by Lauralee Grizzaffi and Christine Rosenwasser. This essay is based on interviews with representatives from the aerospace and biomedical industries and compares sexual harassment policies within each industry as well as across industries.
Author(s): Lauralee Grizzaffi & Christine Rosenwasser
This paper compares the sexual harassment policies of various companies in corporate America, mainly from the biomedical and the aerospace industry. This comparison is made by analyzing the avenues that employees have within a company to bring forth their concerns, the presence or absence of a sexual harassment policy within the company, the company's method of informing their employees of their policy (if it exists), and the overall suggested outcomes from a scenario that focused on a subtle case of sexual harassment. In general, it was found that the biomedical and aerospace companies have a similar range of types of harassment policies. However, each industry presents attitudes and opinions that were not apparent in the opposite industry. These similarities and differences are brought to light and expanded upon in this paper.
In discussing our hopes for the 2.95 project, we both realized that our concerns were similar. Thus, instead of dividing up the effort, we decided to come together and formulate a report that would encompass a variety of companies, specifically companies from the biomedical and the aerospace fields. This gives us a greater opportunity to compare and contrast the similarities and the differences in the sexual harassment policies in corporate America.
Due to the increasing concern of females in male dominated professions, we decided to create a scenario which would focus on sexual harassment in the workplace. Our first goal was to find out and compare how different companies act on the concerns that are brought forth in their company, especially concerns relating to sexual harassment. The scenario we made was a rather subtle case, thus, the second goal was to see if a company officer could handle such a subtle concern. The third goal was to compare the different actions taken by companies upon both parties involved in a case of sexual harassment. The fourth goal was to determine whether there was an existing policy on sexual harassment in companies and if so, how the companies go about informing their employees of the policy.
The report proceeds with a copy of the scenario and the questions that were posed to the companies. Then, a listing of the companies and the people that were interviewed is given, followed by summaries of the various responses to the scenario questions. Finally, comparisons are made internally within the same company (more than one person from a company or more than one division of a company) and externally between the two fields interviewed, the biomedical industry and the aerospace industry.
A new hire in your company, a young female college recruit, begins a new engineering assignment. She is somewhat reserved and shy, but works effectively in and out of group situations.
A male colleague has been asking her why she isn't more friendly to him and to other co-workers. Occasionally, he puts his arm on her shoulder as he questions her. She has always politely taken his arm off her shoulder when he confronted her in this manner, and gave other clear signals indicating her intention of keeping a working relationship. His behavior does not cease. She remains in an uncomfortable position, but does not know how to change the situation.
The goals of our project were to determine how different companies act on the concerns that are brought forth in their company, especially concerns relating to sexual harassment, in order to see if a company officer can handle a subtle case, and in order to compare the different actions taken by companies upon both parties involved a case of sexual harassment.
To accomplish our goals, we carefully formulated the following questions.
Because Chris is interested in pursuing a career in the biomedical field and Lauralee is interested in aerospace technology, it was decided that each of us would contact companies in our related fields.
Chris interviewed the following people:
Company A: Vice President of Human Resources (Person A);
Company A: R & D Engineer (Person A-2);
Company B-1: Vice President of Employee Relations (Person B-1)
Company B-2: Plant Manager (Person B-2);
Company C: EEO Coordinator (Person C);
Lauralee interviewed the following people:
Company D: Supervisor of Employee Relations (Person D);
Company E: Personnel Manager (Person E);
Company F: Equal Employment Opportunity Manager (Person F);
Company F-2: Labor Relations Manager of four plants (Person F-2).
Company A is a health care company and Person A is the Vice President of Human Resources. When presented with our scenario, Person A's first comment was that a new employee does not know the culture of the company. Current employees who do know that culture benefit from the familiarity, and have a "feeling" about what to do when faced with a situation such as the one outlined in our scenario. The new employee should act as quickly as possible to prevent the situation from escalating. There are two vehicles in the company for pursuing a solution to a problem like this one. She could speak with her immediate supervisor or with the Human Resources representative that is assigned to her group. In the case of a new employee, she may choose to speak with the person or persons who conducted her interview if she feels more comfortable doing so. An orientation coordinator is another option for this employee.
