Harassing Sexual Harassment
Feb 24, 2002

I recently learned of a troubling situation. A certain employee of a certain company was let go (aka fired) on grounds of sexual harassment. From the man's perspective, the conversation in question was, in reasonable consideration, a very trivial thing. Apparently, a female coworker was a bit concerned about a third individual who would appear occasionally at their workplace (this third individual was carrying out his workplace responsibilities as well). The first man, hearing the woman's concerns, said off-handedly, "Maybe he [the third individual] has a crush on you."

Apparently, this was a Very Bad Thing to Say. It was evil and dastardly and bad. It was disgusting. It was beyond what any reasonable person should be required to tolerate. It was, simply, sexual harassment. Or so the woman thought. She reported the incident, and the man who made the comment was fired from his position.

Now, first of all, let me say again that this is the man's perspective. Perhaps there was more involved in the situation -- I don't know, and I can't know, because it's not my place to find out. So I'm assuming (yeah, stupid me for assuming) that his story is basically what really took place. Assuming that the assumption is somewhat valid...

How Stupid! Maybe he was wrong to say that. It was probably a poor choice of words. But I bet that I've heard worse things from respectable folks at church. I think that everyone makes these sorts of innocent remarks at times. Even if they are inappropriate, the offended party has a right (responsibility?) to first tell the "harasser" that they don't appreciate that sort of language. Even if the harasser doesn't immediately renounce all former words and cower in fear, the offended party could probably do better than to immediately report the incident and cause someone to lose their job. A healthy dose of "a mile in their shoes" could help here. Also in this there is such a thing as "having a backbone" -- as in people shouldn't report "harassers" when the harassment is clearly an isolated trivial comment.

Having said that, I'm not trying to say that sexual harassment policies are stupid. They are there for a reason, I know, and there are times when it is appropriate to take disciplinary action. Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe this was one of those times (due to circumstances that I was not told about). But at face value, such a use of sexual harassment policies makes the system seem idiotic.