Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Essay - Essay Prowess

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Essay


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Sexual harassment in the workplace


Sexual harassment involves any unwanted conduct (physical, verbal or non-verbal) that is associated to the sexuality of an individual that arises with the aim of violating an individual`s dignity, and of creating an offensive, intimidating, humiliating, degrading or hostile environment (Hunt et al. 1-9). It is anticipated that this term emerged in North America during the mid 1970s, when it was first described as a form of sex discrimination under the employment protection act. Moreover, sexual harassment can occur in any setting including workplace, learning institutions or the society, and the propagators can be either men or women. However, most studies have revealed that sexual harassment in the working environments has become a major challenge in both developing and developed countries. This paper pays high attention to the analysis of the current sexual harassments in the workplaces, how it affects women, and how they deal with or do not deal with it.

Sexual harassment in the workplace is contributed by two types of behaviors. The first behavior is depicted as something for something behaviors (quid pro quo), where individuals especially those top positions such as managers or owners of organizations who implicitly and explicitly make sexual advances or requests to their employees, with the promise of offering them, desired exchanges such as promotions, salary increase, and other benefits. The second behavior is based on the hostile environments, which involves conducts that create intimidating or offensive working environments. A good example is a working environment where an individual is subjected to unnecessary comments about his or her body from fellow employees, making him or her to feel distressed, embarrassed and incapable of working properly (Hunt et al. 7).

Sexual harassment in working places occurin numerous different forms depending on a wide range of organizational behaviors. According to most studies, sexual harassment occur in ways such as sexual teasing, remarks, and joking; pressuring the opposite sex for sexual favors; attempted or actual rape; sexual gestures or looks; pressuring the opposite sex for dates, making telephone calls or writing letters, deliberate leaning over, pinching, cornering or touching among others. Moreover, due to the advance of technology, sexual harassments are also increasingly occurring in through the internet. Numerous Studies have revealed that internet usage have created a new platform for individuals to carry out the old things. For example, studies have identified that most employees make comments or send pornographic images to their fellow employees through the use various social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter (Newman, Jackson & Baker 472-483).

Incidences of sexual harassment

The incidence rate for sexual harassment has continued to increase in the past decades, making the phenomenon be a global challenge. Moreover, the incidences of sexual harassments in the working places are high among women compared to their male counterparts. For example, most researches depicts that nine out of ten employed women in the United States experience sexual harassment and racial- discriminations in workplaces (Bianca 293). However, only three out of nine women report that they have been sexually harassed to the employers or the employment tribunals. In addition, studies reveal that compensation awards were granted by these employment tribunals in cases with sex discrimination jurisdictions. Moreover, 43% of these awards were for sexual harassment while the rest were for racial discrimination. However, it is established that this number of complaints that were lodged by employment tribunals are just a small fraction of sexual harassment cases in the United States. There is a high probability that most sexual harassment cases among both men and women in various industries and occupations go unreported.

Nevertheless, estimates concerning the incidence rates of sexual harassment differ widely due to different definitions of sexual harassment by numerous studies, the manner in which various researches are conducted, and the different individuals who are requested to contribute to these research studies. For example, most studies reveal that some forms of sexual harassment have scope of being interpreted as a form of compliments rather than forms of sexual harassment by most victims, especially women. These situations increase the complexity of reporting most cases of sexual harassment in the workplaces (Bianca 452).

Consecutively, the incidence of sexual harassment varies based on the type of industry. For example, manufacturing industries have been reported to record lower incidences of sexual harassment compared to service industries. Service industries such as restaurants have conditions that enhanced sexual harassment to occur, such as working in shifts, preference of more female employees compared to their male counterparts among others. In a study that was conducted in 2007 reveals that service industries have more double incidences of sexual harassment compared to manufacturing industries. This study reveals that 60 percent of women working in restaurants, military, and travelling agencies report to have been requested for unnecessary dates, abusive insults, touching from their customers, policemen, or passengers respectively. This is half of sexual harassment cases that were reported in manufacturing industries during the same period ((National Association of Working Women 16).

Consecutively, high incidences of sexual harassment are also reported in other regions such as Australia, the United Kingdom, and Germany among others. Moreover, these studies indicate that, the exposure rates of sexual harassment in both men and women are approximately 70 to 90 percent (Hunt et al. 1-9).

Workplaces where sexual harassments are likely to be high

Most studies have revealed that sexual harassment behavior is more prevalent in some situations than others, and in organizations with certain features. Moreover, a combination of both situational and personal factors contributes to frequent sexual harassing behavior. For example, men who are born with a character of sexually harassing other people have a high probability of doing so when the situations and social norms permit that form of behavior (Hunt et al. 20-21). Numerous studies also depict that sexual harassments are most likely to occur in high sexualized working environments. This, therefore, means that in organizations where all forms of sexual behaviors are common; there is also a high likelihood that sexual harassment behaviors are also common.

