Case: Power Plays at Work
Recent research shows that more than 30 percent of female workers in the United States have been harassed at work—virtually all of them by men. Forty-three percent identified the male harasser as a supervisor, 27 percent as an employee senior to them, and 19 percent as a coworker at the same level. In 2012 (the last year for which there is complete data), nearly 13,000 charges of sexual harassment were filed with the EEOC, 84 percent of them by women.
Why does sexual harassment (mostly of women) occur in the workplace? “Power,” says researcher Debbie Dougherty, who conducted a study in conjunction with a large Midwestern health care organization. “It was the common answer. It came up repeatedly,” says Dougherty, a specialist in communications and power in organizations. She also found that men and women understand the idea of power differently, and that difference in understanding may play an important part in the persistence of harassing behavior in the workplace:
For most men, power is something that belongs to superiors—managers and supervisors who can harass because they possess the power to do so. By definition, a male coworker cannot actually harass a female coworker who’s at the same level because he doesn’t possess sufficient power over her.
Women, on the other hand, see power as something that can be introduced into a relationship as it develops; it’s something more than the mere formal authority built into the superior’s job description. Harassment can be initiated by anyone who’s able to create the perception of power.
1. In light of the research discussed in this case, in your opinion, how should sexual harassment be punished?
2. What laws relate most closely to sexual harassment?
3. What legal protection, if any, should exist to protect an innocent individual from false charges of sexual harassment?
4. How might sexual harassment relate to bullying?
Power Plays at Work. Review the information on this
What legal protection, if any, should exist to protect an innocent individual from false charges of sexual harassment?
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