Sunday, September 2, 2012

Sexual Harassment Training: Who Needs It?

I find sexual harassment training exercises a bit insulting, but perhaps that is because I was part of a generation that was taught that staring at a woman with lust was vulgar and disrespectful.  This does not mean that every member of our generation behaved themselves, of course.  I can even remember being a teenager and at least trying to be subtle about it.  (Shawn Sullivan in my 9th grade English class, however, made that extremely difficult.)  

But reading news stories like this one from September 2, 2012 Fox News about the resignation of Immigration & Customs Enforcement's chief of staff, Suzanne Barr, makes me realize that there is a younger generation who would find wolf whistles and leering downright quaintly respectful.  I won't quote the article--it is far too vulgar for that.  Let's just say that a guy who talked like that when I was young would have been considered too rude for decent people to associate with--much less hold an important government job.

Hey, at least we know she isn't a lesbian.


  1. I always found sexual harrassment training disappointing because I was no better at sexual harrassment after the training than before ...

  2. It has been my experience that the rank and file are more responsive to sexual harassment training because they can be fired easier, while supervisors can ignore it because their jobs are safer.

    I had one supervisor call everyone in for an "Emergency Sexual Harassment Training" session. Later in the shift our section got together to celebrate his birthday. (Mandatory attendance, but there was free cake.) He then asked for a lap dance from some of my female coworkers. I can see that as a joke, but he kept insisting and would not "take a hint." The discomfort of my female coworkers was obvious.

    So, I gave him a lap dance. He didn't appreciate a lap dance from a guy all that much.

  3. Gladom: What sort of employer do you have? Government? Manufacturing? I'm shocked.

  4. Given the climate of most workplaces I can't imagine a worker even asking a co-worker out on a date--no harassment, just simply trying to start a potential romantic relationship with a co-worker. I would never do it given the high level of future career risk. Workplaces are a lousy place to meet partners even if a small few end up in lifetime marriages.

    I think some industries are more tolerant of it (at their risk for sure). One issue is that it can be hard to prove in a court. Unless of course there are enough willing witnesses to testify of it happening and of course if they have weak credibility then it probably won't go very far. I believe most cases end up in out of court settlements if they ever get that far.

    HP Boise had some incidents in the manufacturing areas in the 80's and 90's. There were some incidents involving numerous "Lebanese" (spelling intentional) supervisors harassing female production workers. There were also guys bothering women and women bothering men. Management and workers were put through training and there was much nervousness about it. As I recall there may have been some lawsuits, but I don't recall the outcome. I'm sure that stuff also happened in the R&D lab, but no where near as bad as it was over in the production lines. I worked in both sides over the years and only remember seeing it in manufacturing and call center areas.

  5. I do work for a local government agency. What makes it worse is that the supervisor responsible is also the one to whom all internal complaints get routed to. Unfortunately the supervisor is well liked by his superiors and they turn a blind eye to such things.

  6. I remember one training session when the HR rep came in and said that asking someone out, even crudely (she was speaking to engineers and had to get that dig in), was ok, but you had to stop if you were told "no".

    Being a department of all male, married electrical engineers, the most senior guy in the department spotted the opening and asked her, "You mean I get a free shot at anyone?" He promptly turned to the guy next to him and said, "I love you, man!" We all laughed so hard it hurt and the poor HR rep blushed more red than we could have hoped.

    The next year was even worse for the poor HR guy that had to come by and give us our "training." We were comparatively polite to the ladies, but the HR males didn't get any sympathy for making us waste our time.

    It didn't take many more of those sessions and they started making us do the training on-line. We then had competitions to see who could get through it the fastest.

  7. At my first job right out of college I met a young lady that worked in my building that I was very attracted to. The attraction was mutual and we started sitting together in the cafeteria during lunch. We were both determined to keep work - work. So we avoided each other in the office, limiting ourselves to sitting together for about 20 minutes a day during lunch. After a couple weeks of dancing around the issue of being interested in one another - I asked her out on a date. Unfortunately her supervisor was sitting near us and overheard my offer and her agreement to go. The next day we were both called into our bosses offices - lectured endlessly on appropriate office behavior and enrolled, separately, in sexual harassment classes.

    Since we valued our jobs, we went along with it, and didn't see each other any more. Six months later I was offered a promotion to move over to another department in a building a couple miles away. At the end of my first day at my new job, I walked out into the parking lot at the end of the day to find the young lady waiting for me on the hood of my car.

    We dated for the next three years and have been married now for 23 years.