Generally, the prevalence of sexual harassments is high in occupations or jobs where the sex ratio is unequal, especially where the number of men is higher than that of women. However, some researchers maintain that the prevalence of sexual harassment is high in occupations that are either predominated by men or women. For example, most women are sexually harassed in organizations that are dominated by men, while most men are likely to be sexually harassed in occupations that have a high number of women (Jaimee 314-322). Moreover, sexual harassments are high in occupations where there exist large power differences between men and women. For example, in organizations where men holds the managerial positions while women holds the junior positions, the latter have a high possibility of experiencing sexual harassments compared to their counterparts. Consecutively, in situations where job insecurity is anticipated, the prevalence of sexual harassments is high compared to those where their job security exists. For example, an employee may fear to file complaints if he or she anticipates that the probability of being fired is high after so doing.

In addition, individuals working in service industries such as hospitality industries have high probabilities of being sexually harassed compared to those who works in other occupations. These industries have unique characteristics that normally create a major breeding site for sexual harassment and the perpetuation of this challenge. For example, employees who work in restaurants are deemed to work for long and irregular hours, including during the night and in the evening. Moreover, these hotels are populated by women who are positioned at the lower echelons of these industries, thus propagating the probabilities of being sexually harassed. Furthermore, sexual harassment of these women may occur from two sides; from their managers or owners of these restaurants and the customers. One study reveals that in 19 percent of these industries, employees resign because of being sexually harassed by customers (National Association of Working Women 5-12).

Consecutively, the prevalence of sexual harassment is also propagated by the leadership style of various organizations. For example, most people face sexual harassment and bullying in organizations that are managed in an authoritarian manner. In addition, managers who exercise laissez faire style of leadership fails to intervene when harassments occurs, making the other employees to consider it as an acceptable behavior. This in the long run increases the incidences of sexual harassment, especially to women (Hunt et al. 20-21).

Victims of sexual harassment in the workplaces

Most studies reveal that women are more vulnerable to be sexually harassed in the workplaces compared to their male counterparts. For example, in 2007, 61% of working women experienced sexual harassment in the United States, compared to 14% of working men (Jaimee 314-322). Similarly, two-thirds of sexual harassment cases (86 percent complaints) in Australia are reported by women while 11 percent of the complaints are reported by men. Moreover, young, uneducated, and single or divorced women are more sexually harassed compared to those who are educated, married, and above 40 years of age. For example, in the United States, 77% of young, less educated and single women were reported to have experienced most forms of violence and harassment in their workplaces in 2007. This is contrary to 44% older and married women during the same year.

However, the high rates of women who are sexually harassed in the workplace are also contributed by their race and physical fitness. That is, black American women and disabled women are more sexually harassed compared to those who are both white and physically fit. Black American women are sexually assaulted by both white men and women. Most authors in the United States have depicted that black American women experience both sexual and racial discrimination in their working places (Jaimee 314-322).

Impacts of sexual harassment in the workplaces on women

Sexual harassment affects the psychological and physical wellbeing of women. For example, sexual harassment in the workplace decreases job satisfaction among the working women, making them have reduced self-esteem, which in the long run results to reduced productivity. In a study that was conducted in the United States with the aim of exploring the experiences of female nurses who had faced sexual harassment in their working places found that, this behavior impact the lives of women in various ways. For example, these female nurses reported that they feel upset, annoyed, resentful, furious, isolated, intimidated, nervous, threatened, disgusted, vulnerable, uncomfortable, embarrassed, and worried. Other researchers have identified additional feelings such as humiliation, decreased job satisfaction, decreased self-esteem, loss of self-confidence, lack of interpersonal relations at work, self-blame, various economic losses, and decreased morale (Chelsea et al. 127-162).

In addition, these psychological adverse effects that sexually harassed women experience contributes to the development of numerous physical health effects. Some of these physical symptoms include loss of appetite, gastrointestinal disturbances, weight loss, nausea, inability to sleep, and severe headaches. Moreover, studies reveal that these physical symptoms of sexual harassment among working women contributes to the development of serious mental health-disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorders and depression (Chelsea et al. 127-162). For example, in one study involving self-perceived and mental health of women who work as flight attendants shows that, sexual harassment especially from passengers makes contributes for the development of psychological distress, leading to low job satisfaction.

Consecutively, sexual harassment in workplaces stimulates most women to develop turnover intentions. However, most sexually harassed women consider quitting their job after they experience increased reduction of job satisfaction. For example, studies have revealed that in 2007, the rate of federal employees` turnover due to sexual harassment was approximately 23 percent (Hunt et al. 31-32). However, these studies also depict that the ultimate cost of sexual harassment in the workplaces is the increased rate of job turnover, which arises from the harassed individuals. These costs include those that are associated with replacing the employees who have quitted after experiencing sexual harassment, costs of conducting background checks for the potential recruits, the cost of training the new recruits among others.

