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Graciela Basa

Human Resources in Technology

SEXUAL
HARASSMENT IN
THE WORKFORCE
INDEX
Introduction
Statistics and History of Sexual Harassment
Monetary Cost of Sexual Harassment
Nonmonetary Cost of Sexual Harassment
Human Resources and Sexual Harassment
Conclusion
Personal Thoughts
Work Cited Page

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Introduction

Sexual harassment is a very serious topic, it can cost millions of dollars to resolve and

cause psychological damage to those who have experienced it. This has been an issue in society

for a long time, and we seem to never find the right way to handle these situations. Something

that may be a big obstacle is the fact that sexual harassment does not have a clear definition, so

this means that it is up to the people involved in the case to determine if it is or not sexual

harassment. In the recent months sexual harassment has received a lot of attention given to the

METOO movement, after the controversy of Harvey Weinstein. While it’s great that people are

using their voice to speak up, it’s sad that it takes celebrities opening up for our society to speak

about it openly. What’s happening in Hollywood does reflect in our society because just like

everyone in Hollywood knew that sexual harassment is normal, as a society we have become

used to sexual harassment and we just let it happen. People seem to be so fascinated by the

sexual harassment cases we see on TV, but they could easily find hundreds of cases in any

company that is not on TV.

There are many forms of sexual harassment, don’t think of just someone touching

someone else inappropriately. Things like making sexist jokes and asking for sexual favors in

exchange of any type of reward at work are also sexual harassment regardless of there being an

action or just making comments. While both men and woman are victims of sexual harassment,

the statistics that come out decade after decade show that women are much more vulnerable to it.

Women have been in the workforce for quite some time now so why is it that it’s still normal to

hear of sexual harassment cases?

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Sexual harassment cases are very costly to any company, but there’s more than just how

much a company must pay to a victim. It affects the people around the case, because if you have

a person who has a lot of power in a company and they’re the ones being sued, it will affect the

respect people have. If you have one of your supervisors not being respected this leads to people

not wanting to work for him or her. Most importantly the psychological damage someone

endures when going through a sexual harassment case must be hard on the mind. Things like

victim blaming can cause so much damage and may stop some men and women from coming

forward with their stories.

So, what are companies doing to control these kind situations? It is the job of the people

working in Human Resources to act with an unbiased approach. In HR the person needs to be

able to control both parties and simply collect all the information that will be needed like records

of conversations. It does not matter if you have a personal relationship with one of the parties

outside of work, you cannot take sides. If the person in charge of the case does feel like they may

be unbiased at any point, it is their job to pull themselves away from the situation to avoid any

further lawsuits. But before all of this every company should have a Human Resource team that

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will train all of its employees on acceptable and unacceptable work behavior to just avoid

situations like this completely.

Statistics and History of Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is not something that recently started happening, the difference now is

that there are people being more vocal about it. I remember a while ago reading about sexual

harassment and how the cases have decreased over time mainly because back then generations

like The Silents and Boomers were not affected as much as they would be now. Right now, in

2018 there is still cases of discrimination against women, now look at them times from 1925 to

1960 women were not respected at all in the work place. Saying that it’s easy to see how a sexual

harassment case during those decades may not have been taken seriously.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 stops discrimination based on race, color, sex, national

origin, and religion. On November 10, 1980 they released the Guidelines of Sexual Harassment

which explained that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. This specified things like

requesting sexual favors, and verbal or physical contact that was of sexual nature and was

unwanted. [1]

Studies of sexual harassment is always being conducted and researched because of the

change that there is in society all the time. In 1985 it was predicted that approximately 50% of

women and 15% of men would be sexually harassed in their workplace. As more studies

continued they found that these women being sexually harassed were not happy in their job,

which can be easy to understand. If they come to their place of work and someone is creating a

hostile environment it can impact many things including furthering their career. [2]

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According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2016 it

was found that, when using a random representative sample without defining sexual harassment

roughly 25% of women said to have been sexually harassed at their place of work. After it was

found that if using a convenience sample, rather than a random representative sample, and still

not giving the definition of sexual harassment that 25% went up to a 50%. [3] This was in their

2016, Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace, less than 2 years ago.

This means that somewhere between 25 to 50 percent of women have been sexually harassed in

the workplace, that is a number that is completely out of hand.