Person A pointed out that he was probably the last person to find out about such cases in the company. This may indicate that whatever harassment cases that arise are dealt with at lower levels in the company. This should not be the case; the Vice-President should be aware of at least some of the cases that are brought to light in his department. It seems that he should have an awareness, because of his position, of at least a few of the situations that his staff may come across. He claimed that most of the cases are dealt with inside the departments or through the human resources staff.
We discussed the differences between their corporate headquarters and the plant locations. He pointed out that these two cultures are very different. He didn't know of any sexual harassment cases in the plants. At the salaried level, he pointed out, there was no sexual harassment. A specific case that he did point out, though, was that a woman was offended because of some raunchy jokes that were told in her presence. Her dissatisfaction with the situation was communicated clearly to the persons involved, and the behavior stopped.
Much of what happens when someone is sexually harassed is merely bad judgment. The example of the jokes being told in front of a female employee is one example.
At Company A, there is a harassment policy. However, he does not think it is communicated very well. This is an area that he "is working on." The present policy is a general harassment policy, concerning race, color, creed, and sex. It does not specifically concern sexual harassment issues. He said he is in the process of separating the sexual harassment policies from the other policies, but the process is not complete.
According to Person A, the "picture is changing" in the workplace since women have entered the workforce.
The meaning of this was unclear; it is uncertain whether he meant that the fabric of the employee pool was changing, or that the attitudes were changing. I was told that at Company A there were always many women because of the nature of the healthcare business, and that over 50% of the sales force is female. Several of the women are ex-nurses, so they bring a special expertise to what they are doing in the corporation. "Our product line attracts more females."
Person A pointed out that many women cry sexual harassment or discrimination when they are fired for poor work performance. The laws that protect women may be used against the company for the wrong reasons. The equal opportunity law is used indiscriminately by people who are not good performers.
Company A does not seem to take sexual harassment seriously. There is a denial of these situations ever occurring, especially on the corporate level. There is very little effort made to convey to employees the harassment policy that is on the books at Company A. Person A made it obvious to me that the employees probably were not aware of the policy, and that it was not well advertised. I did not see any evidence that a serious effort was being made to create such a policy, and Person A did not view sexual harassment as a problem to be immediately addressed. His reasons for this, I think, were that there were already many women working at Company A, and that he believed sexual harassment could not possibly be a problem at the corporate level. He seemed to be more concerned with the fact that incompetent female employees use discrimination as a vehicle against the company.
Person A-2 is a Research and Development Engineer in Company A. Person A-2 said, when I presented the general topic of sexual harassment, that she has never experienced it. Since she is in the R & D department, though, she has "always been with men" and maybe she has "gotten used to" being with men and may not notice a level of sexual harassment that other women may notice. When asked what a woman should do when faced with a situation such as the one presented in the scenario, she replied that "it depends." If the harassment problem was with a coworker, the woman could go to her direct supervisor if she has a good relationship with and can depend on this particular person. She then relayed a situation concerning a new European male employee. She said that this man treated her in an inferior manner. They were partners on a project, and he basically left her with all of the work. The two did not get along at all, and she was very frustrated with the fact that she had to deal with all of the work most of the time. She felt that he had no respect for women, and that she was expected to be his slave. Person A-2 dealt with this case herself, and confronted the man directly and tactfully. She could not stop his behavior, and their supervisor dealt with the problem by not assigning the two to the same project. She pointed out that a sexual harassment situation that involves a direct supervisor could be taken to the human resources department. She was not certain of a good way to handle this type of harassment. She would need to trust someone very much to tell them of a case like this. A woman could tell a supervisor two or three levels upward, but she stressed that it was imperative that she trust the person with whom she was to speak.
Person A-2 had a similar opinion to Person A, the VP of human resources, in that she felt that some people "cry wolf" too much. This hurts everyone, because a serious situation may not be dealt with effectively. There may be an attitude of "here's another one complaining again," and the situation may be ignored.
Another point that we discussed was the composition of the various departments at Company A. Most of the employees in marketing and 50% of the employees in R & D were women; however, most of the management in R & D was male.
