About Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

In 2012, federal court jurors listened as Ani Chopourian described the sexual harassment she endured as cardiac surgery physician assistant at a Sacramento hospital. One surgeon greeted her each morning with “I’m horny” and slapped her bottom. Another surgeon called her a “stupid chick” and said she performed surgery “like a little girl”. Jurors ultimately awarded her $168 million, the largest judgment for a single victim of workplace harassment in United States history (Gerdeman, 2018).

Sexual harassment remains a problem in the workplace, which became clear when thousands of women shared #MeToo stories of abuse after Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual assault in October 2017 (Gerdeman, 2018).

​ Sexual harassment is a form of unprofessionalism in the workplace that occurs when there is unwanted sexual advances made by one person to another. This type of harassment can happen to anyone, male or female, and does not have to be of the opposite sex. There are many forms of sexual harassment; in some cases, the harasser can be a supervisor or a coworker.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, “Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.” This suggests that sexual harassment does not allow for a conducive work environment. In order for employees to do a “good job” at work, there needs to be a level of professionalism that is conducted by everyone in the workplace. Often times, the harassers may not know that certain inappropriate behaviors are unwanted, which is why it is helpful when the victim informs the harasser, directly, that this conduct is not welcome and needs to stop. If the harasser continues this type of behavior, it is necessary for the victim to have the ability to complain to an employer or supervisor.

​There are two types of sexual harassment: ‘quid pro’ and hostile environment. Quid pro, in other words, means ‘something for something’ which has a direct influence on a person’s job. Quid pro harassment is when someone with more authority in the work place requests sexual favors in exchange for employee benefits. With this type of harassment, the higher authoritative figure can deny certain benefits to the employee if sexual demands are not met. Another example of this is when someone does not hire people who choose not to engage in sexual relations with him. A hostile environment is a harassment that has to do with unwelcomed touching, sexually oriented jokes, or even staring at someone’s body. This type of sexual harassment usually occurs when these negative behaviors impact the work environment which ultimately leads to employees feeling uncomfortable and therefore not being able to do their job properly and effectively.

​Recently, there have been numerous, well-documented sexual harassment claims made against a number of high-profile figures. The following are just a handful among the powerful men who have been recently accused of sexual misconduct and who have paid a steep price.

Harvey Weinstein, a powerful Hollywood movie producer, was accused of sexual assault in October 2017, for harassing young female stars over a period of many years. He would invite them and insist they come up to his hotel room while he would often times appear naked, be in the bathtub and insisted they join him or massage him while he was naked. Frequently, if they refused, he would resort to rape. They often felt their jobs were dependent on their acquiescence. Furthermore, many women felt their future roles were in jeopardy if they rejected his sexual advances, yet many did. His case is presently pending and his attorneys are trying to get his case dismissed on the grounds of consensual behavior. In spite of his attorneys current pleas of claims of conscentuality, the judge refused to dismiss his case as of today, December 20, 2018, and it is still pending.

Charlie Rose, broadcast journalist Television host, has been fired from CBS News and PBS on November 21 after reports of sexual misconduct by eight women who worked for Rose or tried to work for him. The unwanted sexual advances included lewd phone calls, walking around naked in front of them and groping. One women said Rose repeatedly described his fantasies of watching her swimming naked in the pool at his home (Warren & Lane, 2017).

CBS announced its termination of Rose’s employment the day after publication of The Post’s report (Warren & Lane, 2017).

“Despite Charlie’s important journalistic contribution to our news division, there is absolutely nothing more important, in this or any organization, than ensuring a safe, professional workplace – a supportive environment where people feel they can do their best work,” CBS News president David Rhodes said in a statement. “We need to be such a place” (Warren & Lane, 2017).

​The most outrageous case was that of, DR. Larry Nassar, Olympic doctor was allegedly accused by over 100 girls and women athletes, Olympic medalist and female gymnast for molestation starting in their teen years. This inappropriate behavior continued for almost two decades, even though it was reported to the sports authority many times. Despite their reports, the board of committee took no action. Larry Nassar ultimately plead guilty, and was sentenced to up to 175 years in prison for the abuses. Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told him: “I just signed your death warrant.”

​Bill O’Reilly, 67, Fox News’ most popular host, was ousted by parent company 21st Century Fox, after working there for nearly two decades. The firing followed a New York times investigation that uncovered $13 million in settlements paid out to five women in exchange for keeping silent and not pursuing litigation regarding allegations of sexual harassment (Pirani, 2017).

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