Sexual Harassment as a Growing Ethical and Legal Concern for Businesses Today

High-profile sexual harassment scandals, such as allegations against Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein of the Weinstein Company, and Bill O’Reilly and Roger Aisles of Fox News, are changing the landscape of workplace sexual harassment claims and litigation. 

Conduct a roundtable discussion (in person, web conference, or via e-mail, text, etc.) with your Learning Team members regarding sexual harassment as a growing ethical and legal concern for businesses today. Each Learning Team member must be prepared to discuss each topic. Assign a group moderator to keep the discussions on track. Your discussion should last at least 45 minutes to one hour and include the following:

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  • Define sexual harassment and discuss applicable law (such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964). How does the state law in your state address sexual harassment?
  • Discuss a recent sexual harassment claim in the news and whether media coverage is beneficial or detrimental to reporting and reducing sexual harassment claims in the workplace. Should sexual harassment claims be addressed publicly or handled privately?
  • Explain the ethical and legal considerations of a business protecting its employees (the accuser, the accused, and other employees in the company) while a workplace sexual harassment investigation is underway. Does your answer change if the allegation is a widely known scandal-making front page news?
  • Compare the sexual harassment liability of a business entity that is a sole proprietorship with an entity that is a corporation.
  • Recommend risk management procedures a business can implement to avoid or reduce sexual harassment claims from occurring in the workplace.

Sample Answers

Define sexual harassment and discuss applicable law (such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964).

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII applies to employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and to labor organizations, as well as to the federal government.

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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.

Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances, including but not limited to the following:

  • The victim as well as the harasser may be a woman or a man. The victim does not have to be of the opposite sex.
  • The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, an agent of the employer, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or a non-employee.
  • The victim does not have to be the person harassed but could be anyone affected by the offensive conduct.
  • Unlawful sexual harassment may occur without economic injury to or discharge of the victim.
  • The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.

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It is helpful for the victim to inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. The victim should use any employer complaint mechanism or grievance system available.  (“Facts About Sexual Harrassment”, n.d.)

How does the state law in your state address sexual harassment?

The Florida Civil Rights Act prohibits employment practices that discriminate based on sex, pregnancy, or marital status (FL Stat. Sec. 760.01 et seq.). Sexual harassment is considered a form of unlawful sex discrimination. The Act covers public and private employers with 15 or more employees. (“Florida Sexual Harrassment”, 2018)

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Discuss a recent sexual harassment claim in the news and whether media coverage is beneficial or detrimental to reporting and reducing sexual harassment claims in the workplace. Should sexual harassment claims be addressed publicly or handled privately?

The Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment claim that has been in the news a lot and along with the “me too” movement has prompted companies to take a look at how harassment is handled within the work place. People must stand up and let management know it is not okay as well as the companies having strict punishment for the type of behavior. I think publicly announced is good. The offender needs to be known for this unwanted behavior as well as being publicly shamed for it.

Explain the ethical and legal considerations of a business protecting its employees (the accuser, the accused, and other employees in the company) while a workplace sexual harassment investigation is underway.

The ethical and legal of a business protecting the employee in which was harassed Is very important. The person does not need to be harassed by any other people or employees. I think keeping everything quiet while investigating and no names mentioned until needed will protect all involved. No need to make the accuser guilty until innocent because you cannot take words back once said.

Does your answer change if the allegation is a widely known scandal-making front page news?

If the scandal is brought to front page news then I sure hope that they have most of the facts behind the case in order. I am not one to judge off the first site of news. I also think that if money is involved some jump on the bandwagon to get paid or publicity.

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