The company's policies concerning harassment are not well-publicized at all . She said that an employee should find out who they are comfortable with and speak with them. Person A-2 stated that she had never experienced or heard of a sexual harassment case since she had been at Company A, and she felt that "things move smoothly and well from the top."
Company B-1 is also a health care company and Person B is the Vice-President of Employee Relations. The first thing that a woman should do when she has experienced what she perceives as sexual harassment is to relay clear signals to the harasser that his actions are unwelcome. If these clear signals do not work, then she should go to human resources and speak to a representative. The harassee should talk with a representative and decide what kind of action they would like human resources to take concerning the case. The department has a checklist they review with the employee, and confidentiality is maintained throughout the investigation.
It is necessary to give the offending party time to react. Sometimes this person may not be aware that he is being offensive to a woman. If he is informed that he is being offensive, he will probably stop the behavior. This information is conveyed to the harassee by a one-on-one conversation; however, this method is not always successful.
The situation may not always be "clean," that is, the situation may be more complicated. In one case, a relationship between two employees had gone sour, and the woman cried sexual harassment. It is important to get all of the information before jumping to conclusions. If the alleged person continuously harasses even after being warned, he is immediately terminated. There are letters sent out annually to the employees of Company B-1 that define the harassment policy. The policy points out that Company B-1 should provide an intimidation-free environment. Person B-1 said that the company is not at all tolerant of sexual harassment in the workplace. Any employee that does not abide by these standards is terminated; however, it is often a difficult challenge to sort through what has happened in a harassment situation.
Person B-1 related another "cry wolf" situation. An employee was anticipating a bad review, and claimed that her supervisor was harassing her. If the harassment actions can be verified, certain steps are taken. The person that is alleged to be doing the harassing is confronted, and the company position concerning sexual harassment is conveyed to the employee. The person may be given some time to correct his actions. If his behavior does not change, then the employee is terminated. This termination policy is blind to how high-ranking the accused person is in the company.
The policy that Person B-1's department follows is an open-door policy. Employees can come in at any time and discuss problems that they may be having in the workplace. It is possible to "vent" a frustration or a problem without taking action. Initiation of the process does not require that a written letter to be distributed. If a case is brought to the human resources department, and the harassed person would like to take action, one course is a letter to the harasser. This letter contains information that reminds the person of what courses of action could be taken by Company B-1 because of his behavior. A copy of the letter is sent to the human resources department and to the supervisor of the accused person.
The "culture" of Company B-1 is one that is intimidation-free. The employees are educated about what avenues they could explore if they are in a difficult situation. He stressed that sexual harassment cases are the most difficult to resolve. It is extremely important that the cases are very carefully explored and that all the facts are known before action is taken.
When a person comes to him with a situation that he thinks is illegal, he feels obligated to take action. The option of not taking action in a clearly illegal case is not an option, and the possible actions that could be taken are discussed with the offended employee. Whatever information that is conveyed to him by an employee is kept completely confidential. It is difficult to see how confidentiality can be assured once the person decides to take action against the harasser. Person B was adamant about the fact that Company B-1 had a very clear and stringent policy concerning sexual harassment, and that measures are taken immediately as soon as all of the facts are known. He did focus on specific cases that were "cry wolf" cases, and he did not actually bring up a "real" case of sexual harassment. It is interesting to note that both of the health care companies determined that "cry wolf" cases were very prominent in their companies.
Person B-2 is the Plant Manager of a subsidiary company of Company B. Person B-2 said that the scenario I conveyed to him was a realistic one, and that cases of sexual harassment like that happened every day. It is important to determine how the male makes the female feel. Does the woman feel threatened, intimidated, or uncomfortable? If any woman makes a sexual harassment complaint, it is acted upon. In some cases, the offending person may be counseled, or in unmanageable cases, be terminated immediately. He suggests that the woman speak immediately to someone about her concerns. If the situation is not "nipped in the bud," it may continue and become worse.
A woman should be aggressive, and let the harasser know how she feels about his behavior. Some women may feel confident enough to speak to the person directly. She may say to the man, "if you don't stop, I'll report you." Often, that alone is enough to prevent the harassment from continuing. Real harassment is when the man has some sort of control or power. A salary increase or promotion may be on the line, and a man may threaten his female employee that if she does not comply, she will lose her job.
