Sexual harassment in the work place

Sexual harassment in the work place refers to unwanted sexual advancements in the work place. Perpetrators of sexual harassment in the work place include colleagues, managers and supervisors although sexual harassment can be initiated by junior employees and directed to the senior members of staff.  Sexual harassment is a major challenge in today’s work place and it is the role of HR Managers to make sure it is prevented and if it happens, it is dealt with according to the law.  This paper discusses sexual harassment in the work place, laws which are aimed at preventing it as well as the impact of the sexual harassment in the work place.

According to (Adler, 2004.45-68) over 15,000 sexual harassment cases are reported in the US annually and the rate is expected to rise in the next 5 years.  Although both men and women are affected, women are worst affected by sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment is defined as a form of sex discrimination which acts in violation with the recommendations of the US equal employement opportunity and as the law states the Title VIII, Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Stauffer, 1988. 750-821) . Any of the following acts or behaviour constitutes sexual harassment in the work place; unsolicited sexual advancements which are not welcome, requests by managers for sexual favours in return for promotion, or salary increment, physical advancements which can psychologically or mentally affect an employee’s work output, as well as verbal exclamations with sexual connotations which are aimed at degrading a person in connection with their gender (Sepler, 1990. 63-69).

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The above are relevant issues to Human Resource Managers in that they affect employees’ performance in the workplace environment in that it may cause conditions un-conducive to the workers who are victims of the sexual harassment.  Besides adhering to the federal and state laws on sexual harassment in the work place, organizations must put in place measures which are aimed at preventing sexual harassment in the work place.  Such preventive measures can include; the communication of the policies and laws regarding sexual harassment to workers. This should be ongoing programs which constantly keep on sensitizing employees on the issue of sexual harassment.  Human resource managers should ensure that they have a mechanism of handling sexual harassment complaints and charges so as to prevent exposing victims and perpetrators until their cases are resolved or determined.

The 1964 Title VII of the Civil Rights Act however has been insufficient in the protection of all employees given the fact that, it largely covers employees with over 15 years of experience. The main challenge presented by the long process in the fight against sexual harassment is that, it is so much dependent on the plaintiff’s ability to argue such that, if the plaintiff fails to link the alleged sexual harassment to abuse then such sexual harassment claim may be dismissed.  The process also requires that the case be filed with an administrative agency such as the Equal Employement Opportunity (EEOC) in the case of federal cases, a process which is usually time consuming. The above laws have not been effective in fighting against sexual harassment hence the cause for the ever-increasing incidences of sexual harassment in the work place.

There is need for all workers to be well protected in the workplace from exposed to threats such as insecurity, safety and health hazards and sexual harassment.  Sexual harassment has been found to have a negative influence on work output and job influence (Sepler, 1990. 52-63). Human resource managers are tasked with empowering employees by creating conducive working environment free from sexual harassment as well as health and safety hazards.

According to (Stauffer, 1988. 740-791) sexual harassment is categorized into two; environment Quid Pro Quo harassment and Hostile work environment harassment.  Quid Pro Quo harassment happens if an employee is subjected to sexual harassment as a condition for such an employee to maintain or get a job or to be awarded promotion.  This type of sexual harassment is common in the work place and can be a cause of low morale in the work place.  Human resource managers can help control this form of sexual harassment by heavily punishing the perpetrators as well as coming up with laws geared at ensuring that the work environment is not conducive for sexual harassment. Hostile work environment harassment happens whereby the job conditions negatively affect the performance of the workers.  Supervisors and managers mainly perpetrate this kind of harassment and it mainly targets the junior workers.

Hostile work environment involves the use of verbal words which are offensive or physical assaults which affect the victims negatively. Enforcing laws on sexual harassment has been hampered by the lengthy process of proving sexual harassment cases. The fact that an employee is a victim of sexual harassment is not a guarantee that justice will be done.  There is growing evidence that sexual harassment today is being manifested in more subtle forms, hard to detect and control (Sepler, 1990. 57-73). The fact that most cases involve co-workers makes it hard to deal with the case.  Therefore the knowledge of legal issues for Human resources manager is a must in a time like this when incidences of work place sexual harassment are becoming rampant.


Sexual harassment is a big problem affecting more than 15,000 Americans annually.  This places a great responsibility on human resource managers and relevant law enforcers and the justice system to deal with the problem.  By implementing the workers protection laws such as Title VII Civil Rights Act, organizations can effectively create conducive work place environment where every employee is free to work.  However, there is a need for more research in this area to determine more ways to stamp out sexual harassment in the work places.  There is also a need for the victims to be given support in terms of compensation.