Nowadays the problem of sexual harassment is getting to be increasingly more important since the contemporary society and rhythm of life contributes to the establishment of extremely complicated interpersonal relations within an organization. As a result, unlike in the previous epochs when the problem of sexual harassment was not so burning, due to the rather simple interpersonal relations regulated by traditional norms and ethical rules, on the one hand, and relatively low development of individuals’ consciousness of their rights, on the other hand. This is why in the contemporary world when people are conscious of their civil rights they can oppose and prevent social harassment which acquires new forms in the modern society because of the diversity of ways of its realizations. In such a situation, it is necessary to develop a reliable and efficient sexual harassment policy which could really prevent the harassing and minimize its negative effects which affects not only individuals involved but the normal functioning of the whole organization.
Sexual harassment policy
On developing the efficient and reliable sexual harassment policy, it is primarily necessary to briefly dwell upon the definition of the concept of sexual harassment in order to better understand the essence of the problem that can help find the ways to its solution. In this respect, it is worthy of mention that traditionally sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” which “constitute harassment when 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” (Boland 2002:104).
Also, it is very important to underline that sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances and this is why, it is necessary to take into consideration all possible circumstances when sexual harassment complaints are investigated. In fact, the harasser as well as the victim of sexual harassment may be a woman or a man and the victim does not necessarily have to be of the opposite sex. Often the harasser is the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, the supervisor in another area, the co-worker, or even the non-employee that means that the circle of potential harassers is quite large. The same may be said about the victim who does not necessarily have to be the person harassed, but, in actuality, could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct. Equally important for the development of the efficient sexual harassment policy is the fact that unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic to or discharge of the victim. At the same time, it is extremely important that the harasser conduct must be unwelcome (Bingham and Gansler 1990:192).
Obviously, all the factors mentioned above have to be taken into consideration to work out an efficient sexual harassment policy. It should be also said that one of the key points, the cornerstone of the sexual harassment policy should be the prevention of sexual harassment. What is meant here is the fact that it is necessary to primarily prevent any form of sexual harassment before it has occurred, than solve the problem when it has already occurred.
At the same time, it is extremely important to underline that sexual harassment is not just a question of morality, or organizational culture and atmosphere within an organization, but, what is more, it is the question of legal norms. To put it more precisely, sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, to employment agencies and labor organizations, as well as to federal government (Dziech and Weiner 1990:153). This is why it is extremely important to prevent sexual harassment that should be the basic direction in the policy of an organization. It is obvious that the prevention should start with the establishment of the clear rules and delivering ample information about sexual harassment to employers and employees, underlying both moral and legal contexts of the problem. In such a way, the prevention of sexual harassment should become a part of the internal organizational culture to the extent that sexual harassment should be perceived as absolutely unacceptable for absolutely all people working within the organization and should not be admitted in any form.
Steps preventing sexual harassment
Despite the necessity to prevent sexual harassment, it is obvious that it is hardly possible to totally eliminate the possibility of sexual harassment but it can be minimized. In this respect it is possible to clearly communicate to all people working in the organization as well as to those who are being employed that sexual harassment will not be tolerated and that is one of the basic principles of the organization. To increase the significance of such a policy of the organization it is possible to support this concept of the prevention of sexual harassment by moral and legal norms.
Furthermore, it is also possible to recommend providing special sexual harassment training to the employees that will make them more informed about the essence of this phenomenon and their civil rights and ways of opposing to it. The establishment of an efficient complaint or grievance process and taking immediate and appropriate actions when an employee complains seem to be not less efficient than informing and special training.
Nonetheless, when sexual harassment has occurred, the manager has to deal with this problem thoroughly. Firstly, it is necessary to analyze the complaint and provide a profound investigation of the case of sexual harassment. In order to efficiently investigate the case of sexual harassment it is necessary to carefully analyze the situation in details. To put it more precisely, it is primarily necessary to analyze the circumstances, such as the nature of sexual advances, and the context in which the alleged incidents occurred. This is very important because it helps find out the extent to which allegations are justified, or, simply speaking, whether sexual harassment really took place or probably the allegations are not really justified. In this respect, it is possible to search for some evidences that may be both direct and indirect. For instance, other employees could be witnesses of sexual harassment. Anyway, it is helpful to take into consideration the opinion of other employees, though this is not always possible if the victim of the sexual harassment tends to avoid possible public discussion of this problem.
On collecting sufficient information concerning the case of sexual harassment, a manager should take a decision in relation to both the harasser and the victim. In this respect, the manager has take a decision on the basis of a careful investigation made from the facts on a case-by-case basis. This means that before taking the decision, the manager should clearly define the extent to which each part of the conflict is ‘guilty’, i.e. whether sexual harassment was unmotivated or probably it was provoked by the conduct of the victim, whether similar cases occurred to either the harasser or the victim before, etc. On the basis of this facts and investigation, the manager should react properly depending on the degree of the guilt of the harasser and the conduct of the victim.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that sexual harassment should be prevented by all possible means since it undermines not only personal life of victims but normal functioning of the organization at large and affects directly or not other employees. In this respect, the prevention seems to be more efficient when all people working within the organization clearly realize that sexual harassment is not tolerated and absolutely unacceptable not only in terms of the concrete organization but the society at large to the extent that sexual harassment may lead to legal prosecution.
Finally, sexual harassment occurs, it should be investigated properly and the decision made on the basis of thorough analysis of the facts and information gathered by the investigator.