The minute a woman feels uncomfortable, she should speak to someone about the problem. She could speak to Person B-2 directly, to the Employee Relations department, to her direct supervisor, or with whomever else she feels comfortable.
The employees learn through what channels to voice their concerns approximately two months after they have started working for the company. New hire orientation takes place at this time, after the employees have become acclimated to their new environment. The orientation includes information about benefits and compensation, the exercise program, as well as the harassment policy that is conveyed through workshops. This harassment policy includes a paragraph about sexual harassment.
Person B-2 said that he does things quite differently from his colleagues in the same or similar positions. Once someone comes to him with a complaint, he takes a detailed statement himself that "satisfies all questions," and sends it to employee relations. Once the details are known, the person is immediately terminated or suspended. The vice-president of his department is brought into the decision, as well as human resources. Sometimes counseling is given to the offender instead of suspension. If the person has a record and circumstances that warrant it, he is immediately terminated. However, enough information is needed so that the company will not be sued, and the truth of the situation must be uncovered before any action may be taken.
Person B-2 said he relies greatly upon the investigative instinct he developed while he was a member of the police force. This is a great asset in helping him determine who is actually telling the truth.
Person B-2 interpreted whatever message that I had left as the possible beginning of a sexual harassment case or complaint. It was difficult for us to touch base for a few days, and we left messages. Even when I did not return his phone calls, he called once a day until I finally reached him. He indicated that he did not find me on the employee list, but that if I was having a problem with one of the employees at the plant, he would definitely want to speak with me. He continuously tried to contact me, and left very complete, explanatory, supportive, and encouraging messages on my answering machine. He was eager to discover what the problem was, yet he was very professional. Person B-2 takes his position very seriously, and hopes to address immediately any sexual harassment cases that may be occurring.
The first comment that Person C made concerning the scenario was that a shy woman would probably not have taken the initiative to remove the man's arm from her shoulder. The rest of the conversation took on a question-and-answer tone, rather than becoming a conversation. Person C waited for my questions, rather than expanding upon the topic and discussing the issues.
When asked how long a woman should wait before voicing her concerns, Person C said "it depends." If Person C learns about the case and determines that sexual harassment has occurred, then she will take immediate action. If a woman "tolerates the norm," for example, dirty jokes, the timing of the complaint can be debated. There are training programs to help managers and employees decide when immediate action is required. These training sessions include role plays, so that company members have a feeling for what sexual harassment encompasses. Person C said that videos are not used in their training sessions because they inject policy issues into the discussion that are not the policies of the company. Company C has their own policy, and does not want the videos to influence the employees away from it. Information about this policy is spread through employee orientation and training, as well as advertised on bulletin board within the company. Training occurs semi-annually for all employees.
The usual channel for voicing sexual harassment grievances is through the harassee's supervisor. If the supervisor is doing the harassing, then the female employee could speak to a manager a few levels above her supervisor, or talk to a Human Relations representative.
A case that is extremely serious may be referred to Person C. Once a case "hits my desk," as Person C said, immediate, official action will be taken. Cases are usually resolved at the lower levels of her department. She pointed out that a case that reaches her is probably extremely serious or one that could not be resolved. Possible solutions to a sexual harassment case include moving an employee, a warning voiced by the harassee's manager, or dismissal. Different situations warrant different solutions.
The sexual harassment policy at Company C has been in place for eight or nine years, and it is a fact that the employees are more aware of this policy than the managers may think. There have been no cases of sexual harassment since she had come to the company 1 1/2 years ago, possibly because the employees were so well-educated about the policy.
Person D is the supervisor of employee relations at a leading aerospace company (Company D). He was recommended by the company safety officer. When asked to be interviewed, he was very enthusiastic and seemed as if he would be very cooperative. The scenario was posed to him at the time of the first phone call, i.e., no interview time needed to be set. After the scenario was read, he was asked how long the female should wait before bringing forth her concerns. He said that she should raise the issue immediately. "Hands-on" anywhere on the body is not tolerated at Company D. If a female were to have such a problem, she should contact her superior, whether it be her boss, or someone higher up. Her superior will then call employee relations and they will handle the situation first-hand with the female. If her boss is the person who is doing the harassing, then she should register a complaint with employee relations directly. The employee relations staff are the people who investigate all sexual harassment cases. Whomever the female wishes to contact concerning her problem, she should do so by telephoning for an appointment.
