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Sexual harassment & Discrimination in the workplace Essay Sample

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Sexual harassment & Discrimination in the workplace Essay Sample

In 1958, California Credit Life Insurance Group was incorporated in Los Angeles. CCLI?s initial product included all types of life insurance. Since its inception, CCLI has expanded its product line to include all types of insurance such as health, automobile, professional liability, pension and retirement programs, commercial packages, and related financial services. CCLI has 15 regional offices and 230 sales representatives. Area sales mangers typically supervise 15 people, a large number but manageable given the nature of the selling job. The sales reps work independently and do not need day-to-day supervision or contact with their area sales managers.

Area sales managers have hiring authority and can set base salaries with approval from CCLI. During the course of a year, each employee receives two performance evaluations. The performance is also based on meeting their quotas, which are set by the area sales manager based on guidelines handed down from Vice President of Sales, and negotiations between the area sales manager and each sales rep. Area sales managers can recognize excellent performance by increasing the base salary and modifying a sales rep?s territory to cover better accounts. Sales reps receive a 3% commission on sales in addition to base salaries. The area sales manager based on sales reps performance distributes yearly bonuses. Promotional opportunities are limited, and turnover among the area sales managers has been very low.

1991, CCLI decided to open an office in the southeastern area of the United States ?as soon as all staffing and physical details could be resolved.? The southeastern region became reality in 1995, with James Bradford selected to be area sales manager. Bradford had been sales rep in the Dallas region and had been selected for the new position based on his excellent sales performance and his strong interpersonal skills. Soon after, it became apparent that Bradford did not wholeheartedly support CCLI?s position concerning equal opportunity. In fact, it became necessary to instruct Bradford that one-third of his sales force would be female, a figure in line with CCLI?s experience in its other regional offices.

Suzette Renoldi, a sales representative from the Southeastern Region, filed a sexual discrimination suit against James Bradford and CCLI. Renoldi asked for territory changes so that her sales opportunities would be greater, (Renoldi’s initial sales performance was strong and made quota each yr, except for the last two yrs.) a request that Bradford denied. Bradford allegedly told Renoldi that her unwillingness to entertain clients, especially males, was the reason her sale had fallen off and not because of a lack of sales potential. Renoldi refuted this accusation and claims Bradford?s territory assignment was discriminatory from the start. This was not the first complaint of sexual discrimination charges brought against Bradford. In 1997, Ilse Riebolt, based on the description of the events had every reason to bring charges against Bradford, but for a variety of reasons declined to pursue the matter.

It seems that CCLI was more concerned on how fast this new branch could open, then on the time required to find the right ?quality? staff members. Bradford?s promotion was based on qualities that are not good determinants of a leader. For managers to be effective leaders, they need to have more than ?good interpersonal skills? and the ?ability to sell?. They need to possess: vision/eloquence/consistency, commitment, informative, willingness to delegate & empower, astute use of power (intelligent use of power) and emotional intelligence (psychological attributes that are not observable from paper i.e. self awareness, self regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills).

In addition, Diane Flanagan, Vice President of Human Resources and Kevin Stark, Vice President of Sales had spent many hours reviewing the results of several reports that described the problems and opportunities experienced by women in sales. The reports came from a variety of sources and were based on one-on-one discussions between women and men in sale and another person. Flanagan and Stark were aware of and wanted to gain a comprehensive understanding of the environment faced by women in sales. Meaning they were aware of a growing problem within CCLI. CCLI prided itself on being an equal opportunity employer, and needs a solution on preventative measures for sexual harassment.

For this problem to be solved and to prevent it from happening again, we came up with a few possible alternatives.

Alternative 1: Expand role of HR department The problem was not only with a few individual employees but also with the company as a whole. Just about every woman in the focus group had some sort of discrimination done against her. They all felt that their male counter parts did not respect them and did not want them there. In order to correct this CCLI is going to need to initiate a variety of company programs that will teach its employees to tolerate others, especially women. This could be done by expanding the role of the Human Resources department, since it is their department goal to create and maintain a suitable workplace for all the employees.

