It should be a no-brainer that sexual harassment is immoral and has no justification in the workplace — or anywhere else, for that matter. However, apparently, it’s not, and the person guilty of harassment may not even be punished for it.
The frequency of sexual harassment at work is high. How high depends on definitions. However, the proportion of employed women being harassed ranges from 44% to 81% depending the definition chosen.(2) Even 44% is absurdly high. Verbal abuse is more common than physical contact, but that’s no excuse for the numbers.
A study by researchers at Michigan State University found that when arbitration is used to resolve employee complaints, 48% of the time the person guilty of harassment retains his job and may suffer no punishment at all.
That’s most likely the outcome when a company doesn’t have a statement regarding harassment in its formal work rules and employee manual. Arbiters will tend to go by the written rules, and lacking written guidance, can reinstate employees who have been terminated for harassment.
“I believe that arbitration is a fair process and can be effective, but I’m a firm believer in consequences,” Hickox [one of the principal researchers] said. “You can train people on harassment until they’re blue in the face, but until there are clearer, more stringent policies from employers, the issue will continue.” (1)
So, if you’re job-hunting and might be a potential target of harassment (female, gay, minority, whatever), you need to know whether your future employer has a clear written policy banning it.