MetaTOC stay on top of your field, easily

Attributing Corporate Responsibility for Sexual Harassment: The Supervisory Connection

, , ,

Cornell Hospitality Quarterly

Published online on


This study examines circumstances under which observers might consider an organization to have responsibility for its employees’ actions, based on their reading of a scenario of sexual harassment. By changing the details of the scenario, we examine the influence of (a) the harasser’s organizational role (i.e., a supervisor or coworker), (b) the existence of corporate sexual harassment policies, and (c) the company’s past responses to sexual harassment complaints. The results suggested that the harasser’s organizational role is the most important factor for predicting whether an individual would consider pressing a sexual harassment claim. Respondents’ assessment that the victim should make a claim is higher when the harasser is an immediate supervisor rather than a nonsupervisory coworker. Perceived organizational responsibility is also a direct predictor of intent to make a claim. The results provide a clearer understanding of when an individual is more likely to favor making a claim in response to perceived sexual harassment. The practical implications include the following: (a) Sexual harassment training for supervisors is important because their sexual harassment is most likely to lead to a legal claim, (b) antisexual harassment policies have the effect of reducing the likelihood that a victim will perceive the organization as responsible for failing to prevent a supervisor’s action, and (c) organizations should make clear their opposition to sexual harassment both to discourage harassers and to divert a victim’s attribution for responsibility away from the organization if an incident takes place.