Sexual Harassment in Workplaces

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Introduction

Sexual harassment is a major challenge that many employees face in their workplaces. It is unethical and illegal to harass a person because of their gender. Sexual harassment occurs in numerous forms that include unwelcome sexual advances, inappropriate touching, and the use of language that is of a sexual nature (Boland, 2005). In addition, it can happen in the form of derogatory remarks made to a person about their sex. Women are the most common victims of harassment. Cases of sexual harassment require speedy and thorough investigations. To prevent sexual harassment, many organizations implement codes of conduct that govern interactions and relationships between employees. In addition, government legislation such as the Fair Employment Protection Act protects employees from any form of harassment (Howard, 2007). In contemporary workplaces, different rules, regulations, and policies protect the welfare of employees. Employee training, implementation of anti-harassment policies, enactment of stringent laws, and improvement of communication systems are important ways of combating sexual harassment.

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Consequences of sexual harassment in the navy

Sexual harassment is illegal and punishable by law. Extreme offenses such as indecent exposure, sexual assault, and stalking are criminal acts that are handled by law enforcement agencies (Boland, 2005). In addition, other forms of sexual harassment such as threatening text messages, emails, and comments on social media are criminal in nature. Cases of sexual harassment in the military are fewer than those in civilian life. However, they have more damaging effects because of the high levels of trust and responsibility bestowed on military officers (Kluwer, 2008). Effects of harassment include destruction of morale, erosion of trust, destruction of unit cohesion, and loss of respect from the navy’s chain of command. In order to avoid these effects, suspects of sexual harassment face dire legal consequences. Navy officers are legally punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UMCJ) (Kluwer, 2008). The military justice system is different from the civilian justice system. A sexual offender is taken to a military court and upon conviction, he is awarded the most appropriate punishment. The officer can be discharged from the navy or jailed for a certain period. The most common forms of legal punishment include dishonorable discharge, jail sentence, discharge due to bad conduct, and dismissal (Kluwer, 2008). The type of punishment awarded is determined by the severity of the crime. A dishonorable discharge is awarded to an officer by a general court-martial after proof of guilt is presented. Sexual assault is a serious offense that is punished by dishonorable discharge. A dishonorable discharge has several consequences that include loss of veteran benefits and denial of the right to own a firearm (Solotoff & Kramer, 2014). A bad conduct discharge is also issued by a military court and includes confinement in a military prison, followed by a court hearing and determination of the case. It leads to loss of all veteran benefits and VA disability compensation accrued by the officer. In certain cases, a navy officer could be sentenced to death if the crime committed is severe. Another approach to punish officers is through non-judicial punishment that is allowed by Article 15, UCMJ. Non-judicial punishment is governed by Part V of the Manual for Courts-Martial to ensure that appropriate punishment is awarded to officers (Solotoff & Kramer, 2014). Penalties include confinement in military quarters, cancellation of remuneration for a certain period, and exclusion from military bases (Solotoff & Kramer, 2014). Non-judicial conviction is used for petty offenses and is not considered a criminal conviction. In the navy, commanders are responsible for referring suspects of sexual harassment to military courts. In many cases, they do so with the help of military lawyers.

Civilians face different legal consequences for sexual harassment compared to military personnel. The civilian criminal justice system has numerous laws that punish sex offenders. In many cases, employers are usually liable for sexual harassment in their workplaces because of their inability to enact and implement policies that prevent sexual harassment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act defines sexual harassment as illegal. Therefore, any employer who is found guilty of failing to stop harassment is punished (Boland, 2005). According to law, several ways of punishing employers who fail to stop sexual harassment can be used. They include lost wages, compensatory damages, future lost wages, and punitive damages (Conte, 2010). An employer may be compelled to pay the victim a certain amount of money in order to cover the losses incurred during the trial period. On the other hand, if an employee is unable to continue working due to the effects of harassment, an employer is compelled to pay for wages and benefits that the employee could have enjoyed had the incident not occurred (Solotoff & Kramer, 2014). In certain cases, employers pay employees for the emotional pain associated with sexual harassment. Finally, the employer may be required to pay punitive damages to the government as a form of punishment (Conte, 2010). Employees are punished by their employers in case they are found guilty. The punishment awarded is proportionate to the severity of the crime committed. Common forms of punishment include salary reduction, demotion, transfer to other workstations, suspension, dismissal, counseling, and heightened monitoring (Conte, 2010). An employer is only liable for sexual harassment if an employee presents a complaint and he fails to take action. It is the legal responsibility of an employer to prevent and resolve cases of sexual harassment in the workplace. However, if harassment continues, an employee can report to the federal or state government in which case the offender can serve jail time, probation, or community service (Howard, 2007).

How to avoid sexual harassment

It is important for employers to implement clear and stringent anti-harassment policies in the workplace in order to prevent sexual harassment. Employee code of conduct should include policies that define sexual harassment, the organization’s stand on harassment, and the different forms of punishment for various cases of sexual harassment (Howard, 2007). Employee training is also an effective prevention strategy. Organizations should ensure that their employees are well acquainted with anti-harassment policies and are also aware of how to identify, report, and deal with harassment (Solotoff & Kramer, 2014). Managers and supervisors should know that it is their responsibility to protect employees and facilitate the creation of a harassment-free environment. Training for employees and managers should be conducted separately because both groups have different responsibilities and roles to play. In certain states, sexual harassment training for employees in mandatory. For instance, the states of California, Maine, and Connecticut require employers with more than 50 employees to conduct sexual harassment training after every two years (Howard, 2007). Employers should monitor their workplaces and talk to employees in order to obtain information about any cases of harassment. Finally, organizations should improve communication in order to make it easy for employees to report cases of harassment. In addition, employers should take all complaints seriously and conduct investigations without favoring any of the parties involved. In order to prevent harassment in the military, it is important for Congress to enact new legislation and amend existing laws in order to make anti-harassment laws stronger and more effective.

Conclusion

Sexual harassment is one of the most common challenges in workplaces. It occurs in the form of unwanted sexual advances, indecent touching, inappropriate comments and messages regarding one’s sex, and discrimination based on sex. The Fair Employment Protection Act is an important legislation that protects employees from any form of harassment at work. The military also faces this challenge. However, the consequences of harassment in the military are more grievous that the consequences in civilian life. The legal punishment for harassment in the navy involves discharge from the service, confinement in a military prison, and dismissal from the service accompanied by loss of veteran benefits and other privileges. The legal punishment for employees includes reduced remuneration, demotion, transfer to another workstation, and jail sentence. Prevention is the most important strategy for combating sexual harassment. Employers should develop and implement anti-harassment policies and ensure that employees follow them. In addition, they should organize employee training in order to empower them to identify, report, and deal with harassment without compromising their performance and productivity. Finally, it is important for the federal and state governments to enact new anti-harassment laws and amend the existing ones to make them more effective.

References

Boland, M.L. (2005). Sexual Harassment in the Workplace. New York: SphinxLegal.

Conte, A. (2010). Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Law and Practice. New York: Aspen Publishers.

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Howard, L.G. (2007). The Sexual Harassment Handbook: Protect Yourself and Coworkers From the Realities of Sexual Harassment, Take Action, Investigate, and Remedy Accusations of Harassment, Create Corporate Policies that Educate and Empower Employees. New York: Career Press.

Kluwer, W. (2008). Sexual Harassment Prevention Training Manual for Managers and Supervisors. New York: Wolters Kluwer, Law & Business.

Solotoff, L., & Kramer, H. S. (2014). Sex Discrimination and Sexual Harassment in the Work Place. New York: Law Journal Press.

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