Paula’s sexual harassment
Paula has worked for a medium-sized U. S. company for three months as a management trainee; in the production department. She is the first woman selected for the position and is thorough in her work. For the first two months, she performs her duties diligently. However, trouble started when Richard; Paula’s co-worker and a manager in Production, started making sexual advances towards her. This harassment carried on for a while till it started having a negative impact on her performance in the company. Her boss, Steve; the vice-president of the company, notices a fall in Paula’s concentration. She is tensed and uneasy while carrying out her duties. Steve decides to approach her, and to his dismay, she finds out that Paula has been a victim of sexual annoyance in the workplace. In the course of the last month, Paula has been persistently harassed by Richard. Initially, she tried ignoring his sexual banter and jokes in vain. His doggedness has made turned Paula’s life into a living hell and has developed uncomfortable feelings while at work. She tried searching for policies covering sexual harassment in the workplace in her employee’s handbook but found none.
When she really opens up to Steve, who is worried about her declining quality of work, she also reveals information pertaining to the EEOC laws offering guidelines for sexual harassment in the workplace that she had found in the human resources textbook from college. She hinted to Steve that she was considering taking action against Richard if he did not stop with his actions. Steve told her that he was in the dark concerning the unfortunate event, but promised to take action. He directed Paula to investigate what the company needed to do to deal with the incident, now or in the future to anyone else. Steve showed much gratitude for her honesty and openness and promised to take immediate action.
There are four probable courses of action that could be used to handle the situation. Two of the actions are on Paula’s part, while the other two are recommended for the management of the company.
1. Paula’s first action is to open up to the management about the issue that threatens her performance in the organization. The employees’ proactive effort is the first step to handling such occurrences. Paula has covered the critical part by opening up to Steve.
2. Apart from just mere opening up, Paula could forward recommendations to the management on the way forward. She is the victim of the offense, consequently, any solution adopted should be highly in favor of her, and other potential victims. Steve should take a course of action that is not short of moving Richard from his current posting. The restoration of Paula’s stability and comfort cannot be guaranteed if there is still contact between the two.
3. . As an assertive employer, Steve should issue a policy statement to all the members of staff. The policy statement should render sexual harassment unlawful in the workplace under the Anti-discrimination Act as well as maintaining that sexual harassment is an offense and would not be tolerated under any circumstance. The policy should create the impression that the management shall treat harassment complaints sympathetically and seriously.
Most organizations have set guidelines that are projected to aid employers in their task of doing away with this conduct in the workplace. Their sole objective is to offer an understanding of the form and nature of sexual harassment, to recommend suitable methods of preventing it, and appropriate measures for handling it when it occurs. . The employer has a legal responsibility to see to it that the workplace is free from sexual harassment. On the other end, it is the employee’s moral obligation to report such incidences when they occur
4. As the vice-president, Steve could also nominate one of the staff to handle sexual harassment reports. This would go a long way in demonstrating the company’s commitment to eliminating sexual harassment. The complaints officer should investigate Paula’s complaints by interviewing the supposed harasser, impartially and separately, as well as Paula. The officer should present his findings to Steve who would then make a rational decision based on the findings. Steve should ensure that the outcome is substantiated before taking any decisive actions. The action employed should work in maintaining distance between the two involved employees. To some extent, the individual can be relieved off of their duties or a transfer would achieve such an outcome, depending on the magnitude of the offense.
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The ethical impact of establishing a complaints department is that the sexual harassment probability amongst the members of staff would decline. The risk factor that faces the productivity of employees that are victims would be controlled. With a complaints department in place, Richard would be subjected to investigations as opposed to a witch hunt. Furthermore, such investigations would scare off future sexual harassment perpetrators thereby reduce such incidences. The company would realize its production goals with a staff that is free to execute its duties in a conducive environment.
Paula’s courses of action would impact ethically by giving courage to victims of sexual harassment to share their predicament with other people. Most victims suffer for long under their offenders because of lack of courage to open up. The stigma that faces sexual offended victims works to instill fear in them, letting the crisis sink them. The newly created complaints department, although an additional cost, would encourage those who have been abused to report the matter as soon as possible, without any delays. Paula’s reluctance to report the matter immediately exerted negatively on her performance, it is only after reporting the incidence that made the company to act.