Company D could respond to a case of sexual harassment immediately. Harassment is of first concern at the company. A good analogy made by Person D was if someone was caught stealing something very vital, they would immediately be arrested. This is the case in Company D, if someone is accused of harassment, they will immediately be investigated. The person that is usually in charge of a harassment case in the company is one particular female, since the majority of cases are brought up by females. However, he did mention that all types of cases are brought out in his company -- males sexually harassing females, females sexually harassing males, males sexually harassing males and females sexually harassing females, although the latter three are few in number.
Company D has a written policy on sexual harassment as part of their "Personnel Policy and Procedures" booklet that has been given out to all people on a management level since December 19, 1986. It explains what should be done if a case of sexual harassment is brought forth, along with methods of handling sick leave, retirement, and other employee concerns. Employees are not given a copy of this booklet. At this time the staff in employee relations is working on a pamphlet that will be distributed to employees. However, Person D does not see the need for this because he feels confident that everyone at the company is informed of the current sexual harassment policy. The only people that he sees the pamphlet benefiting are the new employees. Company D did hold a harassment seminar last year. Attending this seminar were people on management levels, employees, and an outside speaker. There was a panel discussion in which a medical doctor was also a member. It was a very successful event that attracted about 1,000 people. In addition, there is a half hour class on the topic of harassment that is available upon request (people do request it every once in a while, he added).
When asked what decision Person D saw being made in the situation, he began to explain the "levels of warning" that are present at Company D. If a person does something wrong in the company, he/she will first be given an oral warning. If the person's actions continue, he/she will then be given a written warning. Finally, if actions are still continued, the person will be issued a final written warning and will possibly be asked to terminate his/her position. Company D feels that sexual harassment is important enough that the two former levels of warning can be bypassed and a person who takes part in sexual harassment will be automatically issued a final letter of warning. In the situation mentioned in the scenario, the gentleman will be cautioned about his actions in the form of a final written warning and will be asked to keep a working relationship with the female.
A typical sexual harassment case that occurs in Company D is when a male supervisor and a female subordinate agree to have a relationship. When the relationship ends on bad terms, the female begins to question the professional actions of the supervisor. She complains about almost anything-not getting promoted, not getting the assignment she desires, not getting the raise she deserves. She then brings up a case of sexual harassment against her supervisor. Person D informed me that he was handling such a case that very day. The woman brought her claims to employee relations and the case was investigated. There are a few possible outcomes, which depend on the particular details of the case at hand. One possibility is that the female could be transferred. However, this solution is not always ideal because the female may begin to complain that she was not the guilty one, her supervisor was, so therefore, since she enjoys her current job, she should be allowed to stay there and he should be moved. A second possibility is that the supervisor is relieved of his duties. A third possibility is if the supervisor is planning to retire soon, his retirement process will be sped up, thus forcing his employment to be terminated at any earlier date than was initially planned.
When asked if he could recommend the name of a female employee that the scenario could be posed to, Person D said he would ask around and find out if anyone would like to volunteer. He did not want to directly give me someone's name because he felt that was violating their rights, which is understandable. He never got back to me with a name.
Overall, Person D was very nice and cooperative. He was eager and robust in his responses. He seemed very sincere and he did not seem to be holding back any vital information.
Person E is the personnel manager in a leading aerospace company (Company E). When explained the elements of the scenario and the purpose of the questions, she seemed very friendly and willing to help. A time was set up so that she could be interviewed. When the interview began, the scenario was read to her. Immediately proceeding the scenario, the question of how long the female should wait before bringing forth her concerns was posed. She immediately responded with, "Her concerns should be brought forth that very day, there is no toleration period for such an act!" She seemed very upset and angry about the scenario. By the tone in her voice I felt that the rest of the interview would not proceed as smoothly as planned.
