Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Sexual Harassment Is Serious Business

Every once in a while, we see a high profile sexual harassment case in the news.  The latest involves New York Socialist Governor Andrew Cuomo who has been accused by 11 women so far of sexual harassment.  I suspect more will surface before this story ends.   However, thousands of these cases happen in business every year involving both men and women and people of various sexual orientations because sexual harassment has become a lawsuit industry with many attorneys specializing in this field because it is so lucrative.  

Many of these cases are real, while some are bogus.  Whichever, businesses must take sexual harassment seriously first because it is wrong and second because ultimately businesses end up paying huge settlements, often through employment practice insurance policies that continue to go up each year to make these cases go away.  Whatever happens to Governor Cuomo in New York, no doubt the state of New York will end up paying millions of dollars to each of these accusers to settle the cases.  

Ultimately, one way or another Cuomo will be forced out of office and could even be prosecuted for crimes he may have committed.  His defense that he is Italian and all Italians are touchy feely will not fly in the US.  Might work in Italy, but not in America.  Years ago, people in the work place kept their distance with only a hand shake being permissible.  Then we went through a period of time when everybody was in a hugging mode.  Hugging to say hello.  Hugging to say good bye etc.  

Today, obviously, there can be no touching of any kind.  Ironically, with Covid, we may even abandon the handshake.  Westerners could adopt the Japanese tradition, which involves a head bow rather than a hand shake.  But it goes much further.  No one in the work place can comment on appearance in any way because the comment can be misconstrued.  I learned this lesson the hard way years ago, when I commented on a woman's business suit.  All I said was that is was beautiful business suit.  I asked if it was a St. John knit, which is a very expensive brand that I was familiar with because my wife has a few.  She said Yes. That was the entire interaction.  

Next thing I knew she reported my comment to our Human Resources department because she read my comment to mean, how could she possibly afford such an expensive business suit.  Since she was a director in our company, clearly she could afford a St. John knit.   Nothing came out of it, but the lesson I learned.  Now I say nothing to anybody that pertains to appearance because again it can be misconstrued.  The work place is now a legal mine field.  Sexual Harassment is serious business, which is why most companies require annual training to avoid it by raising employee's consciousness as to what even construes Sexual Harassment.   And, the list of No No's is a long one.  

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