Harassment Theater

March 10, 2012 at 2:39 pm (Uncategorized)

Did you hear the one about the priest, the rabbi, and the minister?  You better not tell it at my office – or a lot of offices these days.

The partners in my firm were gathered together again for sexual harassment training.  The earnest young lawyer talked about recent developments in the law, then she put on a film which, on about a sixth grade level, told us a pat on the back for a job well done constitutes sexual harassment.  As management, We’re supposed to be safe persons to whom to report sexual harassment – as well as inappropriate religious jokes or ethnic comments.  We then trigger the investigation.  The basic message is better safe than sorry – don’t touch anyone you work with – or engage in conversation that touches on race, sex, gender, religion, physical handicaps, etc.  Half the people in the room – essentially lawyers aged 35 – 70, were checking emails on their iphones as the earnest young lady spoke.  We all knew the drill.

Two hours later, my secretary attended the “staff” session of the same program .  At age 64, she found the “training” mildly insulting, and mostly just stupid.  She walked into my office afterward,  mockingly saying she had to report questionable conduct – while on the elevator, a secretary had touched an attorney.  Playing along, I reminded her that I had a duty to investigate to determine whether the contact was inappropriate.  So I quietly asked, “Were they going down?”  We laughed at the stupidity of the behavior code, and we got back to work.

Several other long time secretaries commented on how lame the “training” was.  Our office is not a hotbed of harassment, but most people ignore the code which sounds like it is out of Catholic school in the 50s.  Most folks know the difference between office banter and harassment and know how to tell somebody who is taking things too far to knock it off , and most dislike sitting through some fatuous film telling them what they already know.

Why do we go through (and pay for) this Kabuki theater?  Because, if a harassment suit is filed, a good defense is that the firm was unaware of the harassment and had in place a harassment policy with regular sessions designed to tell us what behaviors are inappropriate and who we can complain to.

I am old enough to remember when women put up with real workplace harassment.  The situation was not good.  But, the remedy –  establishment of a statutory right to be free from upsetting behavior in the workplace, or any comments based on gender, gender preference, or gender expression, which is defined as a “hostile work environment,” has created a cottage industry paid to teach us what we already know. It is Harassment Theater.

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16 Comments

  1. mockturtle said,

    Pure idiocy and further erosion of our First Amendment rights. My granddaughter has a high school class on ‘Diversity’ [required!] and she, herself, is of multiracial ethnicity. She called the class ‘a total waste of time’. And our education ‘experts’ wonder why our kids aren’t excelling in math and science and lack even a rudimentary knowledge of geography and history. :-\

  2. rodjean said,

    School in the US is more about socialization than education.

  3. mockturtle said,

    Yes, and apparently our workplaces are falling into the same trap. As I said a week or two ago, Progressives see humanity not as individuals but as mice in a maze.

  4. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    The total lack of simple common sense is disheartening.

  5. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    Deeply disheartening.

  6. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    Folks, I don’t know whether to post on this, because I don’t know more than this stark fact: our beloved friend Randy is in hospice.

  7. mockturtle said,

    Oh, Annie! I’ve been thinking of Randy and wondering how he was doing. It’s very sad to hear. If you communicate with him, please tell tell him I am sorry for his decline and will keep him in my prayers.

  8. Rodjean said,

    The odd thing about all of this workplace sensitivity is that it is occurring at the same time communications in the media and everyday life become increasingly crude.

  9. Rodjean said,

    I just saw the comment about Randy. Is in my prayers as well.

  10. lh said,

    I am old enough to remember when women put up with real workplace harassment. The situation was not good. But, the remedy – establishment of a statutory right to be free from upsetting behavior in the workplace, or any comments based on gender, gender preference, or gender expression, which is defined as a “hostile work environment,” has created a cottage industry paid to teach us what we already know. It is Harassment Theater.

    Me. Too.

  11. lh said,

    Folks, I don’t know whether to post on this, because I don’t know more than this stark fact: our beloved friend Randy is in hospice.

    Annie, you know I’m with you on this. And I have been on the verge of tears since my call Thursday night, but I know full well what Randy told me on other occasions, through other hard periods, about that.

    I don’t know what to do either. Also, I just don’t know.

    ****

    mockturtle: I don’t think that’s possible anymore.

    :,,,,, (

  12. rodjean said,

    I just surveyed Randy’s posts since Ambiance started. He has left a bit of himself here, and we are better for it.

  13. amba (Annie Gottlieb) said,

    The odd thing about all of this workplace sensitivity is that it is occurring at the same time communications in the media and everyday life become increasingly crude.

    In many ways we seem to be going to both extremes at once. Kind of like the weather.

  14. wj said,

    I wonder if we wouldn’t be better off, not to mention better served, if we just focused on teaching better manners in general. Get away from the focus on a few particular, specific kinds of bad manners, which has us all rolling our eyes, and just go with the general principles.

  15. karen said,

    Don’t know what to say– i… please tell him that i love him?

    I have a little to say about the Nanny state. Went to Town Meeting last Tues where the school budget passed(w/out my vote via paper ballot)up a ~modest~ 2.8%(last yr it was up over 8%). All the new money dedicated to psychologists& tuition to an alternative learning school- just in case someone can’t ~make it~ in a regular public elementary.

    This particular school is way down in the standardized testing w/low %s scoring even proficient. One woman(not from our area originally)griped about these tests and wondered why the money couldn’t be used to actually TEACH more– but, according to a school board member/previous principal– these kids are too– unable– to learn due to their home
    environment. They always put down the % of free hot lunch kids at each school.

    150kids and we just voted down a 2.3MILLION$ bond to ~improve~ the school.
    ———
    I have been hoping Randy was feeling well, as well as well could be- i know it’s inevitable- for all of us, really- but, what a bitch of a time this is. Thanks for keeping us in the loop. Just let him know– no matter how little or much you can share here- that we are loving him, always.

  16. Melinda said,

    So sorry to hear about Randy.

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