The Filner Case: Workplace Policy, Employee Education is Key to Sexual Harassment Prevention

Sexual harassment workplace counseling in La Jolla can put an end to potentially illegal behavior at work.
Sexual harassment workplace counseling in La Jolla can put an end to potentially illegal behavior at work.

By Stephen M. Pfeiffer, Ph.D.

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Sexual harassment workplace counseling in La Jolla can put an end to potentially illegal behavior at work.

We often hear about political scandals, but it isn’t often that we hear about them in our own backyard. As San Diego Mayor Bob Filner began making headlines for alleged sexual harassment in the workplace earlier this month, locals everywhere perked their ears, bracing for the news. According to reports, Filner was accused of having inappropriate interactions with as many as 13 women, leading to a sexual harassment lawsuit filed on behalf of Irene McCormack Jackson, the former communications director for the ex-congressman.

While each case contains varied details for the most part, all of the women say that Filner made sexual advances, touched them too closely or inappropriately, made flirtatious comments and asked personal questions about their relationship status.

Though Filner isn’t looking to resign anytime soon, he did apologize to the city of San Diego for his inappropriate behavior.

“As someone who has spent a lifetime fighting for equality for all people, I am embarrassed to admit that I have failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me, and that at times I have intimidated them,” he said.

With enough time, Filner’s story will be one of the many political scandals to go down in history. And even though headlines will soon dwindle, the psychological effects experienced by each woman in this case will undoubtedly be long withstanding.

PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Sexual harassment occurs when unwanted sexual advances take place within the context of a professional relationship. To be illegal, the victim of sexual harassment must have asked that the behavior stop with an inability to leave the situation without tangible hardship.

When an individual is subjected to sexual harassment, the psychological effects can range from mild feelings of anxiety and frustration to heightened stress, terror, victim blaming and even suicidal thoughts. In the workplace, victims of sexual harassment may have poor attendance, a difficult time focusing and trouble performing expected job duties.

Sexual harassment can lead to deep psychological effects including:

Depression

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

High Blood Pressure

Sleep Disorders

Neck Pain

Suicide

The stakes are even higher for victims who are sexually harassed by individuals of power. Fear of retaliation or being accused of lying are just some of the psychological stresses endured by victims who are harassed by powerful figures.

It goes without saying that sexual harassment in the workplace is detrimental on-the-job and long thereafter. Sexual harassment can linger for years even after the abuse has ended, affecting both personal and professional relationships.

When it comes to preventing sexual harassment, we can work together by implementing employer policy and education to create harmony for everyone in the workplace.

PUTTING AN END TO SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORK

Employees

Employees can always strive for positive interactions among coworkers.

If in doubt, don’t say it.

Our intuition can often give us an indication of whether our comments are appropriate or not. If you think your comments can be construed as flirtatious, coy or playful, it could also potentially border on sexual harassment. Don’t risk your reputation at work – or worse, don’t get fired for inappropriate behavior. Stick to professional conversations when you’re at the office.

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