Upon making substantial conclusions from the investigations carried on Richard, Steve should take a course of action that would work in the best interest of Paula, and the whole organization. Consequently, Steve is faced with either offering Richard a transfer or sacking him altogether. He should let the findings determine the fate of Richard, as well as put Paula’s suggestions into consideration. Sacking Richard would have an ethical impact of teaching the other members of staff a lesson. The strictness with which Steve would handle the matter would determine the next course of action of other offenders, now and in the future.
At the individual level, Paula’s course of action would guarantee the restoration of things to normalcy. In the wake of the harassment, Paula could not perform as diligent as she used to. Sharing out the matter would relieve her of any psychological burdens, and restore her sanity. Nevertheless, her course of action would trigger a series of unfortunate occurrences on the part of Richard. In a real sense, he is Richard is the perpetrator and should face the consequences of his actions. Steve has already organized for investigations to be carried out over the matter. If the findings are substantiated, chances are high that the management could relieve him of his duties.
The company’s course of action would guarantee positive effects for the company in the long run. The key stakeholders that would be affected by Steve’s course of action are Paula herself, Richard, other members of staff, as well as the vice-president himself. If Steve decides to do away with Richard, his input in the organization would be done away with. The company would record a loss if Richard was a highly dependable employee. Establishing a complaints department could work to restore Paula’s confidence hence restore her initial high level of performance. If Steve implements the chosen course of action by the appropriate authority, her leadership would be appreciated by the employees. This would work to facilitate their supervision. As a manager, Steve is charged with the responsibility of freeing the organization from the factors that hinder the growth of its revenue. The lesser the obstacles, the higher the sales that would be realized by the company at the macro-economic level. An organization with internal stability (free from sexual harassment incidences) is able to withstand external forces in the form of competition from other organizations.
Governmental departments in charge of regulating the conduct of companies should come with provisions and bills to control sexual harassment of employees. Rampant incidences of sexual harassment in the workplaces of a nation could result in a fall in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country as a result of the low turnover received by the government. Sexual harassment incidences tamper with the concentration of the affected employees, thereby resulting to undesirable results.
The management of a company should deal with sexual related harassments in the company to protect the future productivity of the organization, as well as safeguard the organization’s culture. The step undertaken by Steve would reflect positively on the corporate image of the company. The complaints department would-be an ever reminder that sexual harassment is amicably under control for the success of the organization. The approach employed reflects the principles of the Utilitarianism, where the vice-president of the company has sought a general solution for the problem. The complaints department would cater for Paula’s predicament as well as other employees who might fall victims in the future.
The justice approach provides that all people are treated fairly as per the provisions of the law. The law protects the just and punishes the law breakers. The law provides that it is illegal to carry out sexual harassment in the workplace. Failure to take action against Richard would be undermining the rule of law. This would promote an unconduicive environment for the employees and pre-dispose the organization to legal suits.
The human rights approach provides that every human being should be respected and protected from harm of any form. Investigating the matter through the complaints wing reflects the management’s acknowledgement over the right of all the employees, including Richard. No judgement should be reached without substantiating the accusations.
The individual approach would see to it that Paula does not open up to anyone, but decides to handle the matter on her own, for fear of stigma. Paula may be an introvert therefore, it is in her best interest not to open up the predicaments of her life to the public, as it would make her more uncomfortable.
The establishment of a complaints department is a costly affair, thereby there exist practical constraints that limit the choice of alternatives. The department would require resources for operation, and this includes remuneration for members of the department. The department offers a permanent solution to the problem, hence it is in the best interest of the company to set up such a department. The best alternative is for the company to operationalise the complaints department, sanction investigations of Paula’s claims, as well as execute the solutions offered out of the findings. The company should protect the performance of its workers by eliminating threats like sexual harassment in the workplace. This way, they would be guaranteed of achieving their goals.
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Boland, M. (2005). Sexual harassment in the workplace. Naperville: Sphinx Pub.
Burke, R., & Cooper, C. (2010). Risky business : psychological, physical and financial costs of high risk behavior in organizations. Farnham: Gower.