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Sexual Harassment as a Communication Phenomenon






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

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Slide 1

Sexual Harassment as a Communication Phenomenon

Creating Understanding as a Basis for Prevention

Slide 2

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

Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07

Slide 3

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

Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07

Slide 4

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

Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07

Slide 5

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

Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07

Slide 6

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

Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07

Slide 7

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

Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07

Slide 8

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

Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07

Slide 9

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

Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07

Slide 10

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?

Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07

Slide 11

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

Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07

Slide 12

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

Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07

Slide 13

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

Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07

Slide 14

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.”

  • Prof. Nick Burnett, ComS 103, Sec. 11-18, F07

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