Sexual Harassment as a Communication Phenomenon
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Sexual Harassment as a Communication Phenomenon

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Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07. Sexual Harrassment. EEOC definition--unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature if 1) submission is made a condition of employment, 2) submission to or rejection of conduct is the basis for
Sexual Harassment as a Communication Phenomenon

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1. Sexual Harassment as a Communication Phenomenon Creating Understanding as a Basis for Prevention

2. Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07 Sexual Harrassment EEOC definition--unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature if 1) submission is made a condition of employment, 2) submission to or rejection of conduct is the basis for an employment decision, or 3) the conduct seriously affects an employee?s work performance or creates a hostile, intimidating, or offensive work environment

3. Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07 Sources for Sexual Harassment Law Title VII of Civil Rights Act of 1964 Title IX of the Higher Education Reauthorization Act of 1972 Fair Employment and Housing Act (California) AB 1825 effective 1/1/05?all supervisors in companies w/ 50 or more employees must be given interactive SH training at least once every 2 yrs and within 6 months of a promotion

4. Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07 Types of Sexual Harassment Quid Pro Quo--offering a reward or threatening punishment in return for sexual favors Hostile environment--sexually suggestive, intimidating, or offensive conditions Typical targets--college educated women under 35 working in predominantly male work areas

5. Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07 Sexual Harassment as Communication Can be verbal or nonverbal May result from differing communication styles (Tannen) May result from an expression of power in relationships May result from attempts at intimate interpersonal relationships in the workplace

6. Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07 Dealing with Sexual Harassment: Victim Strategies If you believe the conduct is wrong, say so. Tell the perpetrator in clear terms that the conduct is inappropriate Report the incident following workplace procedures Document incidents in written form If witnesses are present, have them verify the details of the incident

7. Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07 Organizational Responses to Sexual Harassment Charges Take the complaint seriously, listen carefully Conduct an investigation (outsourcing?) Maintain objectivity, be sympathetic but don?t make promises of action prior to investigation Suspend judgment--perpetrators have rights too Have a policy in place and follow it

8. Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07 Beware of retaliation! Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway v. White (2006) 9-0 decision Retaliation exists if a reasonable person would have been deterred from reporting the offense Designed to broaden protection for workers and dramatically decreases the flexibility of organizations to respond to workers who file harassment complaints

9. Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07 Sexual Harassment Policies for Organizations Zero tolerance--commitment from the top Make punishment consistent with the behavior--don?t specify first offense penalty Consistent enforcement, same rules for all Multiple reporting options Can?t cover it just once, need updates Organizations with a cultural of accepting upward communication will be more successful at preventing SH

10. Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07 Solomon and Williams Sexual Harassment Study Vast majority of SH is hostile environment type--social-sexual communication often the key (sexual and relational advances) 1/3 of all relations people have are initiated in the workplace Highlights the importance of third party observations in cases of SH?but, what factors influence third party observations?

11. Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07 Solomon and Williams cont. Distinguishing romantic interest and sexual harassment perception of constrained behavior perceived desirability of sexual advances Study results Explicit advances seen as more constraining than implicit (ambiguous) ones Supervisor?s behavior is more likely to be seen as harassing than peer or subordinates

12. Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07 Solomon and Williams Study Perceived severity of SH increases with the position power of the message initiator Attractiveness related to perceived SH unattractive men are more likely than attractive men to be perceived as harassers individuals charged with sexually harassing attractive targets are more likely to be found guilty with harassing than when targets are less attractive persons

13. Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07 Solomon and Williams cont. Gender differences in harassment: social-sexual communication initiated by males is seen as more constraining than females Males are more likely to welcome social-sexual communication. Women view it as more explicit and harassing Females initiating social sexual communication were seen as less harassing than if the same messages were initiated by males

14. Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07 Solomon and Williams, conclude Observer sex as key to perceptions of SH women: are more negative on org. romances, view SH as more of a problem, show less tolerance for harassing behavior males: more likely to view women as complicit ?Sexual harassment should be understood in terms of the power structures and gendered positions of males and females, which shape the meaning of social-sexual communication at work.?


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