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Misplaced Affections: Discharge for Sexual Harassment
The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC), the regulatory and oversight body against workplace discrimination, appreciates that sexual feelings are part of human beings and, hence, inherent to group dynamics that are bound to arise at the workplace (Snell & Bohlander, 2012). However, feelings of attraction and affection do not always develop mutually between two people. Therefore, there is a need to have standard guidelines that dictate how people should behave in case of such an attraction, especially when the interest is only one-sided. Hence, the definition of sexual harassment arises.
Title VII of the Civil rights Act defines sexual harassment as conducts or advances of a sexual nature in a work setting that are unwelcome and amount to either adverse interference in their performance therein or turning the work environment offensive or hostile. This wide definition captures a vast range of activities. Title VII is only applied to firms with over 15 workers but state laws determine the right procedures for smaller organizations. The Title divided sexual harassment into two divisions, namely quid pro quo harassment and hostile work environment (Snell & Bohlander, 2012).
Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that is translated as this for that. As the name suggests, the EEOC defines this type of harassment as the situation in which a sexual favor, typically by a superior, is set as the condition that an employee must meet to retain or advance in their job (FindLaw, 2013). A claim of this class of sexual harassment is valid based on an instance of misconduct. A hostile environment, on the other hand, occurs when an employee engages in unwelcome gender-based behavior, innuendos, or advances of a sexual nature, whether physically or verbally, towards a fellow employee based on gender that is pervasive enough to compromise the performance of the victim within the working environment. For a claim to be qualified as sexual harassment of this class, it must occur repeatedly.
In the case study, the conduct of Peter Lewiston was clearly unwelcome from the perspective of Beverly Gilbury as she had no interest in a person whom she perceived only as a nice lonely older man. Tilbury made this clear to Lewiston when she explained to him that she was happily married and they were mere friends. The conduct of Lewiston that amounts to harassment towards Gilbury were of both verbal and physical nature as evidenced by his expression that he was fond of her in combination with the attempt that he made to lay a hand on her at the parking garage. The conduct was also based on the victim's gender as it was a romantic interest that sparked it as Lewiston admitted in his purported apology. The conduct of Lewiston towards his female co-worker was repeated since it ran from 2007 to 2008 when he sent more than one letter and flowers to the teacher. All these activities made the working environment so hostile for Gilbury that she expressed her concern and feelings of discomfort to a colleague. Additionally, she became upset after her last encounter with Lewiston on 8, 2008. On this evidence, the behavior of Lewiston meets the criteria to qualify as sexual harassment that created a hostile environment for Ms. Gilbury.
The EEOC states that, given the intertwinement of the various types of relations as people interact between themselves, it is not as simple as taking into account the claims of one side in a case. Instead, the evidence must be examined not just as a separate one, but rather in the context of the circumstances under which the claimed harassment occurred (EEOC, 2010). Two important issues that are worth warrant consideration in weighing the evidence in a case that involves sexual harassment are namely the intent and the impact of the said acts of harassment (Bar-David, 2016). The intent or intention of an action is the end situation that the initiator of an act hopes to achieve with a given deed or statement. The impact, on the other hand, is the actual effect that a particular act or statement has on the person on its receiving end. The two steps taken in solving a case of harassment are assessing the situation to establish whether any harassment took place and then determine what the consequences of the action should be. In the first step, the impact is the most important factor while intent only counts in the second step.
It is possible to view the case involving Lewiston and Gilbury through the lens of the two steps. In line with the specified steps above, the ensuing exchanges between Lewiston and Gilbury did amount to harassment towards the victim. By this, the adverse impact of the perpetrator's acts was felt. Such a kind of harassment a hostile environment is more sensitive to the context than quid pro quo. For instance, a friend could have delivered a card and flowers to Gilbury without any intention of pursuing a romantic engagement, and her interpretation of the same would have been different. Also, the incident at the parking lot where Lewiston attempted to place his hand on Gilbury could have been different. He claimed that he just wanted to pat the latter's shoulder but the act only increased the feelings of harassment that Gilbury felt since the last had persistently expressed romantic interest. The intent, then, informed the interpretation of the deed and compounded the feelings of harassment. Therefore, given its significance, Lewiston's intents should be considered in deciding the harassment case.
Under Title VII, consequences should occur on two levels in any case involving sexual harassment, namely the individual and organizational levels (EEOC, 2010). The organizational level consequences depend on whether the organization had any liability in facilitating the perpetuation of sexual harassment. According to the EEOC, Title VII is only applied to organizations that have more than fifteen employees. Therefore, this is the first thing that should be set out to determine (2010). If the company does not meet the threshold for subjection to Title VII, I would not investigate them since I would have no mandate being an EEOC officer. However, if the company has fifteen or more employees, I would launch an investigation into the involvement of the employer. The two people involved in the case are coworkers and, hence, the employer is only liable if he or she had knowledge of the events and did not take immediate corrective action. The employer took more than a month to respond to the claim, and I would launch an investigation into whether the response was prompt enough. If not, I would take corrective action to ensure that the employer responds to claims promptly in the future and eliminates any hostility in the work environment.
On the part of the reported assailant, I would conduct an immediate independent investigation of the chain of events to determine whether they are guilty or not, in line with the recommended by the EEOC. This would test if the actions were gender-based, physical or verbal, the frequency of their occurrence, and whether they were unwelcome (FindLaw, 2013). According to the account of events that are presented in the case study, the actions of Mr. Lewiston meet the threshold for sexual harassment of both physical and verbal nature. Therefore, my conclusion would be that he is guilty of the said crimes and, hence, due for punishment. To create a conducive environment for Gilbury and all other female workers in the future, I would uphold the termination of Lewiston's employment as affected by his employers.
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