Sexual harassment has become more prevalent over the past ten years, raising concerns on a national and global level. However, various international bodies like the ILO in the United Nations agency have made huge efforts to create awareness of its existence. Consequently, the initiatives have led to more cases of women’s sexual harassment being made public. Most of these discriminatory cases are reported to have occurred in school, at home, or at work. In addition, these cases often affect women more than men and leave the victims with a lot of damage. Although there has been much effort to end discrimination, one can still come across several cases in the news.
One of the cases that caught the people’s attention was the Golding v Sippel and The Laundry Chute Pty Ltd case at the Queensland Industrial relations commission (Queensland Human Rights Commission, 2021). The complainant was a lady working at a laundromat who faced her boss’ unsolicited conduct, which later cost her, her job. According to the Queensland Human Rights Commission (2021), the woman had psychological distress emerging from a history of domestic abuse. The mother of four was also solely responsible for supporting her children financially and relied on unstable, low-pay jobs. The lady was also considerably younger than her boss. These factors supported the tribunal’s interpretation of what constitutes a “relevant context” for determining whether a person might reasonably anticipate intimidating and offending another person.
Sexual harassment of women in the workplace can be demonstrated in two major forms. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (2018), sexually discriminating events can either be experienced through quid pro quo or in a hostile environment. The quid pro quo or ‘this for that’ situation occurs when a job is conditioned on some sexual activity. Similarly, hostile work environment discrimination involves a set of behaviors that objectify women either verbally or non-verbally. Further classification of sexual harassment includes gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion. NASEM (2018), describes sexual coercion as the act of making sexual advances as part of conditions for employment. Moreover, unwanted sexual attention involves sexual advances like unwanted caresses, touch, stroking, and other undesirable gestures of sexual interest.
The Golding v Sippel and The Laundry Chute Pty Ltd case exhibited most of these forms of harassment (QHRC, 2021). The woman claimed that her boss sexually harassed her through an inappropriate touch of her bottom and legs. In addition, the man also overwhelmed her with massage and sex requests. The boss also sent her explicit messages and forced her to touch his genitals, which was against her will. According to the tribunal, the harassment was transactional since she had to agree to it, or she would not be offered a job (QHRC, 2021). These actions match all the sexual harassment classifications namely; quid pro quo, hostile work environment, gender harassment, unwanted sexual attention, and sexual coercion. The case outcome also concurred with this as compensation of $158,702.60 was made, upon appeal.
Most sexual harassment cases often display common demographic factors among victims. In the Golding v Sippel and The Laundry Chute Pty Ltd case, the tribunal had to determine whether a reasonable person might anticipate intimidating and offending another person by assessing various factors (QHRC, 2021). These demographic characteristics include an individual’s sex, age, ethnicity, or present impairments. The relationship with the offender and other vulnerabilities are also common factors among victims. The complainant in the case was a woman, and a mother of four school-age children, who had psychological distress from domestic violence. The man harassing her was her boss, and he was significantly older than her. Such factors can be closely related to other public sexual harassment cases against women.
Although sexual harassment is usually not targeted at a certain group of individuals, there are often common traits shared by these victims. In the Golding v Sippel and The Laundry Chute Pty Ltd case, the lady’s age is not specified (QHRC, 2021). However, it is revealed that she was 20 years younger than her boss. Mumford et al. (2020), identify young adults to be at a higher risk of sexual harassment and assault. In addition, the study further reveals that the rates of sexual harassment among 18-29 years-old women were even higher than among women over the age of 30 (Mumford et al., 2020). Similarly, another research in Italy showed that 55.4% of female workers in the 14-59 age group had reported sexual harassment cases (International Labor Office). These research studies reveal that sexual harassment affects women across different age groups.
Reactions to Sexual Harassment of Women at Work
Sexual harassment of women can be a very sensitive topic of discussion. This is due to the high possibility that most people within a group have experienced this type of discrimination. For instance, during a focus group discussion with friends, the topic spiked different emotions. Most of the young people in the group revealed that their perception of sexual coercion and harassment at work had changed. Initially, most women, especially between the age of 20-39, had a great fear of the matter. However, they admitted that over the last few years, the prevalence of the cases brought up anger. Therefore, analyzing the Golding v Sippel and The Laundry Chute Pty Ltd case, spiked aggression.
The discussion also revealed that in most harassment cases, victims are often reluctant to seek help. For instance, it took 14 months working in a hostile environment for the woman to report her boss’ unwelcome conduct to the police. Majority of the mothers in the group who had experienced harassment also confirmed that seeking help is often hard. In further elaboration, a lady in her 40s shared her reaction by saying that, as a victim, one is ashamed to come out, and out and always feels like they brought it upon themselves. However, with the current empowerment and numerous initiatives creating awareness on the matter, one realizes that they are not alone, and they are also not to blame.
