Sexual harassment

Mar 252004
Authors: Joanna Larez

Alissa Brinkmann was at work at a local hotel when a customer

started flirting with her and then took her picture with his camera


Brinkmann, a sophomore biology major, experienced many incidents

of sexual harassment working at the Days Inn before she quit two

weeks ago. The hotel is located close to Interstate 25 and hosts a

lot of male truck drivers at night, said Brinkmann, who worked the

3 to 11 p.m. shift. Many of them flirted with her.

After Brinkmann’s picture was taken, she told the man to delete

it, and he claimed he did. She is concerned he did not delete it,

and she has no way of knowing the truth.

“It definitely made me not feel so safe there, especially since

I was there all alone at night,” Brinkmann said.

Almost half of all working women have experienced sexual

harassment to some degree at work, according to the National

Women’s Law Center’s Web site. The site states that workers are

harassed by supervisors, co-workers and customers. Men and women

can both be victims and can be victimized by someone of the same

sex, according to the Web site.

“Sexual harassment can include staring, joke telling, unwanted

compliments and gender-related put-downs,” said Roselyn Cutler,

associate director of the Office of Equal Opportunity.

Quid pro quo and hostile environment are the two classifications

of sexual harassment.

Harassment that results in employment action is quid pro quo. It

usually involves situations of implicit or explicit bartering and

is usually done in the context of a supervisor relationship, Cutler

said. This type of harassment makes advancement or success on the

job dependent upon submission to requests for sexual favors,

unwelcome sexual advances or verbal or physical conduct of a sexual


Cutler said one form of quid pro quo harassment is when someone

feels expected to participate in male- or female-bashing

conversations in the workplace to be successful and accepted among


Hostile-environment harassment is the type of harassment

Brinkmann experienced. She dealt with conduct that was severe

enough to make her work environment offensive, intimidating and


“This one guy kept asking me to go get a beer with him,”

Brinkmann said. “It made me uncomfortable, and it made it hard to

be professional with them.”

People who experience sexual harassment at work should report it

to supervisors with whom they are comfortable or someone in the

human resources department.

The employer is always legally responsible if the harassment

involves the supervisor and is connected to decisions about the

victim’s job and the working conditions. The company may be liable

for the sexual harassment involving a coworker or someone else if

company supervisors knew, or should have known, about the

harassment. The company is not liable if it took immediate and

appropriate actions to correct the problem.

Victims need to report incidents within six months of the last

incident if they are seeking legal action, in accordance with Title

VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is a law against sexual

harassment in the workplace.

CSU provides information about sexual harassment to all new

employees during their orientation. The Office of Equal Opportunity

presents the information as a segment of the orientation, and there

is time for questions after the presentation, Cutler said.

“We do have a policy, we do take it seriously and we do hand out

the information,” Cutler said.

Students who have work-study positions on campus are not

required to attend the orientation. They can get information about

the university’s policy regarding sexual harassment in sources that

are available to all students, such as the general catalog, the

Office of Equal Opportunity’s Web site and the quick facts


Eileen Connell, instructor for some of the Center for Applied

Studies in American Ethnicity courses, shows a film to her

Ethnicity and the Media classes about women in the media. The film

includes information about sexual harassment in the workplace.

Connell believes that whenever the subject of women in the

workforce is addressed, the issue of sexual harassment needs to be

brought up.

“There are so many young people at the university that need to

know that they have rights regarding sexual harassment,” Connell

said. “These rights are not only within the university, but also in

the workplace.”

Cutler said there are two different laws regarding students and

employees. Regardless of whom the harassment is affecting, it is

all examined in accordance with the university’s policy and not

based on the status of student or employee.

If anyone who is part of the CSU community believes he or she is

experiencing sexual harassment, it should be reported to the Office

of Equal Opportunity.

“Touch base with us, so we can review the matter,” Cutler


The report can be anonymous. Once reported research will be

done, information can be organized. The Office of Equal Opportunity

will then be able to set up options of what to do with the

situation, Cutler said.

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