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Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Presidential Election 2012

Updated on November 7, 2011

As the candidates for the 2012 presidential election dwindle down, we find the nation faced with yet another sex scandal. I listen to the increasing news reports regarding the alleged sexual harassment cases surfacing against Republican candidate Herman Cain, I have wonder how and why these allegations are surfacing now? After all, doesn't this sound familiar? If not, the media will refresh your memory. Mr. Cain’s case is being compared to that of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Some of you may be able to recall the 1991 confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. During the hearings, Anita Hill testified that while working for Thomas at the US Dept of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Thomas allegedly made inappropriate comments of a sexual nature towards Hill. Ms. Hill worked with Thomas from 1981-1983, but she did not report any allegations until she was interviewed during the confirmation hearings some 8 years later. Personally, I find it hard to believe that Ms. Hill, a Yale-educated attorney, could work for the EEOC, an organization responsible for ensuring that sexual harassment does not occur in the workplace, without reporting sexual harassment. Why was it so pertinent to report it 8 years later? Was it because Thomas was now being confirmed to the Supreme Court?

Similarly, coincidently – call it what you will – we now find Herman Cain answering questions about and defending himself against allegations regarding actions that happened 20 years ago. Is this fair?

In the workplace, I have unfortunately seen sexual harassment allegations used to “save the skin” of an underperforming employee. Whether the allegations are true or false, the alleging employee is protected from retaliation. Therefore, there is nothing to discourage such individuals from making false allegations. In essence, the accused is guilty until he/she proves their innocence.

Do you believe that employees occasionally make sexual harassment claims for the wrong reasons?

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Sexual harassment laws were created to protect individuals (both men and women) from sexual, discriminatory harassment in the workplace. Please don’t misunderstand my support of preventing sexual harassment. I do believe that sexual harassment occurs and that allegations should not be taken lightly once they are made known. I do, however, question the timing of some reports. Furthermore, I find myself also questioning the legitimacy of sexual harassment claims when they have not been brought to light in a timely manner.

The women who have made allegations against Justice Thomas and Mr. Cain were not and are not acting to protect their jobs. How could they if the allegations are surfacing up to 20 years later? Some propose that these particular cases are based on racial discrimination. Some propose that these particular cases are “smear campaigns.” I’m not speaking on those issues today.

I am more concerned with the damage done to the system – the system of preventing sexual harassment. As cases like these continue to gain notoriety, more and more everyday people are educated through the media on how to use sexual harassment allegations as a means to getting something other than what was intended – preventing discriminatory practices.

As I see it, sexual harassment allegations are a double-edged sword. In one respect, sexual harassment allegations are a sword wielded against evil to protect the innocent. In another, these allegations can be the very sword used to inflict pain and suffering.


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    • hubber088 profile image

      hubber088 6 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      There were just too many women coming forward against Cain for him to be totally innocent. One woman was not even claiming harassment, she merely stated that her and Cain had a 13 yr. affair. Sexual harassment claims can be fabricated but it's very unlikely all the claims against Cain are false.

    • tamarawilhite profile image

      Tamara Wilhite 6 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      The charge of sexual harassment should not deny the accused of rights they would have if charged with murder.

      The problem with sexual harassment claims is the inability to face your accuser. This creates the risk of individuals claiming offense to punish someone.

      The ability to face an accuser and thus question the circumstances gives the accused a chance to refute the charges.