During the process of training new hires a portion of the time would be directed towards the familiarizing of all the types of discrimination, such as sexual discrimination, and making sure all know where the company stands and the repercussions that will be enforced if an employee is caught at fault.

For the rest of the employees that are already with the company they would all need to go through the same program as the new hires. At the end of the program everyone would be notified that if they ever feel any type of discrimination that there is a 1-800 number to report such incidents. These incidents would then be taken and actually dealt with immediately. That way it would send a message that CCLI is serious and not just making blank threats.

Another thing that would make it a better working environment would be to create support groups and provide seminars for women in sales. In these support groups women would meet and talk about what issues they are facing and what the company has done to correct them. Also it would give them a chance to relate to each other and possibly give each other helpful advice. (Not only will CCLI?s employees follow the new programs but also managers would be asked to pass the same programs to customers. This will allow the customers to get accustomed to the companies new policies and where they stand. The reason is that the problem did not only arise from within the company but also with some of its customers, female employees felt discriminated against.) The final part of this alternative would be to conduct full background checks on all employees upon hiring and before any promotions. Along with this annual performance evaluations would be collected from the individual?s boss and subordinates, somewhat of a 360 evaluation. This will ensure that the wrong people are not being put in charge.

The only big drawback to this would be in monetary form. All the money the company would spend on developing and implementing the various programs and also the lost money from employees attending training or sessions.

Alternative 2: Create a formal pay, promotional, and an advancement system During the investigation of a certain regional manager and a focus group meeting it became apparent that some employees felt miss treated and not adequately paid for their work. To resolve this CCLI?s Human Resource department could create a system that figures out formal pay and promotions on an unbiased manner. Under this system an employee would be paid for the actual amount of work they do, the amount of work they do would be figured out by the sales they generated, calling on customers, and their performance evaluation. Their overall performance along with past performance evaluations would be used to figure out which employees would be good to promote and or expand their territory, they can also be used to figure out how much of a bonus an employee will receive. To assure that everyone is being paid adequately a third party will need to oversee.

Another part of this alternative is to enforce the 4/5ths rule, (that is if it applies). The 4/5ths rule was designed for managers to use as a guideline as to whether a selection procedure unfairly discriminates against racial minorities, women, or those ages 40 and older. In the case with the southeastern manager it does apply since only women make such a small part of his sales team.

A drawback to this plan is that it might cause reverse discrimination. The males of the company might feel miss treated and not willing to comply. Instead of creating a suitable environment it might cause a hostile working environment.

Alternative 3: Enhance environment Under this alternative the Human Resource department would create a team in each office and /or department that will promote teamwork building between men and women, and managers. The main portion of this program will be a mentorship. Mentors do not have to be the same sex and they would be there to provide guidance in the work place. The way the mentorship program would work is an employee of high seniority would be partnered up with an employee of lower seniority. The vast experience and knowledge of the mentor would allow the lower employee gain knowledge needed to deal with certain customers.

A few women from the focus group said that this type of cooperative working helped them deal with certain customers. This alternative would be a learning experience for all, not only will the lower seniority employees gain knowledge but you would also be helping the office/ department become a true unit. If different employees are spending time together that normally wouldn?t it would allow them to get know each other and may develop into a respectful professional relationship. It seems that there was a pattern building from the focus group and it was that women felt alienated by the men and vice versa.

For this alternative to be implemented and fully running it would take a long time. The reason would be that if you just partnered up people without any information to go on you run the risk of partnering up the wrong two, these two might be the extremes. All that would do is ruin the program and conflict with productivity. Also training needs to be put into place so people would feel more comfortable and apt to go along.

Solution In sexual harassment cases, like many other crimes involving sex, the burden of proof is unfortunately in the hands of the victim, instead of the harasser. This often makes the victim feel as though the harassment is somehow his/her fault. This reality is detrimental to the victim because it does not validate his/her claim.

