Sexual harassment, work relationships often misguided

Sept. 2, 2013

Taylor Eaton
teaton2@uccs.edu

There will never be a happy medium when it comes to sexual harassment or workplace relationships. Management seems to overlook the serious situations while employees tend to exaggerate what they perceive as sexual harassment. Either way, someone is having a bad time.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the number of sexual harassment cases has fallen from 15,889 in 1997 to the last recorded total in 2011 with 11,364 cases reported.

The decrease in sexual harassment cases could attest to the lack of reporting or the misconception of the definition of sexual harassment.

According to Merriam-Webster Online, sexual harassment is defined as “uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate (as an employee or student).” But at what point does harmless flirting become sexual harassment?

Though I can laugh about it now, there was a time when I had to sit down with Human Resources at my job because management perceived my friendly flirting with a coworker as sexual harassment.

My coworker was more than willing to come to my aid and help get me out of a sticky situation. It was still a hassle for management to put me through the wringer because they saw me as a threat to a male coworker.

There are times, though, when I have seen coworkers at the end of a serious sexual harassment case. Those seem to never go unreported, nor should they go unreported.

Better guidelines need to be put in place for employees of every business so everyone can determine what is and is not sexual harassment. Misguided information is what helps put coworkers behind bars or face extreme fines.

Workplace relationships are different from sexual harassment cases. Although some can see a fine line between what is appropriate or not appropriate for a workplace relationship, a company should not ban workplace relationships unless it is under certain circumstances.

Careerbuilder.com reports that nearly one third of coworkers who have participated in a workplace relationship have married their coworker.

The workplace often helps push coworkers together by working closely during projects or late work nights. It is no wonder that coworkers often fall in love when they have to work so closely together.

If two people find each other or love at work, no one has the right to stop or interrupt their happiness unless they are being unprofessional.

Unless the two people are consistently interrupting the workplace or partaking in sexual activities while at work, Human Resources should not pursue punishments or termination.