The aim at Company E is to have a "business-like/professional" environment. Even though the scenario that was read was a subtle case, Person E wanted to emphasize how that type or any other type of sexual harassment never happens at her company since it would never be tolerated. However, if it were to happen, by some chance, the female should immediately contact her boss. If her boss is the gentleman mentioned in the scenario, i.e., the person who harasses, she should then speak to someone in human resources. Whomever she decides to speak to, she should try to make direct contact by possibly calling and setting up an appointment to speak to the person. It did not seem as if there was someone who was directly in charge of sexual harassment in Company E. If a female has such a problem, she should speak to "someone" in human resources-very vague.
When asked how quickly the company could respond to the situation, she was unable to put a time limit on it. She said there are thousands of employees at the company and it is very hard to meet the concerns of everyone in a short amount of time. However, she again emphasized that sexual harassment or discrimination of any kind is not to be tolerated in the workplace. Company E does not have an official policy to handle a case of sexual harassment. There are no workshops or even a pamphlet explaining a policy.
The decision that she saw being made in the scenario was the gentleman being reprimanded and a possible change of assignment for the female. When asked if she could give an example of a sexual harassment case brought out in the company, she responded with a "No!" Again she emphasized that Company E has a professional environment and such a thing would not happen at her company. Before Person E could be asked to recommend a female worker to interview, she dismissed the scenario and hung up the phone.
Overall, Person E seemed very distraught about the scenario and the questions. As the interview progressed, she seemed to become more and more nervous and shaken by the questions. She was assured that neither her name nor her company's name would be used in a public presentation of the paper, however, this did not seem to ease her mind. There is speculation as to why she responded the way she did. Perhaps she did not believe the reassurance that was given to her and felt that she was giving away vital company secrets. Another possibility was that she too was a victim of sexual harassment and did not find any avenue in her company to take to remedy her concerns. Whatever it may be, her behavior was very appalling.
Person F-1 is the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) manager at a space systems research company. Although Person F-1 was very busy, she agreed to be interviewed. She felt that the female in the scenario should bring forth her concerns immediately. The female should not have to deal with such a situation. She should bring her concerns to her supervisor, and if her supervisor is the one committing sexual harassment, she should go, in person, to the Human Resources office (the office where Person F-1 works). Person F-l would then immediately investigate the case and advise the gentleman that such behavior is not allowed in Company F-1. His actions must then cease. If they persist, the gentleman will be asked to leave the company. At no time will the female be asked to change assignments, since she is not the person that is doing any wrong.
Company F-1 has a written policy on sexual harassment distributed to the employees through a "handguide" booklet. The supervisors receive a copy of the policy in the "Policy and Procedures" booklet. The policy explains what should be done if a sexual harassment case arises. The written policy has been instituted as long as Person F-1 could remember (she has been at the Company F-1 for 13 years). To provide additional information, Company F-1 holds training seminars for the employees in which they share information on the company's feelings about sexual harassment in the workplace. At these seminars, it is made a point to define what sexual harassment is, just in case people do not realize that any time they are placed in an "uncomfortable"position, they may be victims of sexual harassment.
When Person F-1 was asked if she could give an example of a sexual harassment case, she said that was confidential information that could not be shared with people outside of the company. She also could not give the name of a female engineer since that too was confidential.
Overall, Person F-1 was very nice and helpful, although she was brief in her discussion. She was the ideal person to speak to in the company because she is the person who handles the cases directly. If anyone would know about the company's policy and procedures on the topic of sexual harassment, she would.
Person F-2 is the labor relations manager of other divisions of Company F-2. There are four different plants of Company F-2 in her area, and she is the labor relations manager for all of them. In this "second" division of Company F (which will be called Company F-2), if a female is placed in the situation described in the scenario, her concerns should be brought, as soon as possible, to her supervisor. If her supervisor is the gentleman committing the harassing, she should contact a person in the human resources office in her plant. They will then investigate the case. The investigator should respond immediately to the concerns of the female. He/she should be sure to document the incident in the employee's file and to contact the labor relations office. The investigator will talk to the male, in the absence of the female, to give the male a chance to explain his side of the story. Person F-2 felt that many times behavior that may seem like sexual harassment to one person, may only be an act of friendliness on the part of the other person. In a sexual harassment case, there is a lot of room for interpretation and there are many avenues that can be taken in solving a case. Whatever the matter may be, the male should be spoken to and warned that if his actions persist, his assignment may be changed or his employment may be terminated. The decision made on the case will be dependent on the degree of harassment. A person's assignment may be changed in a lesser case. At no time will the female be forced to change assignments since she was not the one that committed the act. In an extreme case, such as a stronghold being placed on a person and sexual favors requested, the harasser will be "canned."