Comparing the numbers for studies conducted between 1985 to 1998 and the studies the

EEOC released in 2016, there is not much of a change. Women are still getting harassed more

often than men and the basic statistics show that not too much has changed in number. While the

study in 2016 shows that the number can fall from 25% to 50% and the other simply shows that

half of women will be harassed, that 50% is still there. Not all cases get reported it has been

researched and revealed that about 5% of people who experience sexual harassment actually file

a complaint. This means that no matter how much research is done there is no way to get the

right number of people who get sexually harassed in their workplace. [2]

Monetary Cost of Sexual Harassment

There are multiple costs of sexual harassment one comes from Productivity-Related Cost,

another from Administrative cost and then you have other cost. Productivity-Reduction cost

which is when a worker loses productivity due to a sexual harassment case, this cost money

because while the company is paying them, they are not working at a full potential because they

probably have other things in mind. There’s also Incident cost, which mean the amount of time

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that is lost from both parties while the case is being solved. Absenteeism Cost is the cost of paid

leave for the person who experienced the sexual harassment. Administrative cost includes

Separation Cost that’s when a person leaves due to sexual harassment and the company has to

relocate them. Then there’s Replacement Cost which is when a company has to replace and train

someone new because someone else left; then there’s Transfer Cost which is when someone

moves to a different department in the company. Finally, you have your “Other Costs” which is

when we bring in things like the cost of filing sexual harassment complaints and the cost of the

actual lawsuit, also things like medical cost. Then you have things like people having trouble

trusting your company due to the lawsuits faced for sexual harassment and the company being

put in a bad lighting. [4]

According to an article posted in 2013 it is estimated that a sexual harassment case will

cost a company $75,000 to $125,00, this is if it gets settled out of court, but if it does go to court

it can cost from $175,000n to $250,00. [5] In 1992 it was predicted that the cost of sexual

harassment would increase to approximately 1 billion dollars annually. I was unable to find an

actual number because many of the cases do not go to court and are handled by settling. What I

was able to find was that the average that a Fortune 500 company loses is around $6.7 million a

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year. This is simply the cost of things like people not working at their full potential because

they’re stressed over a sexual harassment case and people leaving the job, so this does not

include money that is lost in an actual lawsuit. [6]

Nonmonetary Cost of Sexual Harassment

In addition to the financial loss that a company experiences, there are nonmonetary cost.

This is something like the psychological damages that is caused by a person who experienced the

sexual harassment, if a company handles a case that deals with this it can easily be more money

that they will be losing. Some people do not take the mental health of someone seriously and it

should be taken seriously because if a person goes to their place of work and it turns into a

hostile environment it can easy cause damage.

Research has been done to understand the psychological damage a woman experiences

and they came up with the fact that a woman will suffer for a very long time, and will always

feel vulnerable after, or will never feel completely comfortable. While many if not most women

do suffer from psychological effects only a small part of them try to get professional help. Some

women have showed to suffer from post-traumatic stress, and this can lead to depression and this

then starts to affect their low self-esteem. Some may even blame themselves for what happened

to them. There was a study by Paludi and Barickman (1991) which they had five categories to

Sexual Harassment Trauma which were emotional reactions, physical reactions, change in self-

esteem, social, interpersonal relatedness, and sexual effects and finally career effects. [7]

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Human Resources and Sexual Harassment

There is no quick solution to prevent sexual harassment, all a company can do is train and

hope that the training does help. There are laws that have required training against sexual

harassment, like the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, EEOC guidelines, when there is a lawsuit

being settled there is usually something about having to train against sexual harassment and

finally the many states have required for there to be training. [8]

Another big part that human resources needs to pay attention to is how important it is for

sexual harassment victims to come forward, many of them do not feel comfortable. So, to have

victims come forward they must have prevention policy for sexual harassment. In this policy

they must first make victims feels secure that the complaints will be kept in confidence.

