Posted: March 24th, 2023
The issue is a case of sexual harassment against Alan by Vicky, a colleague at XYZ Inc. The two had worked together for a year before Vicky reported Alan to the supervisor with sexual harassment claims. The case involves a form of harassment taking place in the social media, specifically on Facebook. Alan was accused of posting undesirable comments on Vicky’s photos posted on her Facebook page. Alan is also accused of having printed pictures from Facebook and showing them to colleagues. All the actions were taken without Vicky’s knowledge or consent. Vicky, after discovering what had transpired she “de-friended” Alan from her list of Facebook friends. Vicky claimed that she was not aware of Alan’s intentions, explaining why she had remained friends with him on Facebook. Alan conduct is regarded as part of sexual harassment since, in some of the printed photos, Vicky was wearing a short dress while in another a bikini. Although he claims to have flirted with Vicky without knowing that his actions were unwelcome, Allan’s act is part of sexual harassment. According to the company’s sexual harassment policy, the management is responsible for investigating the case and taking appropriate action.
According to EEOC guidelines, employers should have policies relating to sexual harassment to protect employees and address cases that occur in the course of employment. Employers must issue a policy statement on sexual harassment with a clear definition of the conduct and a statement, indicating that the workplace is free from such behavior (U.S. Department of State, 2018). Managers should take measures to ensure that employees are not subjected to harassment and assume the necessary steps if sexual harassment occurs. Furthermore, escalated cases, including criminal sexual harassment should be reported to the authority.
XYZ has a policy that covers sexual harassment, which is based on the Equal Opportunity Act 2010 and such Laws as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that governs sexual harassment in the workplace (Ruthergien, 2016). Under the law, sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual behavior. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) defines two kinds of sexual harassment, including “quid pro quo” and “hostile work environment” (EEOC, 2018). The first type arises when an individual in authority demands sexual favors to give some benefit or withhold punishment. The second type involves sexual behavior or conduct that creates a hostile working environment for the victim. The negative practice is a kind of sexual discrimination, according to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The law applies to workplaces with 15 or more employees, labor organizations, and the federal government. Thus, for sexual harassment to have occurred, an individual commits unwelcome sexual advances, the law considers such a person as committing sexual harassment and liable for prosecution (McLaughlin, Uggen, & Blackstone, 2012). Hence, if the accuser has in any way welcomed or consented to the actions of the accused, the situation does not fit the criteria for sexual harassment.
XYZ’s policy has clear guidance on actions that should be taken once a complaint is made to the management about sexual harassment. The employer has the mandate to investigate the accusation to establish the culpability of the accused and take appropriate action. However, some cases are so aggravated that they reach higher authorities for action. In cases that go beyond the mandate of the employer or reported to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a thorough investigation is conducted to confirm whether the accused is guilty to take action (Schultz, 2018). The investigation involves collecting information from the complaint through an interview. The accused and witnesses are also interviewed to gather more evidence about the case and potentially prove culpability. Based on the outcome of the investigation, appropriate action is taken against the accused.
The company policy indicates four possible types of punishment for sexual harassment. The first one is a conference or probation or citation. The punishment involves a meeting with the management and at times with the accuser. The offender is made to understand the magnitude of the offense and warned against continuing. The second approach is through termination, which might involve losing a job. The accused can also pay compensation if found guilty. Finally, in criminal cases, the case can go through litigation and the accused end up getting a jail term (McLaughlin, Uggen, & Blackstone, 2012). Therefore, punishment depends on the nature and magnitude of the offense.
From the definition of sexual harassment, Vicky can be considered a victim of sexual harassment, considering that Allan’s behavior towards her was unwelcome. The particular type of harassment is a hostile environment. Alan’s conduct was offensive and undesirable, and hence, not mutually agreed. The situation amounted to sexual harassment as it fulfilled the criteria of unwelcome sexual attention since it involved direct sexual conduct against a victim (U.S. Department of State, 2018). Vicky was exposed to an intimidating, hostile, and offensive environment because her photos were printed and shown to the colleagues without her consent. For example, some of the co-workers had even commented that she looked better in a bikini and a short dress. Although the information was obtained from her Facebook account, Alan took advantage of their friendship to print and expose her photos. Hence, it was a form of harassment and unwarranted attention because Vicky had not agreed to such exposure since it placed her at risk of being harassed further by the male co-workers. Consequently, such actions would affect her work and make her environment hostile.
Sexual harassment depends on whether the victim knew and welcomed the sexual advances. In the situation, Alan believed that Vicky did not mind the flirting and attention he was showing. However, it turned out that the accuser did not appreciate or welcome the attention. In fact, she was offended by the actions and went further to report the case to the supervisor. On looking at the entire record, circumstances, including the nature of the sexual advance, it becomes evident that sexual harassment towards Vicky occurred. Therefore, the organization should take appropriate actions against the accused to stop further harassment (McDonald, 2012). While it is possible for Alan to be terminated from his work because of the accusation, the management could also let him stay but with a warning. In addition, it is not a criminal, and hence, can be addressed through an agreement between the concerned parties. After the investigation, the management should engage the accuser and the accused in conflict resolution through the first type of punishment, a conference.
Cases of sexual harassment are common in workplaces. Sexual harassment can be perpetrated towards a man or a woman and should be reported for the due action to be taken. In the case of Vicky against Alan, it would be confirmed that the accused perpetrated the said actions since the flirtation was not only unwelcome, but also offensive. In organizational settings, preventive measures are more appropriate that mechanisms used to address the situations that have occurred. Hence, companies should develop and implement effective sexual harassment policies to protect their employees from becoming victims or perpetrators of sexual harassment. The policy should be communicated to the employees to ensure that they understand actions that amount to the negative conduct and ramifications of being found guilty of such acts. Hence, the management should effectively communicate the policy to all employees to ensure that they follow the rules to avoid any form of sexual harassment in the workplace.
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