Effects of Sexual Harassment on Women’s Health
As most statistics show, 40-50 percent of women experience sexual harassment at work which has a tremendous effect on their health (Kahsay, 2020). According to NASEM (2018), health and well-being are based on various standard psychology scales applicable to a general population. NASEM (2018), also revealed that women who experience sexual harassment more frequently, are likely to have melancholy, tension, anxiety, and general psychological impairment. For instance, in the Golding v Sippel and The Laundry Chute Pty Ltd case, there was medical evidence that the complainant experienced anxiety symptoms like agitation (QHRC, 2021). Over the 14 months, the woman also developed a short temper and her sleep became erratic.
In addition to psychological impairment symptoms, workplace sexual harassment victims can be diagnosed with certain disorders. The medical evidence provided in the sexual harassment case revealed that the woman had been diagnosed with adjust disorder, depressed moods, and mixed anxiety as a result of the sexual coercion. Such effects have been seen to mostly affect women of color, lesbians, and transgender people (NASEM, 2018). Recent research also shows that the vulnerability of these women can also lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition, tangible losses like losing employment create an economic strain which also contributes to more stress. The publicity of being a sexual harassment victim may also lower a lady’s confidence and self-esteem.
Addressing Sexual Harassment Against Women at Work
Sexual harassment of women at work can be addressed in various ways. One of the major ways to resolve these issues is through companies’ internal policies and regulations. Every employer has a legal obligation and shared responsibility to prevent gender discrimination and other types of harassment in their organization. Therefore, the employer has to ensure that the company has anti-sexual harassment policies and regulations. In addition, they have to certify that every employee has read and understood the policies. Such actions would ensure that all the anti-sexual harassment policies in the company are followed.
In case of any sexual harassment allegations at work, companies should guarantee that the victim gets justice, regardless of the rank of the offender in the organization. For instance, in a case of a male superior withholding paid work based on a female worker rejecting their sexual advances, criminal charges should be made. In addition, the complainant should be free to file a complaint with human rights legal support. The procedure of making such a report should be covered in the company’s anti-sexual harassment policies. Furthermore, an institution should also incorporate Human Rights Code to help a complainant file their grievances in cases of code breaches like sexual harassment.
Recommendation Letter on Reducing the Risk of Sexual Harassment of Women at Work
Dear McDonald’s Corporation,
Sexual harassment of women in their workplace has become very common. Recent research shows that almost 50 percent of women experience this type of discrimination, at least once in a lifetime. Such rates are quite concerning as one might find themselves, or their close friends and relatives being victims of sexual harassment. However, every company has a role to play, either directly or through its organization. This engagement can be very essential in ending sexual harassment and other forms of abuse happening at work.
One of the major causes of sexual harassment in the workplace is organizational culture. A good culture that takes discrimination seriously, influences how employees view the problem. There are several applicable steps to reduce the risk of sexual harassment occurring in any organization. First, the business should adopt clear sexual harassment policies, which should be included in the employee handbook. The policies should guide employees on the definition of sexual harassment, state the possible disciplinary actions on offenders, and outline the procedure for filing harassment complaints.
Conducting training sessions on sexual harassment is also very important. Therefore, every company should plan annual training sessions for both employees and their supervisors. The training should also define sexual harassment at work and outline the employees’ rights. In addition, the sessions should cover the procedure of filing harassment complaints, and encourage employees to use it if the need arises. Finally, every sexual harassment complaint made should be taken seriously. The claims should be investigated immediately, and if valid, the company should offer an efficient and timely response. By taking these steps, every company would be at a lower risk of experiencing sexual harassment of women.
International Labor Office. (nd). Sexual harassment at work. Web.
Kahsay, W. G., Negarandeh, R., Dehghan Nayeri, N., & Hasanpour, M. (2020). Sexual harassment against female nurses: A systematic review. BMC nursing, 19(1), 1-12. Web.
Mumford, E. A., Potter, S., Taylor, B. G., & Stapleton, J. (2020). Sexual harassment and sexual assault in early adulthood: National estimates for college and non-college students. Public Health Reports, 135(5), 555-559. Web.
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Policy and Global Affairs; Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine; Committee on the Impacts of Sexual Harassment in Academia. (2018). Sexual harassment of women: Climate, culture, and consequences in academic sciences, engineering, and medicine. (Johnson, P. A., Widnall, S. E., Benya, F. F., & Washington, D. C., Eds). National Academies Press.
Queensland Human Rights Commission. (2021). Sexual harassment case studies: Work withheld because sexual advances were rejected. Web.