Moreover, sexual harassment is among women is the chief contributing factor to women absenteeism, which in the long run results to quitting of job. This increased rate of absenteeism is contributed by lower job satisfaction and lower self-esteem, which are propagated by sexual harassment behaviors. In most organizations, the rate of absenteeism is noted from the increased number of women seeking sick leave, especially when the latter suffers adverse physical health outcomes such as severe headache, gastrointestinal disturbances among others (Hunt et al. 31-32).

Consecutively, sexual harassment in the workplace has negative financial impacts on women. Most of these financial impacts occur when these women quit their job, or have frequent and prolonged sick leave (Chelsea et al. 127-162). Most women who take job leaves do not receive wages for the days that are out of the workplace. These makes most women to be dependent on their husbands while single parents face challenges of catering for their children, and providing for their basic needs. For example, it is estimated that approximately $4.4 million in wages was lost by women who quit their job or take unpaid sick leaves due to sexual harassment between 2005 and 2007 (Chelsea et al. 127-162).

How women respond to sexual harassment

According to most studies, to make a decision of whether to forward a sexual harassment complaint is difficult and complex to most employees. According to most studies, only few organizations have clear policies relating to sexual harassment or well-established procedures of handling sexual harassment complaints from employees. Moreover, other organizations that have these policies have not made them to be adequately known by their employees, and thus challenging the latter in reporting these behaviors when they occur (National Association of Working Women 27-28). In addition, most employees especially women are confused determining whether the experiences that they face from their male counterparts are really sexual harassment or not, and this makes them fear reporting them. Consecutively, organizations that do not respond swiftly and sensitively to sexual harassment complaints also institute the phobia of reporting these behaviors to most employees.

However, most women who experience sexual harassment respond in different ways. For example, most women opt to take more assertive actions such as confronting the harassers by asking or telling them to stop these behaviors, or even avoiding them (National Association of Working Women 27-28). Apparently, women who opt to spend much their time trying to avoid the harassers have the disadvantage that, it affects their work performances. Consecutively, some women prefer reporting the harassers to their managers or the supervisors, in order for the latter to take the necessary measures on their behalf. Some of the formal actions that are employed to harassers include confronting the harassers, investigating the allegations, giving sanctions to the harassers, warning them, eliminating them among others. However, according to most studies, only a small number of managers who employ these measures since in most cases the latter or their close associates are the major victims of sexually harassing female employees.

In addition, some female employees consider filing sexual harassment complaints to the employment tribunals especially when managers fail to respond to their complaints. However, most studies reveal that among women who present sexual harassment complaints to these employment tribunals, only less than 10 percent reach formal hearing proceedings. Moreover, most of these women find it distressing to confront their harassers at such at such a close proximity (National Association of Working Women 27-28).


It is, therefore, evident that sexual harassment in the workplace is a global challenge in both developing and developed countries. Moreover, sexual harassment occurs in various forms such as verbal, non-verbal or physical harassment. Though sexual harassment can occur to anyone, numerous studies show that women are the most vulnerable groups compared to their male counterparts. In addition, the prevalence of sexual harassment of women is contributed by various factors that are present in the workplaces, such as the organizational culture, job security, sex ratios, power differences, and type of occupations. Nevertheless, sexual harassment has economic, physical and psychological health impacts among women.

It is, therefore, necessary for organizations to adopt and implement intervention programs that would facilitate in reducing and eliminating sexual harassment among women in the working places. For example, sexual harassment can be prevented through training all employees concerning sexual harassment, responding to harassments through effective complaints procedures and rehabilitation of women who have been harassed (Hunt et al. 39-47). Moreover, most studies suggest that these sexual harassment interventions are effective when organizations employs participatory and consultative approaches at all stages, followed by monitoring and evaluation. Nevertheless, implementation of these intervention strategies would highly facilitate in minimizing sexual harassment among women in the near future.


Chelsea R. Willness, et al., A Meta-Analysis of The Antecedents and Consequences of Workplace Sexual Harassment, Journal of Personnel Psychology, Volume 60, Issue 1, pages 127–162, Spring 2007. DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.2007.00067.

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Jaimee Marsh, etal.Prevalence of Workplace Abuse and Sexual Harassment among Female Faculty and Staff, University of WashingtonSchool of Public Health, USA, J Occup Health 2009; 51: 314–322.

National Association of Working Women, Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry, New Yolk, United States of America, 2014.

Newman, M. A., Jackson, R. A. and Baker, D. D. ‘Sexual harassment in the federal workplace’.Public Administration Review. July/August, 63 (4): 472–483,(2003).

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