Sexual harassment in the workplace
It’s odd to think that some people don’t know what right from wrong is. For example, it’s wrong to steal, it’s wrong to hurt someone, and it’s wrong to sexually harass someone. Sexual harassment is the unwanted sexual remarks or advances in a professional environment. In a survey done by Cosmopolitan, it was found that one in three women has been sexually harassed at work. Whether it’s coming from a supervisor or other employees, sexual harassment is simply unacceptable.
There are two types of sexual harassment in the workplace according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Society for Human Resource Management, one is “quid pro quo” and the other is “hostile work environment.” Quid pro quo is when an employer of higher authority asks for sexual favors in exchange for something, for example a pay increase or a promotion. It can also work in the sense of if a sexual favor is not returned then the employer could suffer from demotion or termination. Examples of a hostile work environment include inappropriate touching, sexual jokes or comments, repeated requests for dates and a work environment where offensive pictures are displayed. Unfortunately, a hostile work environment is more difficult to notice and it is possible for the incidents to drag out.
The recent case involving Fox News CEO, Roger Ailes, and employee Gretchen Carlson has shed light onto the harsh reality of sexual harassment in the workplace. Maya Raghu, the director of workplace equality at the National Women’s Law Center expressed her views on why victims of sexual harassment have difficulty coming forward in a USA Today article titled “Sexual harassment still a reality in the workplace.”
“A big reason why most people experiencing sexual harassment don’t come forward is there’s still a lot of fear. As long as there is that threat of losing your job, of how you appear to your friends, your peers, that’s going to continue to keep this issue from being resolved,” She said.
In this lawsuit Ailes proposed a sexual relationship with Carlson numerous times. Fed up with the harassment of Ailes, Carlson decided to battle back and record their conversations on her iPhone. The result of Carlson’s accusation of Ailes led to more than two dozen women coming forward—confronting him of similar harassments. This is the unfortunate truth of sexual harassment and what it takes for some to come forward with their experience. Lawsuits comparable to Carlson are happening repeatedly, but are we doing enough to prevent it? The answer is no, we are not. Sexual harassment was only deemed unacceptable until the 1980’s.
It wasn’t until the 80’s when the government formally recognized that discrimination in the workplace was a problem. The EEOC, began the 1980s by continuing to focus on broad, systemic employment practices that operated to discriminate against large classes of individuals. In the 1970’s there were 446,00 charges. Actions, such as signing agreements and settlements to end discriminatory employment systems were taken, allowing for many investigations that occurred in the past years to be resolved. However, with the result of the EEOC’s new authority, there was an increase in charges, and rose up to 683,000 in the 1980’s.
Recently released by the EEOC is the case of Liza Hill. Hill had worked at a seafood restaurant in Raleigh, North Carolina. During her time there she had regularly endured sexual comments and sexual touching by the male manager and other staff. Hill had allegedly went to her supervisor immediately, yet the harassment continued. After reporting to the police she noticed that her hours were reduced, and then later was removed from the schedule. The restaurant agreed to pay $81,500 to settle the EEOC sexual harassment lawsuit.
Discrimination cases suchlike Liza Hill happen and fortunately do get resolved.
But, for some people their case is being thrown out. The reasoning behind this is the Vance v. Ball State University that was decided on June 24, 2013. In this case, Maetta Vance endured several accounts of physical and racial harassment from co-worker Saundra Davis. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that:
“Under Title VII, an employer’s liability for such harassment may depend on the status of the harasser. If the harassing employee is the victim’s co-worker, the employer is liable only if it was negligent in controlling working conditions. In cases in which the harasser is a “supervisor,” however, different rules apply. If the supervisor’s harassment culminates in a tangible employment action, the employer is strictly liable.”
This means that victims can have their cases thrown out because they cannot prove employer negligence. On the other hand if the person accused has the power to hire, fire, promote, or change the status of the employee, then actions can be taken.
The National Women’s Law center (NWLC) makes it a point that this Supreme Court Case made it difficult to prevent sexual harassment.
“A recent Supreme Court decision, Vance v. Ball State University, watered down the protections that were already in place to prevent sexual harassment. Now it’s even harder than it already was for workers who’ve been harassed by their supervisors to win their cases”
In order to prevent sexual harassment, advocators such as the NWLC are trying to get congress to pass the Fair Employment Protection Act. This act will repeal the Vance v. Ball State University decision of holding only supervisor’s actions accountable, but all the employers accountable.
Emily Chavez is a second-year journalism major that actually wants the opportunity to work harder. You can reach them at [email protected].