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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace and Complaint Procedure


Sexual harassment refers to a form of discrimination that is directed towards a person because of his or her sex i.e. being a male or female. This form of discrimination is a serious manifestation of the power differences that exists between the person who experiences harassment and the perpetrator of the violence. (Francis, 2001) Since the perpetrator is higher in the power hierarchy than the victim he knows that it will be very difficult for the victim to seek redress because more often than not the perpetrator may be sitting in the disciplinary committee in the institution where such act takes place.

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Sexual harassment includes: unwelcome sexual advances such as touching someone’s sensitive body parts e.g. buttocks and breasts, request for sexual favors such as a boss requesting a night out with his or her assistant and verbal comments which are unwelcome to the victim. These acts count as sexual harassment only when they creates an unconducive working environment thereby affecting employees productivity especially on the area of performance of the employee. More often than not sexual harassment creates a very intimidating, hostile or an offensive work environment and this kind of environment gives the employee a lot of psychological problems. (Francis, 2001) Since the world is increasingly becoming gender polarized it is important to deal and eliminate all forms of sexual harassment either in working environment or in any other area and this calls for a very good policy to address this problem. A policy entails various procedures which will be the main body of this essay.


Sexual harassment can only be tackled effectively by making sure that all the necessary steps needed to prevent it from occurring in the workplace are in place. Therefore the onus rests squarely on the employer who is supposed to take necessary step to prevent sexual harassment from occurring. This starts by informing their employees the companies stand on sexual harassment, defining it to them and then putting in place necessary mechanisms of addressing the problem when it occurs. The employer then sets out to put a formal effective policy that clearly establishes an effective complainant process that is not biased at all. The process should also be carried out immediately once an employee launches complaint.

Once a person encounters sexual harassment the first action should be directed to the perpetrator. In this case the victim informs the perpetrator or the harasser that his/her conduct is not welcome and should be stopped immediately. After this the victim then proceeds to the institution to launch a formal complaint. This event should follow one another immediately because failure to do so makes it more difficult to establish the facts of a case and the harasser may continue with his/her uncouth behavior. Once the victim has launched complaint the rest is left to the company which follows its stringent rules as they are outlined in its sexual harassment policy in order to deal with the harasser categorically. To begin with the policy must fully address the confidentiality of the victim and later on confidentiality should be supplemented by an assurance. [Facts About sexual Harassment].

Confidentiality is all about the protection of the privacy of a person and in our case the privacy of both the harasser and the victim has to be taken care of at all time. This also goes all the way to ensure that both parties involved in the case are treated fairy meaning that justice is done to both parties. The privacy of a person is protected by ensuring that their names and all the information that relates to their case is not disclosed to the public and to their fellow employees. Once all the information is collected it should only be handed by the people who are directly dealing with the case until the case is concluded. For example, the university of Alabama sexual harassment policy stipulates that ‘information about individual complaints and their disposition is considered confidential and will be shared only on a “need to know” basis.’

Assurance against retaliation should also be part and parcel of the policy. Assurance means that the victim has confidence in the process and at the end of the day justice shall take its course therefore making it easier for the victim and the harasser to express their opinions on the issue freely. Retaliation on the other hand means that the victim or the harasser may take law on his hand and deal with the harasser or the complainant respectively. This is a very dangerous problem solving mechanism and thus it should be avoided by ensuring that the victim and the harasser are separated until the case is concluded. [Facts About sexual Harassment].

Assurance against retaliation should also exclude actions such as sacking the victim if he/she is very persistent with the case or other stiff measures both to the victim and the perpetrator of harassment. The policy should also put it clearly the disciplinary action that is to be taken on an employee who participates in such an act. The policy should also guard against malicious and evil-minded people who may accuse others without a good reason with a sole intention of destroying their integrity or settling personal scores. In such a case if the evidence table in the case proves such a motive the complainant should be dealt with accordingly.

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Reporting channels should also be included in the policy. This is important because in most cases the victim is in a lower rank compared to the harasser as I had indicated earlier on. The reporting channel should be constituted in such a manner that is fair to all the parties in a case. This means that the victim’s justice will be addressed fully regardless of the position or the title the harasser hold in an organization. Therefore the rules and regulations that establish such a policy in an organization should protect the integrity of the reporting channels as well as giving them power to summon anyone to appear in their hearings without taking into consideration a person title in the organization. This can also be supplemented by the country laws dealing with sexual harassment. This will be a good way of ensuring that there are no sacred cows when it comes to tackling sexual harassment in our workplaces.