Secondly, they must have a small investigation that only involves people in the claim. Third they

must assure the victim that there will be no retaliation against them for filing a complaint. Fourth

they must make sure that the person who is causing the harassment is punished accordingly to

the companies’ rules. Fifth is that higher management must show that they stand against sexual

harassment. Sixth make sure that the person that is handling the sexual assault cases is overall a

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trustworthy unbiased person. Finally make sure that all your employees are familiar with the

person handling sexual harassment cases, this will make them feel more comfortable. [9]

Conclusion

Steps are being taken to reduce, and one day maybe even stop sexual harassment against

women. It is a topic that some may not even think about, but everyone should be thinking about

it because women almost make half of the workforce and at least 20% of those women are going

to get harassed one way or another. Given that there is no clear definition it can be tricky to file a

case but according to the Civil Rights Act it is any discrimination against someone based on

gender and that includes sexual harassment. So even if it’s not someone with power asking for

sexual favors in exchange for anything else, something as simple as making unwanted comments

can and should be taken seriously. It is a very pricey expense for a company and instead of just

dealing with the situation once it happens HR should take steps before any complaints are made.

This can be done by things like training or by scenarios. Sexual harassment is a hard topic to talk

about it, but it should be talked about because staying quiet if something happens to you caused

nothing but vulnerability.

Personal Thought

Being a woman, I thought it was important for me to understand the topic of sexual

harassment, I never hear people talk about it too much and now I understand why. Most of the

women being harassed stay quiet or settle out of the public and to me that’s frustrating because

this means women are still being held back. I was very shocked to find the statistics of women

getting harassed in the workplace, I know that we live in a world of injustice but seeing that 1 out

of 5 women will get harassed really angered me. I never expected that number to be so high, but

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then again, I thought to myself that sexual harassment is not clearly defined. For example, I

remember being at work one day and I saw a man look at a young lady’s behind and then say,

“wow those jeans really look good on you”, now to me that had sexual undertones because it was

clear that he was complimenting her behind, but to her it was just a nice compliment. So, I can

see how this can be brushed off as being nothing. This is a big problem I had myself finding

while researching the topic, I think that sexual harassment should be clearer as to was acceptable

and unacceptable.

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Work Cited Page

[1] Crain, Karen A., and Kenneth A. Heischmidt. “Implementing Business Ethics: Sexual

Harassment.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 14, no. 4, 1995, pp. 299–308. JSTOR, JSTOR,

www.jstor.org/stable/25072648.

[2] Sipe, S. R., Johnson, C. D., & Fisher, D. K. (2009). University students' perceptions of sexual

harassment in the workplace. Equal Opportunities International, 28(4), 336-350.

http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.uh.edu/10.1108/02610150910954791

[3] Feldblum, C.R, Lipnic, V.A, “Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the

Workplace”, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2016,

https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/task_force/harassment/report.cfm#_ftnref15

[4] Faley, Robert H., et al. “Estimating the Organizational Costs of Sexual Harassment: The Case

of the U.S. Army.” Journal of Business and Psychology, vol. 13, no. 4, 1999, pp. 461–

484. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25092653.

[5] Site Staff, “How Much Does it Cost to Defend an Employment Lawsuit?”, Workforce, 2013,

http://www.workforce.com/2013/05/14/how-much-does-it-cost-to-defend-an-employment-

lawsuit/

[6] Crain, Karen A., and Kenneth A. Heischmidt. “Implementing Business Ethics: Sexual

Harassment.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 14, no. 4, 1995, pp. 299–308. JSTOR, JSTOR,

www.jstor.org/stable/25072648.

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[7] Woody, Robert Henley and Nancy Walker Perry. "Sexual Harassment Victims: Psycholegal

and Family Therapy Considerations." American Journal of Family Therapy, vol. 21, no. 2,

Summer93, pp. 136-144. EBSCOhost,

ezproxy.lib.uh.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=

9405110115&site=ehost-live.

[8] Buckner, G. E., Hindman, H. D., Huelsman, T. J., & Bergman, J. Z. (2014). Managing

workplace sexual harassment: The role of manager training.Employee Responsibilities and

Rights Journal, 26(4), 257-278. http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.lib.uh.edu/10.1007/s10672-014-9248-z

[9] Thacker, Rebecca A. "Innovative Steps to Take in Sexual Harassment Prevention." Business

Horizons, vol. 37, no. 1, Jan/Feb94, p. 29. EBSCOhost,

ezproxy.lib.uh.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bth&AN=

9403310956&site=ehost-live.

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