Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 235-242

First online:

Defending your life: When women complain about sexual harassment

  • Cynthia F. CohenAffiliated withDepartment of Management, College of Business Administration, University of South Florida
  • , Murray E. CohenAffiliated withDepartment of Information Systems and Decision Sciences, College of Business Administration, University of South Florida

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Women who complain about sexual harassment in a union work environment may find that they are the focal point of the union’s defense of the alleged harasser. The defense the union uses can be broadly defined as one of four: deny the event, blame management, blame society, and blame the victim. This study investigates the frequency with which these defenses are used and their relative effectiveness. Deny the event and blame the victim were used in more than 80% of the cases. Their use was not significantly changed over time. There was no significant difference in the arbitrator’s decision based on the defense used by the union. It is suggested that unions consider using the blame management defense because it is equally effective but does not have the same negative effects on the victim as denying the event or blaming the victim.

Key words

sexual harassment unions arbitration grievance discipline