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Can We Talk About Sexual Harassment?

by Monica Smith

Jun 11, 2019, 9:00 AM.

Director of FIU’s Human Resource Management Program, Dr. Marc Weinstein and Program Manager Aiko Ortega chat live.

It’s never OK. Ask any woman about their experience and not only will they agree with this statement, they’ll probably also have a personal sexual harassment story to share. While sexual harassment is not a new problem in the workplace, it has gained the spotlight as it is an almost daily feature on the front page of national news, the evening news and social media.

In the wake of this awareness, an ever-increasing list of prominent individuals have been identified. On social media, a simple #MeToo posting offered proof that sexual harassment isn’t just for a-list Hollywood elite, politicians or journalists. It happens everywhere, to regular people and despite the best human resource department efforts.

“People have started to come forward about these issues,” said Dr. Marc Weinstein, Clinical Professor of Management at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. “They need to find their voice somehow.”

Dr. Marc Weinstein specializes in the areas of occupational safety and health and employee wellness. He’s published in a wide range of journals and recently held a 20-minute Facebook “livecast” with FIU Online to speak on the subject of sexual harassment. During the live talk, he stressed that today’s businesses need to focus on building healthy environments for their employees.

Considering the results released October 2017 of an   ABC News-Washington Post poll, Dr. Weinstein is right. “More than half of U.S. women have experienced unwanted and inappropriate sexual advances from men, three in 10 have put up with these advances from male co-workers and a quarter have endured them from men who had influence over their work situation.” But it’s not just women who are victims, it’s men, too.

Aiko Ortega, Program Manager for the Master of Science in Human Resource Management, who also participated in the livecast, agreed with Dr. Marc Weinstein as she explained the cost of sexual harassment has both short- and long-term effects that result in millions of dollars in loss for companies.

A form of discrimination on the basis of sex in the United States since the mid-1970s, sexual harassment can cause a hostile, offensive work environment and can unreasonably interfere with an employee's work performance. This can reduce productivity and damage companies, not to mention the pain and suffering that occurs for victims.

“Sexual harassment causes role conflict for HR personnel trying to be an employee advocate and take care of the company,” stated Dr. Marc Weinstein who acknowledges that a company’s overall behavior is dictated by its leadership. “We have to be professional and friendly. Managers model behavior. I think this is really important.”

Today’s human resources managers, who have educated employees for years on the issue, play an even more important role in ensuring the success of a company through its talent, and this is done by having an open-door policy, through communication and prevention, explained Ortega. Understanding this, HR professionals have an active part in personnel management and in protecting employees.

The nation is witnessing a shift in the workplace that’s responding with more intolerance and less victim blaming. However, people still feel embarrassed when events happen, and under-reporting is the norm, across the board for both men and women. Dr. Marc Weinstein who is passionate about health and wellness in HR underlines that bad working environments undo companies.  It’s something he teaches in his courses to prepare the next generation of human resources professionals.

Dr. Marc Weinstein described how sexual harassment hurts everyone and especially companies.

“People will choose not to work there,” he summed up.

To learn more about FIU’s online master’s degree in Human Resource Management, click here

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