First an effective workplace policy should cover a range of areas. It should include a statement that expresses the fact that sexual harassment is intolerable, definitions of sexual harassment and clear examples of behaviors that constitute harassment, how to report incidents of sexual harassment, and what actions will then be taken in response to the reported incident. Second, the company should send a top-down message that sexual harassment will not be tolerated. The most effective policy has common fundamentals, a zero tolerance policy, exactly what actions will be taken for first-time offenses and repeated unacceptable conduct, guidelines on how to report an incident, provide prompt and confidential investigations, make results known, and provide training and monitoring.

Third the company should implement a strict background check on all employees that explores their criminal history (if there is one) and before there are any promotion they should check with supervisors and co-workers to find out if they person in question has had any incidents involving that went unreported. Finally, the company should implement formal and informal problem solving mechanisms, grievance procedures, investigative measures, and disciplinary procedures to resolve sexual harassment complaints. The policy should be included in the employee handbook and posted on bulletin board through out the company. Most company?s today have computer access and should also put the policy on the Intranet site.

When dealing with a unionized workplace, members who experience sexual harassment may file a grievance with the union. Depending on what the agreement states, sexual harassment may violate the collective bargaining agreement and the procedure for a victim who belongs to a union can be different from that of a non-union complainant. Some of the perks of being a union member when faced with harassment are free representation, reception of an arbitration award faster than the awarded damages from proving the case in court, and the process is faster than battling it out in court.

Individual employees can also take action against sexual harassment in their workplaces. If an employee experiences harassment, there are steps he/she can take to try and stop it. Victims should firmly express that the behavior is unwanted, document the harassment incidents, and keep documents of his/her work as proof of satisfactory performance (so the employer cannot allege that the victim was terminated on the basis of poor work performance). It is also important for the victim to seek support from family and friends, and seek out witnesses as well as other victims. Victims should take full advantage of their workplace policies before suing; this makes for a stronger argument when trying to prove one?s case. Although there are many actions that the individual victim can take, it is sad to say that the majority of the time the victim ignores the problem and does not come forward because they fear the consequences. They fear retaliation (i.e. fired, demoted) if the harasser is their employer and the invasion of privacy that will result when exposing such an issue.

The first step to take in confronting sexual harassment in the workplace is to tell the harasser that his or her behavior is illegal and it must stop immediately. This is particularly effective when the harassment is at a fairly low level. It would also be prudent to document the harassment. Documenting any harassment, no matter how incidental, gives the employee written proof if the harassment continues in the future. Imagine that Bob asks Jane out on a date in January, Jane thanks Bob for the invitation but says she is in a relationship at the time. In April, Bob hears that Jane?s relationship has ended, and he asks her again. This time Jane responds with, I am not ready to start dating again. Then in May, Bob asks Jane again this time Jane responds with a definite no and that she would like Bob not to ask her out anymore. If Bob continues to ask, he is opening himself up to sexual harassment charges being filed against him. If Jane has documented all the events, she has written proof of the harassment; but if she has no proof, the employer may view this as a he-said, she-said situation.

Companies can experience a loss of valued employees, gain a poor reputation, and create a hostile work environment, or loss millions of dollars annually from lawsuits, if they do not take sexual harassment seriously. Proper training, written documentation, and a formal complaint process are needed to insure that the company is protected from lawsuits. In the end, everyone from the manager to the employee is responsible for sexual harassment. An employee needs to understand that anyone around them can file a claim against them if they exhibit uncalled for behavior. The person can be someone that just overhears a conversation, or is offended by a picture inside a locker. The employer has to be able to handle the situation and take an unbiased approach to handling the situation. Both the accuser and the accused need to be able to state their side of the story to management. All occurrences need documented by the employer and the accuser, in order for the case to be heard by the EEOC.

Everyone, managers to the individual worker, need to understand that they are on stage in the workplace. Everyone is listening, watching, and seeing their actions, and they can face a sexual harassment complaint, very easily, for the way they act or what they say. Actively preventing sexual harassment can ensure that the workplace promotes an open, supportive environment with higher morale and productivity, and can reduce the likelihood of expensive lawsuits.

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