During the fiscal year of 2011, according to the equal employment opportunity commission, approximately eleven-thousand three-hundred and sixty-four sexual harassment charges were filed with the EEOC, the states and local fair employment practices agencies in America. Approximately sixteen percent of these complaints were filed by males. Twelve-thousand and five hundred seventy-one of the cases were resolved (Sexual Harassment Charges, EEOC & FEPAs Combined: FY 1997-FY2011).
Considerable information has been written and recorded about lawful and ethical issues in the workplace during recent years. Litigation regarding sexual harassment has dominated the media with lawsuits ranging from corporate settlements, political abdication, military defamations and educator versus student complaints. Numerous settlements have resulted in collapsed careers, hefty monetary settlements, distressed families, and provocative alterations in legislation. This paper will explore the case situations involving what has been deemed as alleged sexual harassment of an employee with the Propmore Corporation. The author will provide the final decision involving the situations.
The background concerning this situation occurred during a business luncheon. It involved an alleged sexual harassment incident with a buyer who is an employee with the Propmore Corporation and a sales representative who is a supplier with the Airgood Corporation. The sales representative allegedly made sexual assertions and proposals during the luncheon. The buyer found the comments to be obnoxious and inappropriate. The sales representative attempted to dilute the situation indicating that the remarks were in jest. During the return back to the office, more comments were made to include unforeseen physical touching where the buyer balked. Upon arriving at the company from the luncheon, the sales representative was ashamed and attempted to make amends. The buyer entered the office prior to the atonement. As a result, the buyer reported the incident to the Purchasing Manager and insisted that Airgood Corporation be withdrawn from consideration as a bidder for the raw material contract. The Buyer further insisted that the President of Airgood be advised of the rude and unlawful actions of the alleged sales representative. The Buyer considered litigation against her Purchasing Manager through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for sexual harassment. The Buyer stated that she would pursue litigation against Propmore Corporation for neglecting to safeguard her from injustice while fulfilling her work obligations as an employee of the company (Anderson 2-4).
The business ethics center on a supplier who engaged in unlawful behavior. There is a Propmore company policy in the area of sexual harassment. The policy is entitled HR-13 and ethical issues relate to the violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII. The purpose of the corporate policy is to inform employees that the company prohibits practices of sexual harassment in the workplace and disciplinary consequences will be invoked against those who infringe upon the policy. However, the alleged sales representative was not employed by Propmore; therefore the corporate policy does not apply based on the language written the policy. In terms of the legal issues, according to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical contact of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when (1) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual’s employment, (2) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment” (EEOC Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII).
The Title VII principles consist of “an employer, employment agency, joint apprenticeship committee or labor organization (hereinafter collectively referred to as ‘employer’) is responsible for its acts and those of its agents and supervisory employees with respect to sexual harassment regardless of whether the employer knew or should have known of their occurrence” (EEOC Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII). This implies that if the supplier is listed in the contract agreement as a joint labor organization, then Airgood Corporation would be held liable. This law does not “prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision such as being fired or demoted” (EEOC Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII). This implies that given the incident with the Buyer is an isolated incident, it does not warrant further investigation or litigation.
The stakeholders are the employees of Propmore Corporation. This consists of the Buyer who issued the complaint, the Purchasing Manager who received the complaint, the human resources team, the legal team, Division General Manager, and the Corporate Vice-President of Procurement. Additional stakeholders consist of the sales representative with Airgood Corporation along with the executive and management team, this includes the President and the legal team. The company reputation and the loss of a potential raw material contract are at stake. Companies have to deal with many pressures in their competitive environments, plus those exercised by stakeholders. The stakeholders with the potential to successfully meet business needs will be perceived as critical to benefits of the organization. This will result in their concerns and issues being proactively acknowledged (Jawahar, et al. 410).
The final decision made by the author is based on the corporate policy, stating that those who wish to report violations of Policy HR-13 shall file a written grievance with their immediate supervisors within two weeks of the alleged violation. In conjunction with the legal department, the supervisor will investigate the alleged violation and issue his or her decision based upon the findings of this investigation within thirty days of receiving the written grievance. The buyer reported the incident to her immediate supervisor and threatened to lodge a complaint with the EEO. The employee should be instructed to file a written grievance. This is the first step in the process. It is always best to follow the procedures outlined in the company policy.
While thinking of the best approach and how I was going to make the decision. I kept in mind that is important to remain objective. Although my personal opinion about the situation did enter into the equation, such as maybe the buyer was overreacting to the comments made by the sales representative. After all she could have expressed her intolerance more assertively to the sales representative. I tried to place myself in the shoes of the Purchasing Manager who had an excellent reputation and rapport with his employees. Given this, the only alternative is to play by the rules.
This meant to review and follow the company policy regardless of my personal opinions about the situation. The facts important were that an employee issued a complaint against a supplier as a result of a luncheon where inappropriate comments were made. The next step is to consult with human resources and the legal department to understand the company policy related to the incident of sexual harassment. The company policy applies directly to employees; however, there may be provisions in the contract for suppliers to abide by the same company policy.
My desire was to honor the employee’s complaint and abide by the law. I believe this is the most ethical approach. Sexual harassment is to be taken seriously. The deontologist and utilitarian provide a solid basis for benevolent in concepts that include justice, tasks, and commitments. In comparison, virtue ethics centers on inner circumstances of tendency, mannerism, and a heightened state of personal integrity of the person.
The moral issue in virtue ethics is both the type of action taken and the person that one should become as a result. Virtues are strengths of character that empower people to live as a total and complete moral person. A person of virtue develops the wisdom that is practical. This is the area of decision making that I fall under. Wisdom that is practical provides the knowledge on the timing and right action to implement viewpoints that are moral (Bhuyan, 45).
I believe that my decisions are made with sound judgment and fairness. I took the employee’s complaint about the incident into consideration. Given the fact the employee had ten years with Propmore indicates a strong work ethic of employee loyalty and commitment.
The culture within a corporation should encourage employees to think precariously about every decision and action each workday. Employees should also take into consideration at all times what is ethical and how their actions and behavior would portray the type of person they embody and the consequences of their decisions or actions with colleagues and the community as a whole. These inquiries are more sustainable than internal company standards and the corporate code of conduct. The advantage is the protection of company and the industry. Attempting to avoid litigation is not the same as engaging in ethical behavior and not the ideal way to alleviate provisions (Sockell).
Anderson, Arthur & CO. The Propmore Corporation Case Management. 1991.
Bhuyan, Nisigandha. The Role of Character in Ethical Decision-Making. The Journal of Value Inquiry 41.1. 2007. 45.
EEOC Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII. U. S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Laws, Regulations and Guidance, Statutes. Web.
Jawahar, I. M.; Mclaughlin, Gary. Toward a Descriptive Stakeholder Theory: An Organizational Life Cycle Approach. Academy of Management Review 26.3. Jul. 2001.
Sexual Harassment Charges, EEOC & U.S. FEPAs Combined: FY 1997-FY2011. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Web.
Sockell, Donna. Learning to Do the Right Thing Right Here, Right Now. Business Ethics. Web. 10 Jan. 2013.