Ethics and Sexual Harassment: why is it Wrong
As we know, ethics “is the study of choices people make regarding right or wrong” (Ruggiero, page 2). Every person has different opinions, driven by their morals, values, and beliefs, about different things. This makes it hard to distinguish a line between what is right and what is wrong in the world. Opinions are formed by social influence. Your parents, peers, teachers, churches, and communities all affect the way you think about certain things. There is always a counterargument to anything you believe. If I had a belief that something was wrong, there will always be multiple people believing it’s right, and also multiple people with a whole other outlook to it. One claim that will always be difficult for anyone to rebut is that fact that sexual harassment is always wrong, in any case. In class, we were challenged to find a moral belief that could be ultimately be universal. Mr. Huft was able to play devil’s advocate to every suggestion, but when the topic of sexual harassment was brought up it was harder to think of a response.
According to the U.S. Equal Employee Opportunity Commission (EEOC), sexual harassment can include unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature. “The majority of women—66 percent—said they’d been sexually harassed in public spaces…38 percent of women said they experienced sexual harassment at the workplace” (NPR, 2017). There are two main types of sexual harassment in the workplace: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo, or in Latin “this for that”, means exactly how it sounds. It involves giving an incentive in exchange for receiving some sexual favor. It only occurs between a person of power and a subordinate. An example would be a boss promoting a woman if she did something sexual for or with him. Another example would be a boss firing an employer if they do not have sex with them.
This is obviously never acceptable even if you consent because it creates unfairness to every other employee. Hostile work environment harassment is defined by the Legal Dictionary is “unwelcome or offensive behavior in the workplace, which causes one or more employees to feel uncomfortable, scared, or intimidated in their place of employment.” Examples can include sexual comments and inappropriate touching or staring. Hostile work environment is sometimes hard to catch. An action must be pervasive, severe, discriminatory, and unwelcome. Excessive complimenting can be an example of creating a hostile work environment.
Someone might argue that there is nothing wrong with a compliment, which I would agree, but there is a difference between complimenting a person and sexually harassing them. A compliment should make someone feel good about themselves, not make them uncomfortable in any way. How are you supposed to know whether you are making someone feel uncomfortable or not? If they don’t say a negative comment out loud, body language and facial expressions will distinguish if your action is unwelcomed.
An example could be someone rolling their eyes, walking away, and grunting. This is a gray area because not everyone interprets body language in the same way. It is best to keep yourself educated. This relates to ethics because you might not think what you’re doing or saying is wrong, but to the other person, they could feel completely violated. This will cost you your job. It is never okay to make someone feel uncomfortable because they have the right to be respected and not be sexualized in any way. In most recent times, multiple allegations of Harvey Weinstein committing quid pro quo emerged in October of 2017. He has been accused by dozens of actresses and women who he worked with of multiple sexual harassment conduct.
This scandal was not under looked by the media and completely blew up. It even started the Me Too Movement, where hundreds of thousands of people were motivated to share their experiences with sexual harassment. Many companies received hundreds of complaints by employees. Working women were acting in hectic behaviors, trying to accuse any man of harassment, whether it was right or wrong. Some cases were false accusations, while some were true and were brought to light. Though not always the case, this type of behavior has created a caustic relationship between men and women in the workplace.
In all, sexual harassment is one major problem that will never be ethical. It could never be acceptable in any circumstances. It violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that states no employee should be discriminated based on his sex or gender. Men and women may have a different understanding on what constitutes as sexual harassment but as long as an action is unwelcomed by the other person, it is considered sexual harassment. Sexual harassment demoralizes hardworking employees and causes them to be inconsistent in their work. This unfairness should never be acceptable no matter who you are or what your status is.