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When an employee is subjected to unwanted sexual advances or comments by a co-worker or an employer, we say that the employee is experiencing sexual harassment. In some workplaces, sexual harassment is a serious problem.
In its most blatant form, a boss may demand sexual favours from an employee and threaten to fire the employee if she fails to comply.
Similarly, the employer might promise a promotion or raise in exchange for some sexual favor.
Whenever an employer uses the prospect of reward or punishment as a way of obtaining sexual access to an employee, sexual harassment has occurred.
This is not the only form of sexual harassment.
Sometimes, an employee may be subjected to demeaning comments by her employer or co-worker.
For example, a boss might make vulgar comments about the physical appearance of the employee.
Another example is that a co-worker might make remarks that speculate about the sexual behaviour of the employee.
In both of these cases, the employee is treated disrespectfully on the basis of her sex, so both cases would represent sexual harassment.
Some forms of sexual harassment are more subtle.
If a group of workers exchanges offensive jokes of a sexual nature, in such a way that they can be easily overheard by other workers, then this is also a form of sexual harassment.
Similarly, if workers post pornographic pictures in their workplace, in such a way that they can be seen by other workers, then this also represents sexual harassment.
In both cases, the workplace becomes an environment in which the employee is made to feel uncomfortable because of her sex.
Sexual harassment usually involves a female employee who is being bothered by a male employer or co-worker.
In some cases, a woman might sexually harass a man, or one person might sexually harass another person of the same sex.
However, these cases are not as common.
Also, in some cases, the person who commits sexual harassment is not a boss or co-worker, but a customer or a visitor to the workplace.
Sexual harassment is a form of intimidation and abuse of power that causes much stress for many employees.
In recent years, many steps have been taken to reduce the occurrence of sexual harassment.
Educational campaigns have been designed to teach people that sexual harassment is wrong.
Stronger penalties for sexual harassment have been introduced.
Another way to reduce the prevalence of sexual harassment is to develop a culture of
respect in the workplace.
People need to be aware of how their jokes or comments might be perceived by others, and to imagine how they would feel if one of their relatives were subjected to sexual harassment.
Employers and employees must recognize that sexual harassment is a serious concern and treat potential cases of sexual harassment very seriously.
Each company should have clear policies about sexual harassment, and each should establish a fair and efficient process for dealing with complaints of this kind.
In this way, the workplace can be a comfortable environment for all persons.