Sexual Harassment Over Time

721 words | 3 page(s)

In 1968, a woman such as Molly who received unwanted sexual attention at the workplace had few options to address the situation. After 1964, she would have been able to point to Public Low 88-352, Section 703 which makes it unlawful for an employer to “fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual, or otherwise to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions or privileges or employment, because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” However, her ability to actually take her case to court would have been significantly limited and she would likely lose her job as a result.

She would have had to prove the actions of her co-worker represented a form of discrimination based on her sex in regards to the terms and conditions of her employment. If she has to work with this man and she has to be officed right next door to him to where his comments are constantly overheard and make an impression on her other co-workers, this could potentially impair her ability to do her job adequately and could limit her potential within the workplace. And she would have had to do most of this on her own dime as there was not yet much help available to bring these types of cases to court as the EEOC was largely ineffective in this regard.

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Molly could have also opted to turn to the National Organization of Women (NOW). This organization was founded in 1966 specifically to address the issues women were facing in the workplace that the government was not addressing. This group did make it a point to help individual women such as Molly fight sexual harassment lawsuits in the courts (Collins, 2009; p. 165-168), even though they didn’t yet have a term such as ‘sexual harassment’ to refer to when discussing the type of discrimination they were facing and trying to explain why it was so harmful (Kimmel, 1998).

The other big option Molly had in 1968 was to give in to the harassment. She could do this in one of two ways. There are several reports of how women in the 1960s would often give in to the harassment, give the men what they wanted, and then use that to secure additional pay and/or job security (Ronny Kat, 2009). If they were lucky, they had a ‘protector’ at the workplace who would step in and stop the harassment for them, but this would always necessarily be another man if he were to carry the authority needed to get the other guy to shut up.

These protector men would often then take up their own positions of ownership over the women they protected. The second way in which Molly could have given in to the harassment was to leave her job. However, as a single mom trying to support two young children, it would have been difficult for her to do this as she was likely being paid much lower than men at the same level of employment so she would not have had much savings and it would have been difficult for her to find another job in which harassment was not a part of the equation.

By 2005, some of the laws that might have protected Molly in 1968 had been strengthened, giving her a better chance of achieving a more favorable outcome. For example, in 1998-99, the EEOC strengthened their definitions of protected class citizens, such as women in the workplace, and took a more proactive approach to protecting women like Molly from the type of discrimination seen in this case (Teaching with Documents, 2014). In the 21st century, Molly would be able to turn directly to the EEOC for help in addressing this issue, they would provide her with an attorney, and her company could be sued for failure to properly train its employees and address the issue more proactively when Molly reported it.

Thanks to the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Molly would even be able to collect monetary damages for the company’s failure to stop this man from making his comments. She could force the employer to provide training to the entire staff of the workplace to discourage sexual harassment and to inform the women of their rights and her job would be protected against any kind of retribution for having taken these actions.

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