Ake's Pains debuted in the University of Akron Buchtelite in September of 1977. The school's reputation as an institute of higher learning has still not recovered. Ake's Pains returns after a brief 32 year hiatus. It's back, baby!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Can’t Touch That! – Sexual Harassment (Part 2)

Last time I explored female-on-male sexual harassment and why that is very rarely reported.  This post involves the dynamics of male-on-female harassment in the workplace.  I have to reiterate, legitimate sexual harassment is a serious issue that requires a strong response by businesses.

Four Stories:

#1 - Simply Just Resistible

Cindy was a new marketing assistant in her mid-20’s working for a product group in a mid-sized company.  Her boss Mike had made several complimentary comments about her facial features (lips, eyes, etc).  This made Cindy uncomfortable, so she reported him to HR for sexual harassment.

I know this because Mike came to me after being reprimanded to explain the situation and get my insight.  Mike really had no idea why he was being written up.  The reality was that he was not sexually harassing Cindy.  His comments were more observations than compliments.  He wasn’t a harasser, he was just clueless.  And if you want to write up men who are clueless in romantic matters, you are going to need a whole new department for that.  I did explain to Mike (it took several attempts) why he could not say what he did.

Cindy could have told Mike the comments were inappropriate, but she never did.  Mike has a blot on his work record and of course after torching her boss, Cindy soon leaves the company.   The other strange twist is that Cindy was not really “harassable”.  She was just a “5” (notice the comments were about her face).  She wishes she was attractive enough to be harassed. Instead of wondering if her boss was coming on to her, she should have just looked in the mirror.  A guy like Mike is not going to risk his career and marriage on a “5”.  You may disagree, but it’s written right there in the “Guy Rule Book”. 

#2 - Mind Your Own Junk

Terri was getting some coffee in the break area just across the aisle from the department receptionist desk.  Joe was getting coffee also.  Terri told Joe that she had just started a diet and in the subsequent conversation, Joe made a comment about Terri’s butt.  It was not a sexual comment.  It was the type of comment that is somewhat complimentary if your butt is nice and maybe not so complimentary if your butt is large.  Terri was bootylicious, so she was not offended at all by the innocuous comment.

However the administrative assistant, who overheard the conversation, apparently was very offended by it.  She marched down to HR to file a sexual harassment complaint against Joe the same day.  Poor Joe couldn’t even remember the offending comment (because it wasn’t offensive!).  And you can’t defend something if you don’t even remember what you said.

Maybe the assistant didn’t like Terri or Joe.  Maybe she was jealous of Terri’s butt.  Maybe she has a problem with her own butt.  If that case, don’t eat the extra piece of pie.  Go work out more at the gym.  If that doesn’t work, go see Dr. Lipo.  But don’t go to HR with a frivolous claim.  Again, Joe gets a “permanent” citation and the claim filer leaves the company within a year.

#3 Lounge Lizard at Work

Jerry was a sales guy who wore gold chains on his neck, gold chains on his wrist and would snap his fingers as he sashayed around the office. He thought he was God’s gift to women and he did drive the office women mad – mad with anger.  It was his constant leering, it was his suggestive comments and then there was his “signature” move.  He would sit with his legs crossed wide open, look at a woman, and then scratch his inner thigh with his middle finger. Jerry was a real character, once the “office babe” has just walked away from our department after discussing an accounting issue, he exclaimed, “Man, I would really love to suck her toes!”   Even guys are uncomfortable with that type of statement in the office.

Jerry was never written up once for his sexual harassment activity in the office.  He was cited (by a female) for making suggestive comments to a waitress when he and several co-workers stopped for lunch after making a group sales call.  Fortunately, Jerry didn’t last long at the company because he thought rules applied to everybody but him.

#4 - Can’t Touch That

Big Jake was standing in the middle of the aisle waiting to make a copy.  The office babe (yes the same one with the cute toes) was in the middle of her copy job, when the machine jammed.  So she had to open the copier doors, push and pull all the right levers, bend over and clear the jam and then reverse the process to resume copying.  All this motion by the babe (who I have to note was not dressed provocatively) was a bit too “stimulating” for Jake.  He began to, he began to -- this is difficult to describe and still maintain what little dignity this blog has left.  Let’s just say he was definitely not scratching himself.  This “activity” was witnessed by at least two women.  

Word spread among the females in the office, who were outraged by this incident.
I found out about this from the “work wife” (who was now totally sober).  When she told me what happened and how upset the women were, I asked:

“Of course someone reported it to HR?”

“No”, she replied.

“Why Not?” I asked.

“You can’t report something like that!” she exclaimed.

Yes You Can! Yes You Can! Yes You Can!

Thus explains the complicated nature of sexual harassment in the workplace. I need to pint out that the companies involved handled the complaints very promply and correctly.  However, the frivolous charges damage the credibility of the legitimate ones and sometimes the worst cases are never reported, leaving the corporate lounge lizards to strike again.

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