Company F-2 has a written policy on sexual harassment that is made available to the employees by being placed in a three-ring binder called "Factory Policy." Managers are made aware of the policy through their "Policy and Procedures" booklet. In this booklet, sexual harassment is defined and the procedure on handling such a case is given. Company F-2 has had a sexual harassment policy since 1984. A few years ago, sexual harassment was "in vogue," says Person F-2. There were many articles printed in the company's newsletter, which made the employees aware of the policy that was present.
Company F-2 has also held a few seminars for supervisors which explained what sexual harassment was and how to handle a case that is brought to them. This is vital because the supervisors, for the most part, are the ones that, due to the company's large size (15-18,000 employees), do the investigating.
Person F-2 gave me two examples of sexual harassment cases that were brought out in her company. The first occurred between a salaried female employee and an unionized hourly employee. Salaried employees are, for example, the engineers and the R & D assistants. Hourly employees occupy the service-oriented positions such as the maintenance workers, the cooks, etc. The female complained that the hourly employee always moved items on her desk and he often left her candy bars. She went to his supervisor and filed a case of harassment. For this particular case, there was a question of the female's credibility. The supervisor did not believe that his worker was committing such acts; nevertheless, the supervisor investigated the case. The male was called into the supervisor's office and told that the harassment must cease. The actions were immediately stopped after that.
The second case occurred between two hourly employees, both of whom were married to their respective spouses. The female brought a sexual harassment case to her supervisor. She complained that the male was overly friendly to her and she did not like it. The strange part of this case is that the woman accepted gifts from the male and she too was friendly to him. The male even visited her in her home a few times (with her husband present). However, she still claimed that he was harassing her. Since this case was out of the ordinary, the supervisor called both the male and the female into his office at the same time. The male claimed that he and the female were good friends and he was just acting the way he would act toward a good friend. As the supervisor did not take this case seriously, he did not document it. The female did not appreciate this, so she brought the case to the state. The court ruled that Company F-2 did not take the proper actions. Thus Company F-2 lost the case. At this time Company F-2 enforces that all cases must be documented, no matter how menial they may seem. After the case was over, the female went on sick leave and to this day she is still out on sick leave. The male moved to another plant.
Overall, Person F-2 was very nice and helpful. Although she gave me a lot of information on the policy and good thorough examples, she did seem to be withdrawn from direct contact with employees. There is speculation as to how many of the cases she herself actually handles due to the fact that there are so many employees and that most of the investigations are done by the supervisors or the human resources office in the particular plants. Also, when she was asked if she could give the name of a female engineer or R & D assistant that works in the company, she responded with, "I don't even know an engineer that works here." If she was heavily involved with the investigations, she would have to know some engineers, unless cases are never brought up by them, which is extremely doubtful. She said she would call around and try to find someone who would know of a female engineer who would be willing to volunteer. I never received a return phone call from her.
Both Persons A and A-2 mentioned situations where sexual harassment policies were used against the companies for personal gain. Both of the representatives gave the impression that harassment policies were often abused by employees and used to achieve their own ends, and that the policies, more often that not, were used against the company. The fact that over 50% of the company employees were women, and, because of this, there were probably very few cases of sexual harassment in the company. Person A-2 stressed the fact that an employee must be able to trust the person to whom they speak about a sexual harassment case. Person A gave a number of avenues for a harassed female to pursue, but did not mention trust.
