The Oracle of Apollo Snippets from the life of Apollo Lee

May 13, 2008 - 18:05


Harassment Training Day

Today, at work, it was sexual harassment training day. No, that means they teach us company, state, and federal policy on avoiding workplace sexual harassment. Surprisingly, despite the fact that I’ve worked in the HR department of two major Silicon Valley companies, there were a few things I learned.

  1. An offending act can be reported by a third party, even if they merely overheard something that the original people did not consider offensive. If you make a suggestive comment at me, even if we’re dating, and someone overhears it, you can get in trouble.
  2. In addition to whatever action the organization takes, the perpetrator of the offending act is independently civilly liable — regardless of the liability of the organization. So, the offender can be fired, but can also still be sued by the victim.
  3. The organization is responsible for safeguarding and enforcing its policy among its employees, officers, contractors, consultants, and guests at the company’s offices, functions, or events. So, the organization can be held responsible if an employee’s drunk guest embarrasses everyone at the holiday party.
  4. Asking someone out does not usually constitute harassment, provided it’s respectful. Asking someone out after they’ve made it clear that they’re not interested does. It’s all about tone, severity, and frequency.
  5. Depending on the context of the gathering, a non-work-related gathering of employees off-site can be considered a “de facto” work event.
  6. Jokes count, even overheard. “I always enjoy being your bitch,” while funny, is probably a stupid thing to say at work.

Like the rest of us, I already knew that it’s not okay to stare at a woman’s chest, make “mmm mmm MMM” subvocalizations as someone walks by, or make blatant and ridiculous passes or creepy compliments about someone. The fact that it’s permissible to ask someone out that you work with was news to me. I always considered even looking in that special way at someone else to be ridiculously taboo.

Sometimes I slip and tell offensive jokes at work, make offhanded comments accidentally that nobody took offense to, or rant and rave using four letter words. I’m trying to clean that up because it undermines what measly authority and credibility I have.

Still, I didn’t expect to learn anything at the training today. I expected it to be more of the same, like the “don’t steal the office supplies” talk or the controlled substances talk.

I guess we learn something new every day.

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