Posts tagged " sexual harassment "

My colleague crossed the ‘acceptable behavior’ line at a company party.

May 21st, 2019 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 25 comments

Last weekend I went for my company’s trip. As part of the agenda, there were dinner, dance and drinks. So a colleague of mine (we are not close, just working level) who is of an opposite sex started dancing with me on the dance floor and then pulled me aside and danced solo with me. Once he pulled me to one side, he started confessing to say that he has been “checking me out without me knowing”; he treasured the one time lunch we went out together (it was a working lunch discussion) 2 years ago and he always finds me pretty. Immediately felt very uncomfortable and I pulled him back to rejoin the group for dancing.

Not long after, the function hall started turning off the lights and shutting down the AV. So a group of us adjourned to a nearby bar to join our other colleagues who were there earlier. Upon arrival at the bar, he started holding my shoulders and hands and once we reached the table where our other colleagues were, he tried holding my butt. I was so shocked I don’t know how to react  and didn’t want to make a scene, my immediate reaction was to flight. So I immediately left the scene and hid in the toilet of the bar. My friend noticed my disappearance and called me to ask where I was. I said I am in the toilet and will come shortly. We left the scene right after I came out from the toilet.

My question is, should I report this sexual harassment to the the company through the appropriate channel? My intention is not to humiliate/embarrass him,  but I don’t want other to fall as victim.

I didn’t tell anyone in the company yet because I don’t want this to spread as a mere gossip. At the same time, I felt obligated to report this incident and  share this other girls who closely work with him.  Help, I need wisdom. Thank you in advance.

Serene

Dear Serene,

It is a little jarring that the incident you describe is in opposition to your lovely namethat certainly wasn’t a serene encounter you underwent. What an unpleasant experience that must have been.

We need to preface our answer by saying that we are neither lawyers nor human resource experts. We did run our answer by someone who heads H.R. for a large company, but the words you are reading are ours, not hers. We are quite sure that you would get a very different answer if you asked this same question in a different venue.  And while we are not going to blame you for the incident, we would like to empower you in the future. Let’s start there.

If you are going to be at parties where liquor is flowing, we strongly advise you to practice extricating yourself from awkward situations. You say that this man, “started dancing with me on the dance floor and then pulled me aside and danced solo with me.” In front of a mirror or role-playing with a girlfriend, practice not letting yourself be passively led into this situation. As soon as you start feeling uncomfortable, you can forcefully say something along the lines of, “Excuse me. I’m going to sit down now,” and walk off the dance floor to join a friend. If he said something that makes you uneasy, tell him on the spot. The minute someone touches you, be it on the shoulder, elbow or anywhere else and you don’t want them to, you should feel perfectly comfortable saying, “Please don’t touch me again.”

As a side note, women often do need practice in being both pleasant and assertive. This is a skill that will stand you in good stead in many areas of your life, both personal and career-wise. At work, in particular, learning to set boundaries is necessary. If you don’t do so, others will take advantage of you, leaving you overworked and as such less efficient.

You may have decided for career reasons that you should be at parties with your co-workers, but if you are going to do so then we recommend you dress and act in a way that places an invisible shield of respectability and distance around you. We know feminists will shriek that women have no responsibility to do this, but quite frankly, there will need to be a new and different creation of humanity for that to be true.  You will be better off living in the real world.

You show great character by understanding the damage that gossip can do as well as by your concern for other women down the line. We also think that you are seeking the high road by not wanting to turn this into a potentially career-ending move for this man. We would like to encourage you to deal with this privately.

We recommend approaching this man in a public place (maybe the lobby of work) and saying something along these lines: “You may not remember because everyone was drinking, but at the party in XXX, you spoke to and touched me in an unacceptable way. I don’t want to ruin your career, but I do want you to know that this is not all right. I have documented it and should I see you behaving in a similar manner to any other woman in the company I will have no choice but to report this to HR. I’m sure it was an aberration and won’t happen again and I’d like to put this behind us with this conversation.” Then smile and walk away.

You should, meanwhile, document what happened so that if you need it in the future, you will have it. There is no question that this man acted badly, but if you can change his behavior rather than having him potentially fired for an act that occurred when he had been drinking, you will be operating on a higher plane and giving him a chance to self-correct. He may very well have misread your signals when you didn’t react and say something at the early stage of the encounter and not be a bad guy in general.

If it is at all possible, we suggest that if others agree with you, you might recommend to the office that rather than dancing parties with drinking, alternate entertainments can be safer and more fun. The situation as is, is an invitation for problems.

Wishing you serenity,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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Please Tell Me It’s Satire

February 9th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 24 comments

A few times this past week while reading my daily paper I found myself checking whether I was actually following the Onion, a news satire organization. Each page had one or more articles that made me think, “This can’t be real.” Listening to the radio compounded the problem.

There was the opinion piece explaining to men that they should double down on mentoring women despite the fact that they might be falsely accused of sexual harassment. After all, mentoring women is such an important ideal that they should willingly risk their reputation, family and livelihood to do so.

