Most people are familiar with the issue of Sexual Harassment. While many employees often joke about the issue, it is a very serious problem for employers. The number of sexual harassment cases reported each year is alarmingly high. Sexual Harassment can be very detrimental to the company, its employees and to the employee’s family and friends.
Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when:
- Submission to this conduct is made either explicitly or
implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment;
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual
is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such
- Such conduct creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work
The EEOC has defined two types of harassment.
- QUID PRO QUO
This is the more obvious and easier to identify form of sexual harassment. The term quid pro quo basically means “something for something.” This type of sexual harassment occurs mainly between a supervisor/manager and a subordinate. A supervisor is anyone with the authority to:
- Undertake or recommend tangible employment actions (hiring, firing, promoting, demoting, reassigning, etc).
- Direct employee’s daily work activities.
With quid pro quo, sexual conduct becomes the grounds for employment decisions – sexual favors for employment benefits.
- HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT
Comments or conduct based on sex, sexually orientated material or other offensive material creates a hostile work environment when it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work and is unwelcome, severe or pervasive. Comments or conduct can also be considered harassment if they create a work environment that is intimidating, hostile or offensive. Examples of such conduct include:
- Staring or leering in a suggestive manner.
- Making offensive remarks about someone’s looks, clothing and/or body.
- Touching, pinching, patting and/or brushing against someone in a manner that creates an uncomfortable feeling.
- Telling sexual or offensive jokes or making sexual gestures.
- Displaying sexually related material such as posters or calendars.
- Sending sexually related material via email, letters or notes.
Single or isolated incidents of sexual misconduct generally do not create an environment that is considered hostile. A hostile environment claim usually requires proof of a pattern of offensive conduct. The more severe the harassment though, the less need to show a repetitive pattern. To be considered “unwelcome, severe or pervasive” enough to constitute sexual harassment, the activity must also be serious enough that a “reasonable person” would find it offensive.
The company will not tolerate any form of sexual harassment. Anyone who feels they are a victim are to report the incident to the PPD Department. To see the full policy on sexual harassment, visit the PPD Intranet site.
Barbara Flynn, MSHR, SPHR, SHRM-SCP