Ethics and Human Resources Management
Maria’s scenario is a classic example of sexual harassMent in the working place. In legal terms, sexual harassment is defined as the exhibition of any form of conduct that would leave the plaintiff feeling insulted, embarrassed or intimidated. In addition to this, the information must have sexual connotations and it must be annoying to the appellant. Sexual harassment may take the form of spoken or non-spoken behavior (Hartman, 2004). With reference to Maria, the male employees made unwanted remarks concerning her body and this falls under the category of spoken sexual harassment. The nude picture created a sexualized environment that is not necessarily considered as a form of sexual harassment unless a form of intent is attached to it. Intent was given to the photo through the writing of Maria’s name at the bottom.
Legally, Maria is protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII against sexual harassment in the working situation. This is both on federal and state levels. Although the Act binds for a business owner having at least fifteen workers, anti-sexual discrimination decrees have been instituted on state basis (Conte, 2009). Maria therefore has the right to sue the male employees accredited to environmental harassment. In the workplace, once a worker feels that they are being sexually discriminated upon, they should inform the perpetrators to stop the behavior since it is offensive. If the harassers do not comply with the request, the plaintiff is allowed to report the case to the authorities in charge of such cases. If the grievance system does not take any action, the worker can consult an agency to file a legal case on their behalf.
Analyzing Maria’s case, we realize that she has already forwarded her grievances to the foreman who in turn refers her to the site manager. Assuming that she had already warned the male employees, her case holds. With the reluctance of the site manager to take action against her complaints, Maria can move to the agencies. However, before Maria is able to create a case against the male workers, she should ascertain that the behavior was insulting and that any other person fitted in her position would find the actions as insulting. Once this has been established, Maria can then file a behavior complaint with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), if she is acting on the federal level (Conte, 2009). Other federal bodies as well as state ones exist. The contacted agency, like in our case the EEOC will then follow through for prosecution. If the agency delays the follow up within the stipulated time, Maria is free to file a private suit. Note that, the site manager is also liable to be sued for the neglect of his duty.
In ethical terms, any form of sexual discrimination is categorized as an unethical practice. This is because, sexual harassment amounts to the formation of an intimidating working setting that ends up threatening the operational efficiency of its workers. It also amounts to unethical practices by the fact that it breaches the instituted law. Intent plays a major role in the determination of the unethical practices in the working environment. Ferrell et al (2006) assert that, “ If the sexual advances in any form are considered mutual, then consent is created…and when it comes to sexual harassment, the alleged perpetrator must prove mutual consent,” (p. 73). Citing Maria’s case, it is evident that she has an ethical right over the male workers by the fact that no mutual consent was present in the scenario. In fact, she abhorred the verbal and photographic harassments that can be strengthened by the report she gave to the authorities.
The Human Rights Code in Section 13 forbids any form of sexual harassment. The Code encompasses both worker-to-worker sexual harassment as well as employer-to-employee sexual harassment. This means Maria has an eligible right over the male workers regarding the former stipulation. The Human Rights Commission (HRC) requires any form of grievance, so long as it fits either of the given definitions, to be filed with its HRC office that will later arrange for a meeting with the plaintiff, gather all the relevant information for the case, and it need be additional inquiries may be conducted. This is through a Board of Inquiry that is appointed by the HRC. The HRC then decides on the rest of method that the case will follow. Maria should have already notified the workers as well as the authorities before going to the HRC like in the legal requirements.
How would you Handle this If you were the Site Manager?
I would have first given Maria time to explain her grievances and later perform a follow up to establish whether a probable cause exists for sexual harassment. During the investigations, I would suspend the male employees involved in the harassment in order to pave a favorable environment for comprehensive analysis through questioning sessions to the other employees that were not involved in the demeaning acts. This would ensure that the employees who give information concerning the perpetrators are protected (Ferrell, et al, 2006). Upon the completion of the investigations, the perpetrators would be recalled back for reprimanding. It would be prudent to settle the case within the workplace before it reaches higher authorities for the protection of the corporation’s name. If Maria still decides to sue the institution, she would not have any case against the company, the employers or the other employees.
Should Maria Just Try to Fit In and Hope For the Best?
No. Unresolved sexual harassment cases only have detrimental consequences on the affected individual. Some of the issues that Maria may face are first, trauma and low working spirit because of the harsh environment. This will affect her physical and psychological health and it may lead to extreme ends such as depression, high blood pressure and sexual dysfunction die to the negative view that Maria may have on herself (Hartman, 2004). Secondly, Maria will exhibit diminished work performances due to the problems that she may be facing as they often inhibit concentration levels. Thirdly, Maria may resort to non-attendance patterns in a bid to avoid the source of her problems (working environment). With too much pressure, Maria may resort to resigning or worse still to suicide. Note that, all these identified potential risks will also have negative impacts on her two children.
Conte, A. (2009). Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Law and Practice, 2010-1 Cumulative Supplement. Frederick, MD: Aspen Publishers.
Ferrell, O. C., Fraedrich, J., & Ferrell, L. (2006). Business Ethics: Ethical Decision Making and Cases. Independence, KY: Cengage Learning.
Hartman, L. P. (2004). Perspectives in Business Ethics. Sabine, TX: McGraw-Hill.