In the aerospace industry, interviews were conducted between two different branches of Company F-1, the Space Systems Research branch and the main headquarters. It was found that in both branches, employees should bring their sexual harassment concerns to their supervisor or to the EEO manager. However, Company F-2 emphasized that the cases should be documented in the employee's file. Person F-1 was the EEO manager and she seemed to have a great deal of direct contact with the employees and their concerns. On the other hand, even though person F-2 was the Labor Relations Manager, she seemed to be more withdrawn from direct interaction with the employees. The reason for this has to do with the fact that she is the Labor Relations Manager for four plants of Company F-2 that are located in the same general vicinity. Thus, she generally does not handle the cases, but she lets the supervisor or the human resources office in the respective plants handle the cases. Both companies possess a written policy; however, the policy has only existed in Company F-2 for six years, whereas it has existed in Company F-1 for more than 13 years. To inform employees of its policy, Company F-1 holds training seminars for employees, whereas Company F-2 only holds training seminars for managers. One would think that a company would be consistent in their methods of "spreading the word," even if they are different branches of the same company. The responses for the overall solutions to the scenario were the same for both divisions, i.e., the male will be told that his behavior is unacceptable and will be asked to leave the company if his behavior persists. Also, at no time will the female be asked to change her assignment, which I thought was a very good stand to take on the matter. The female did nothing wrong so why should she have to suffer for the harasser's actions?
The representatives from Company B, though they were from different departments, conveyed similar messages about their company policy. Sexual harassment is not tolerated in any shape or form in Company B. Employees and managers are aware of the company's policies regarding sexual harassment, and the possible actions that could be taken against a harasser for his actions. In addition, both persons B-l and B-2 pointed out that the alleged harasser be approached, and told how his actions are perceived by the harassee. This is to allow both parties to assess their actions and judgements, and possibly reach a resolution without involving any third parties. The two also stressed that it is extremely important that ALL of the facts about the case be gathered to eliminate the possibility of ulterior motives.
Person B-2 made a distinction between "real harassment" and "harassment." "Real harassment" occurs when the harasser is a woman's manager or superior. The case becomes extremely complicated, and cannot usually be resolved without intervention. He also said that it is important to know how the male makes the female feel. Threatening, intimidating, or uncomfortable situations for a woman may be termed sexual harassment. In contrast, Person B-l stressed the events that surround the harassment, but did not touch upon any feelings that the woman may or may not have concerning the situation
From the interviews that were conducted, it is difficult to make general conclusions about the biomedical and aerospace companies as a whole. However, it is possible to examine trends that were apparent from the interviews.
More aerospace companies recognized that sexual harassment was a distinct possibility in their companies, and the concerns of employees in this area were treated with great seriousness. A majority of the biomedical companies believed that sexual harassment did not occur in their companies for various reasons. It is unrealistic to believe that the biomedical firms do not have any cases of harassment. It is more likely that the cases are resolved before they reach the higher levels of management to which Persons A and C belong. Company C stated that information concerning harassment policy was well-distributed, which may account for the very few cases that have come up in her experience. However, such policies do not remove individual biases and personal tendencies, and it is probably the case that many sexual harassment cases do not reach Person C.
For the most part, the sexual harassment workshops and policies in the aerospace industry are tailored separately for employees and managers, whereas in the biomedical industry, all employees and managers are provided with the same training. The resources that are used to educate the management in the aerospace industries, with little extra cost, could be used to provide the same information to employees as well. Equal treatment and awareness is more effective than preferential training.
All companies in both industries stressed that termination is a distinct possibility for repeated harassers in their companies. This uniformity is encouraging, and it reflects that sexual harassment issues are addressed in each of these companies at least to some extent.
All of the companies interviewed had at least two channels through which employees could voice their sexual harassment concerns. Variations were found in the methods of information dissemination with regard to these pathways, and the specificity of the policy of each company. All of the companies recognized that our scenario was a subtle case of sexual harassment, and that the situation needed to be resolved appropriately. Each company had particular methods and policies regarding sexual harassment. There was not a distinct difference between the two industries with regards to policies and procedures in this area; the resolution of a situation of this kind in each company would probably have a similar outcome. The frequency of the existence of specific sexual harassment policies was similar for both industries.
To determine definitive trends in the differences between the two industries, it would be necessary to conduct more exhaustive surveys and interviews with a number of companies. From this initial study, it is probable that trends between the industries will not appear even in a more exhaustive survey.