Social Mores Have Changed; Biology Hasn’t

Let’s talk about three sexual harassment cases.

A female coach and physical education teacher sued the school district because another employee, also female, made crude remarks about her breasts, touched her without permission, and said, “I will think of you next time I am f—ing.”

A female employee receives sexually explicit text messages from the man responsible for training her. While the trainer doesn’t have hire/fire authority over her, he certainly can influence her career. His wife eventually finds out and sends the female employee a profane message. The employee complains to her supervisor and is fired for violating a work rule.

A boss tells his employee to “date,” and send “nudie” pictures to, a potential client in order to help convince this client to move his business. The boss offers the employee a big bonus in exchange for this, but doesn’t end up giving her one.

All three seem like cut-and-dried sexual harassment cases. If I were the human resources manager in any of these cases, the perpetrator would have been fired, or at least severely disciplined, for inappropriate workplace behavior. But, in the crazy world of sexual harassment law, inappropriate sexual workplace behavior doesn’t always equal sexual harassment, even when it seems inextricably tied to sexual behavior.

to keep reading, click here: Social Mores Have Changed; Biology Hasn’t

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5 thoughts on “Social Mores Have Changed; Biology Hasn’t

  1. There’s a saying among lawyers: “Hard cases make bad law,” meaning there are always extreme cases in which application of a law appears ridiculous and/or cases that seem to be — as here — wrongly-decided. That being said, Title VII, as it’s currently written and construed, has been — largely — ineffective at addressing and curbing sexual harassment. The burdens of proof and persuasion are simply too heavy for the complainants to carry. Employers can totally avoid liability if the plaintiff cannot prove that the stated justification for the complained-of action — and, legally, it doesn’t even have to be TRUE, just plausible — is false, and that the real reason (that is, the actor’s motivation) was discriminatory. It’s almost impossible to prove someone else’s motivation, so only a few percent of these cases succeed, and sexual harassment victims — by and large — don’t report the harassment, because they know the only likely result will be that they will be retaliated against.
    “The social mores have absolutely changed, but the biology hasn’t. Women want high status men and men devalue women who are too easy to get. So, she’s interested in the boss, who is forbidden to date anyone who reports directly to him, and he’s not interested in the woman who says yes too easily.” Please tell me these were intended to be examples of the mores that have changed, right?

    1. You sound like those evil people on campus who want an accusation of sexual assault to be as good as a conviction. Due process is all-important.

      1. Sexual harassment and sexual assault are not the same in either definition or severity

  2. IN terms of workplace harassment, we’re sometimes missing the forst for the trees. Sure, in these examples, the courts found that the activity didn’t meet the legal definitions of sexual harassment.

    But as a manager, that doens’t mean you throw up your hands in defeat. The behavior was still gross & it still showed incredibly poor judgment. You can stil discipline or fire an employee for behavior that is contrary to your company’s values, even if it isn’t legally sexual harassment. Especially the boob-grabbing example. The employee has a history of being a jerk. Why has management done nothing about it? Or the third example – I’d fire any manager that encouraged an employee to date/sleep with a client for a sale. That’s just unethical and gross. Doesn’t have to be actual sexual harassment to take action!

  3. What I found was the biggest g point here was the lack of discipline reaction by each of the companies to the employee accused of harassment. Even if all that was done was by HR was a written document placed in those employees’ files so that if they present a similar behavior, there’s a notation in the file. Part of the problem with this kind of situation is companies lack of maintaining documents (like a write up) in a central filing system. Persons like this will repeat harassment especially when nothing affects job position. Each of those individuals described have been “tolerated” by the company so long that they see nothing wrong with their behavior.
    We don’t need my specific information (who needs to revert to a total controled system?). The systems in place is more than adequate— keep documentation of every complaint and punish the repeaters, not ignore them.

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