Sexual Harassment: No Sexual or Harassment Needed

Megan was apparently on a business trip with some other people from her office. She got a call in her hotel room, waking her at 2 am.

It was another employee on the trip. A guy. Not her boss, but someone with more power than she has. He asked why she was up there in the room instead of coming down to party in the hotel bar with him and the others. She said she needed sleep and hung up.

After relating the tale of woe, this Forbes article says:

“Welcome to the new sexual harassment.”

A. The guy neither said nor implied anything sexual or even inappropriate. It was just really late at night.
B. He was with other co-workers in a bar. Not alone, not in a room.
C. He didn’t call back. There’s no mention of any repercussions from her skipping the party.

I understand how this was inappropriate and annoying. But can someone out there explain how it’s sexual harassment? Even NEW sexual harassment should have hint of either something sexual or something harassing, right?

5 Responses to Sexual Harassment: No Sexual or Harassment Needed

  1. Garry August 11, 2009 at 9:32 am #

    Something to think about, same time, same guy in the bar but, instead of Megan… it’s Bob from accounting. No harm, no foul then right?

  2. BruceS August 11, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    This sort of thing is why I don’t talk to coworkers at all anymore, except to reply to direct questions specifically about work. Oh sure, I’ll give them a little pat on the behind as a sign of support, or gaze soulfully into their eyes from a few inches away, or follow one around a bit, but I’d never call late at night.

  3. Amy Smith August 20, 2009 at 9:40 pm #

    Hey Rob,

    Look I am reading you stuff for once.
    I find this interesting. I had a debate with my 57 female co-worker one day about sexual harassment. The scenario was our security head had delivered a stack of magzines to a table outside our office. The magazines were found in a dressing room after a show. At the time there were 80 some stagehands out on stage doing a load-out. Only 3 stagehands were female, plus the security head , my co-worker and myself….so 6 females. My co-worker passionately stated that one of the magazines, a Victoria Secret, had to be tossed in the trash immediately before others saw it. She stated that the presence of the Victoria Secret was sexual harassment. That without it even being touched or spoken about, just sitting on a table was sexual harassment.
    I told her if she felt sexually harassed by the presence of a magazine, that she has some clear body image and self esteem problems. She ignored me and tossed out the magazine.

  4. weeklyrob August 21, 2009 at 2:26 pm #

    Well, I think the deal is that, if there are non-work-related pictures of scantily-clad women, and someone feels offended or uneasy about them, then you’re better off getting rid of the pics.

    I agree that having the magazines there in that situation isn’t sexual harassment. But the door is open to someone considering the workplace to be a “hostile environment,” (men ogling pics of women for no work-related reason).

    If I were in charge, I’d avoid the lawsuit and toss the mags.

  5. BruceS August 24, 2009 at 11:30 am #

    That’s the scary bit. We keep having to cater to extremists to avoid lawsuits, and they creep steadily along. Where does it stop? At some workplaces, all non-work displays (e.g. family pics, comic strips) are forbidden, to avoid such problems. In my own office, I have a framed local USGS map, a pastel from my wife, a watercolor from my daughter, a Frisbee from Huntsville’s Freaks Uv Nature, and a bunch of other non-work stuff that *someone* could find offensive. I haven’t seen a VS magazine, but I’m guessing the pics are about like what they put at the stores—racy, but not quite naughty. I think Amy has it exactly right; that woman has personal problems. Unfortunately, I also agree with Rob; I’d take the safe path. Cowards all, but not defendants.

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