Sexual Harassment Prevention Training AAR: Day Three
This morning was a roomful of male cops. My female associate was not able to join, so it was an all-male room. Hilarity did not ensue.
Some overall observations, with less of a comedic spin this time:
1. A roomful of cops acted completely differently in listening to this stuff when no woman was in the room. They laughed more at some of the examples. I found myself dropping more four-letter words and relating some of the examples of prohibited conduct more vividly. I think that qualifies as irony.
2. The biggest challenge throughout is to counteract propaganda suggesting that sexual harassment laws are liberal bullshit and that anyone can be sued for any tiny inoffensive thing. While it's superficially true that anyone can get sued for anything, that is not exclusively true for sexual harassment — you can get sued for any frivolous thing in any field of law, as we document on this blog. But it's actually not easy at all to demonstrate that conduct is sufficiently severe, or sufficiently pervasive, to succeed in a claim of sexual harassment. It's important to emphasize this because otherwise many people will take the attitude "what's the point in trying to conform my conduct to the law if any stupid little thing can break the law?" So, ironically, I wound up placing as much emphasis on what is not sexual harassment as I placed on what is.
3. Even the people who appeared the most resistant to the whole thing — who sat there with hard-eyed stares and crossed arms the whole time — looked genuinely shocked and appalled when I related some of outrageous conduct that has led to sexual harassment cases.
4. Conduct is only illegal sexual harassment (as opposed to a violation of an employer's policy) when it is unwelcome to the victim. People getting training respond much better when, rather than telling them to assume everything potentially harassing is always unwelcome, you (1) point out that they sometimes make mistakes about whether something is welcome or not, and (2) tell them that, if they want to engage in risky conduct (dirty jokes, for example), they better be damn well sure it is welcome to everyone in earshot, and and accept the risk that if it is not they will be nailed. In other words, they respond better if you respect their autonomy and responsibility to the extent possible.
5. Judging by the laughter today when I explained stuff they shouldn't do at work, the cops have been spending pretty much all day Monday describing who they nailed over the weekend.
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