Sexual harassment is a complex phenomenon that encompasses behaviors extending from unwanted flirtatious behavior to assault. It involves men and women, their perceptions and their behavior, as well as the social and cultural norms of society. Adding to its complexity, the reported incidence is based on how sexual harassment is defined - depending on the definition, surveys have estimated that 25 to 90 percent of working women have been victimized and, although the law protects both men and women from such behavior, 90 to 95 percent of all reported incidents involve female complainants.
WHY SHOULD ORGANIZATIONS BE CONCERNED ABOUT SEXUAL HARASSMENT?
In the 1987 Supreme Court of Canada case Robichaud v. The Queen, the decision was given that employers are potentially liable for the actions of their employees and that "only an employer can remedy undesirable effects; only an employer can provide the most important remedy - a healthy work environment."
With this decision, the responsibility of responding to sexual harassment in a proactive manner was given to organizations. Given this, as well as the potential for costly litigation, negative public reaction to sexual harassment charges, and significant economic court decisions, it is not surprising that sexual harassment is being viewed by organizations as an issue that needs to be addressed quickly and effectively.
Continuing attention on sexual harassment complaints have forced organizations to take a serious look at their efforts to address the issue of how to manage complaints of power and gender-bias in the workplace.
Questions being asked include:
• If an organization does have a sexual harassment policy, is it effective?
• Does the policy clearly state a definition of sexual harassment?
• Does it reflect adequate and clear procedures for dealing with complaints?
• Are resolution recommendations outlined?
• Are procedures in place for disseminating pertinent information to employees?
THE COST OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT
Sexual harassment is costly to an employer in many ways:
• Court costs, e.g. lawyer fees, back pay or other economic awards
• Loss of executive time
• Adverse publicity
• Increasing number of law suits
• Downward spiral of low morale, reduced productivity, and decreased job performance
• Estimated yearly cost to Canadian industry, directly attributed to sexual harassment, is over $189 million
Sexual harassment is costly to the employee:
• Physical and emotional stress
• High turnover rates
• Job safety issues
IT IS IN AN ORGANIZATION'S BEST INTERESTS TO HAVE AN EFFECTIVE POLICY AND A FULLY INFORMED WORKFORCE
Let us aid you in achieving a healthy work environment.
Some Myths about Sexual Harassment
• Sexual harassment only occurs to females and the perpetrator is always their male boss.
While sexual harassment occurs predominantly to females, males do encounter the phenomenon as well.
Further, sexual harassment can occur between peers, by customers or clients, or by union representatives.
• Sexual harassment only happens to young, beautiful women.
Sexual harassment is not about sex, it is about power.
• Sexual harassment is the complainant's fault - if only they had acted differently, or had a sense of humor, etc.
Traditional thinking blames the victim - myths range from the idea that women 'ask for it' by dressing
provocatively, to women initiating sexual liaisons in order to 'get ahead'. These myths are not supported in a court of law.
The firm of Fong Ailon is a group of independent Registered Psychologists offering a wide range of professional counseling and assessment services.
• Comprehensive assessments including clinical interviews, collateral interviews and standardized psychological testing
• Educational/awareness sessions
• Crisis intervention provided on-site (critical incident stress debriefings)
• General awareness – lectures, seminars, workshops, casual group discussions
• Investigatory procedures – supervisory / human resources training
• Provision of new or revised sexual harassment policies
• Policy implementation strategies
• Consultation on or provision of investigations