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The root cause of sexual harassment cases

On Behalf of | Apr 25, 2024 | Sexual Harassment

When looking at sexual harassment cases, there may be many specific causes. For instance, there could be a case where someone wanted to date a coworker, they were rebuffed and they continued to harass them to try to get them to go on a date. There could be another case where an employee wants a promotion and their boss tells them that they’ll get it in exchange for sexual favors. Every case certainly is unique and has its own details that will impact how it plays out.

That being said, there are those who say that the root cause of most sexual harassment cases is simple: Power imbalances. How does this influence sexual harassment in the workplace?

The use of power or an expression of power

It does depend on the situation, but the issue is that there’s often a power imbalance between the person who is being harassed and the one who is committing that harassment. As a general rule, those who are committing harassment tend to be higher in the business hierarchy – though not always.

For example, consider the case above where an employee is asked to exchange sexual favors for a promotion. This is known as quid pro quo sexual harassment. It is also an example of an executive using their power to get something that they want, therefore exploiting that employee and violating their rights.

But even in situations where two people are allegedly in a consensual relationship, the power imbalance can be an issue. Does a lower-ranking coworker actually want to be in that relationship, or are they just worried that they’re going to get fired if they don’t agree to it?

This isn’t to say that employers always do this on purpose, but it does illustrate some of the complications of office relationships. All involved need to be well aware of their legal options.