The policy should give a clear guideline on the procedures for handling complaints of sexual harassment. These guidelines can be divided into two groups. On the first group we have informal procedures while on the second group we have formal procedures. The procedure to be followed is chosen by the victim because he/she is the one who is seeking justice. However, a procedure may be chosen by the victim with the aid of a complainant receiving official who is experienced in handling similar cases although here the informed consent of the victim is sought first and this decision should be arrived at without coercion. Turning on to the informal procedures, it is important to note that the problem is addressed without following all the stipulated policies in the company or in the institution code of conduct.

The victim may decide to talk to the harasser and they agree on a solution between themselves then the case is settled and the harasser has to stop his/her unwelcome behaviors forthwith. A mediator may also be involved and his work is only to facilitate the talk between the two parties in order to resolve their misunderstanding. The victim and the harasser have to agree on who to choose as a mediator and once the case is over the mediator has to maintain confidentiality. This is a very effective way of solving a problem as long as the two parties are committed since it is not time-consuming and it restores confidence as well as trust between the two parties. However, the procedure is prone to manipulation thus losing its credibility in the society.

The formal procedure is the most efficient way of addressing a problem in our society today. Formal procedure requires well-written down information which is then examined and re-examined before a verdict is given. Thus the victim has to fill in a complainant form and take it back to the complainant receiving officer. After this the officer launches investigation in order to get all the information that is needed before a disciplinary committee sits down to decide the case. During the case proceedings all the information is recorded and later on a record of the decision is forwarded to the authority in order to act on the recommendations made by the committee. All the documents have to be kept in locked places in order to enhance confidentiality of the parties involved in the case. Once the recommendations of the inquiry committee are available then the necessary disciplinary sanctions are used in order to punish the guilty party.

Once the sexual harassment policy is in place the only remaining bit is to implement it in order to prevent occurrence of harassment in the workplace. Implementation of the policy is carried out by the heads of the company and they have to do few things in order to make a policy materialize and become a successful story. The company or institution heads must ensure that their sexual –harassment policy is communicated on regular basis to the employees. This can be done through giving notices to the employees and discussing the issue in various meetings where employees are in attendance. [Sexual Harassment policy].

During recruitment exercises the new employees should be given a copy of the company’s sexual harassment policy and they should sign it. This is one of the effective ways of preventing sexual harassment because the new employees have higher chances of being harassed sexually because they are new in the company and other employees may take this as an advantage. Long-serving employees should also be given reminders on the policy frequently probably every time they are renewing their contracts. Employers should continually be putting memos on the notice board as a reminder to all the employees that sexual harassment is not condoned in the institution. At the same time it is important to incorporate employees in policy formulation so that they can feel that they belong and they are appreciated by the company. [How to create an effective sexual –harassment policy].


In conclusion, it is clear that sexual harassment occurs because of the power differences that exist between employees as well as between the employer and the employee. It can also result from the patriarchal system in the society whereby men are more dominant than women therefore making men feel more superior to women. If this is the case then women are likely to be harassed by their fellow male colleagues in their work place. Every institution should therefore develop a policy which will ensure that all forms of sexual harassments are eliminated in the workplace in order to create conducive environment which will make the employees deliver.

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Such a policy should be written down and it should start by defining sexual harassment. Then it should highlight all the human rights that guards against harassment as well as indicating the liabilities that a perpetrator of the same is liable of. Procedures to be followed when dealing with a related case should also be provided as well as the guidelines on how to report the harassment. Finally since this is a policy which is geared toward checking the behaviors of human beings the employees should be represented in the committee that is drafting the policy.


Facts About sexual Harassment. 2008. Web.

Francis, L. P. (2001): Sexual Harassment as an Ethical Issue in Academic Life. Rowman and little field publisher.

How to create an effective sexual –harassment policy. 2001. Web.

Sexual Harassment policy. 2008. Web.

Supplement to Part A for for Wider Dissemination. Sexual Harassment Policy Coordinators. 2008. Web.

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