To my astonishment, another article spoke of cities considering instituting rent-control policies. In the two cities in which I have lived that had strong rent-control policies in place, wealthy people paid ludicrously small sums to stay put while less wealthy areas turned into boarded up slums since landlords couldn’t survive on the low rents they were forced to charge. Rent control was far from a rousing success.

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Character, Not Chromosomes, Is the Culprit

December 6th, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 23 comments

Like English cuisine, French fortitude, and Italian military, the term toxic masculinity is an oxymoron.  If it is toxic, it’s not masculine and if it’s masculine it isn’t toxic.  Okay, I was joking about those old national slurs (I apologize, you social Stalinists, yes, I know it wasn’t funny!) But think of the phrase ‘cowering courage’.  Again, if you cower you’re not courageous, and if you’re courageous you don’t cower.  If you’re masculine, you’re not toxic; no, you’re a colossal asset to your family, your community, and your country.

As the brave feminist professor, Camille Paglia, put it in her 1990 book, Sexual Personae, “If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts.”  Her point: most of the dangerous and grueling jobs that make our comfortable lives possible are done by men.  Yet we’ve heard this mendacious phrase ‘toxic masculinity’ repeatedly uttered by hysterical pundits of both genders in the context of horribly behaved men in entertainment, politics and news media.  They usually intend more than a wisp of a suggestion that all men manifest ‘toxic masculinity’. 

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Your taxpayer money

December 1st, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 2 comments

Speaker Ryan and prominent GOP leaders held a press conference Wednesday addressing the issue of sexual harassment and announcing an upcoming vote on a resolution that requires mandatory training for members, staff, and interns on appropriate and inappropriate behavior.

Right. They’re going to use taxpayer money to tell members of Congress not to walk around naked in front of their staff. Obviously the people who take our money and spend it and who who tell us how to live our lives are too dim to figure that out for themselves. How about just emptying the Augean stable instead and starting over? 

If I Lived in Alabama

November 29th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 67 comments

Go to jail. Do not pass Go; do not collect $200. If you grew up playing Monopoly, as I did, those words sound familiar. How about these words? You have scads of Get Out of Jail cards; pass Go whenever you want; and feel free to collect however much money as you can.

In a nutshell, the first set of rules applies to most of us while the second set applies to our elected officials. The sexual harassment spotlight is obscuring that fact.

I’m getting tired of reading that sexual harassment is a product of our patriarchal society or hearing politicians and pundits (especially females) paraphrasing the famous line spoken by Captain Renault in the movie Casablanca by pretending that they are, “Shocked, shocked to find that despicable behavior is going on here,” in the higher echelons of Hollywood, newsrooms and Congress.

Can we get real? People treating other people badly has existed since the Garden of Eden when Adam tried to evade responsibility for his sin by blaming it on Eve. Turn the page and Cain kills Abel. Keep turning pages and you will find examples of all sorts of human failings. If you aren’t drawn to the Bible, look at history and literature.

As Lord Acton famously said in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We have granted, and allowed our politicians to grab, way too much power. Certainly many, and very likely the majority, of  the anointed men and women have strayed far from public service and probity. In many ways the system is now designed to encourage them to do so. Sexual misconduct is one example of bad behavior, but focusing only on that is the equivalent of treating a high fever with aspirin. You may reduce or obscure one symptom of a serious problem, but you haven’t eliminated the underlying ailment.

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Is the Victim Always Blameless?

October 19th, 2017 Posted by Susan's Musings 60 comments

Just because something has become an oft-repeated slogan doesn’t mean that it is correct. Adolescents (of all ages) in the Sixties shouted, “Better Red than Dead,” in righteous ignorance that for millions of people living under it, Communism was a death sentence. Hillary Clinton chose not to reprise the chant of her generation, “Never trust anyone over thirty,” during her ill-fated presidential campaign. One assumes that even if she once wanted people to believe that motto, she had since changed her mind.

Just because the accusation, “You’re blaming the victim,” is wielded as a truncheon meant to quash discussion doesn’t mean that the concept should not be challenged. Let’s move away from the emotional issue of sexual abuse or harassment and question this idea in a different arena.

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April 21st, 2017 Posted by On Our Mind 3 comments

I admit to not following the Bill O’Reilly/Fox News story carefully. One of the lovely plusses of a holiday like Passover is five days with no communication from the outside world (the first two and last two days of Passover and the Sabbath in the middle.) However, if a comment about there being a lot of blondes at Fox is seen as proof of sexual harassment, then perhaps it’s time to ban women from the workplace. People make bad jokes all the time; people make stupid jokes all the time. Having everybody walk on eggshells or refrain from talking because, “everything you say can and will be used against you,” does not make for a healthy workplace. There is plenty of real harassment of all kinds that goes on. In my opinion, that comment doesn’t make the cut.

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