostile environment" type of harassment.

The relationship of the harasser to the harassed employee may be supervisor to subordinate, co-worker to co-worker, subordinate to supervisor, or nonemployee (such as a business visitor or customer) to an employee on the job. In all of these situations, the employer has the ability to stop the sexual harassment.

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitutes sexual harassment when submission to or rejection of 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.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.

The harasser can be the victim's supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.

The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.

Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim. The harasser's conduct must be unwelcome."


When allegations of sexual harassment are made they are then investigated. The investigation through EEOC uses several measurements to determine whether the allegations are valid or not. The entire record is placed under scrutiny. To determine sexual harassment the researchers look at things like the circumstances of the charges, and the context that it stems from. Each case is looked at individually and the circumstances surrounding the case are scrutinized as well. Statements are taken from the alleged victim as well as the person who is accused of the sexual harassment acts. In addition there may be times when statements will be taken from others who have knowledge of acts or circumstances that are germane to the situation. When the investigation is complete a report is filed as to the findings. This is not always the end of the matter because many of these cases end up in court when the person alleging the harassment against themselves files a law suit against the person of the company that the person and the victim work for. In the last decade there have been several high profile cases settled in a court of law and victims of sexual harassment have received multi-million dollar law suits against the companies that they filed suits with.

The instances of sexual harassment cases began to increase. For the first time in history the victims had legal recourse and the huge settlements that were being handed down by court systems were threatening the financial systems of the companies the participants worked for. It was not long before insurance companies began to study the phenomenon in regards to the allegations and the outcomes. Insurance companies started putting together packages that would protect companies from sexual harassment settlements." Clients of the Hartford Financial Services Group also are showing an interest in sexual harassment protection. The Hartford has sold about 1,000 policies since 1996, when it began offering what insurers call employment practice liability insurance. The average company buying the policy has about 40 workers and pays an annual premium of $3,000, according to Toby Levy, the Hartford's program manager."

The insurance was demanded by companies across the nation as settlements grew and litigation numbers increased over the years. The growth between 1991 to 1997 was from almost 7,000 cases to over 15,000 cases according to federal reports out of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

While sexual harassment is against the law it is not an easy allegation to prove in many cases. The National Organization for Women picketed the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The organizations complaint was that the commission was trashing female rights by tossing out the majority of the allegations that were brought before it. "The EEOC received 3,329 charges last year but filed only 66 lawsuits on behalf of alleged victims. Evan Kemp, who succeeded Thomas as EEOC chief, denounced the protest as "election-year theater." He insisted that his investigators take harassment complaints seriously but find legal merit in only one fourth."

The advancement of sexual harassment continued as more high profile cases came to the public's attention. One such case was the case of Frances Conley who had spent 23 years as a tenured professor at Stanford University Medical School in California. Conley resigned after almost a quarter century of service to the university because of alleged sexual harassment from a man who became the chairperson in the department she worked in.

He would delight in asking me to go to bed with him, and in attributing our disagreements to my menstrual flow." Conley articulated her frustration in an editorial that ran in the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. Conley wrote that she lacked equal acceptance because she "used a different bathroom." Soon after, she became the subject of media scrutiny and Anita Hill- like notoriety. "

She became well-known in the media for speaking up and her courage paved the path for others to follow suit in the future. The cost of sexual harassment problems in the workplace has climbed as well. In 1993 employer's paid out over $25 million in settlements. That figure has grown to the hundred millions in more recent years according reported statistics.

One of the difficulties in the sexual harassment arena has been the clarification of the issue. In 1980 the EEOC made the attempt when it placed sexual harassment definitions in two categories. They were called "quid pro quo" and "hostile environment."

Quid pro quo is allegated when a person is expected to provide sexual favors or they will be faced with losing their job. In addition Quid pro quo is used when someone is led to believe that they will not be allowed to advance in their career unless they provided sexual favors for those who were in the position to provide that advancement.

According to statistical information…

Sources Used in Document:



Author not available, Another year of the men?; Historically speaking, three's a crowd; Sexual harrassment, one year later., U.S. News & World Report, 10-26-1992, pp. 17-18.

Sherer, Jill L., Sexually harassed. (health care industry). Vol. 69, Hospitals & Health Networks, 01-20-1995, pp 54(4).

Author not available, Insurance companies see new interest in sexual harassment policies., AP Online, 03-23-1998.

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