BY NORBERT RUG
Since the beginning of the #MeToo movement, policies have been devised to keep men out of possible trouble. Men are learning the importance of respecting every woman and valuing them as human beings. I have written about the importance of fathers training their sons to show women and girls respect.
Every employer in New York State is now required to adopt a sexual harassment prevention policy. Employers must provide each employee with a copy of its policy in writing. Employers are supposed to provide employees with the policy in the language spoken by their employees.
I was once accused of sexual misconduct at work. I was walking behind a temporary employee because I had to fix something on the other side of them. Due to the cooler temperatures in the plant, I was wearing a “hoodie,” which was unzipped. All of a sudden she jumped up and started yelling that I had touched her bottom (not the word she used). I’m guessing my sweatshirt must have brushed against her.
I denied it but by the time she hit the front office, her story had drastically changed. Now I had “groped” and squeezed her butt (again not her word). I was called to the front office to answer these allegations and when the new scenario was presented to me, I actually saw red. Obviously, my sweatshirt has a life of its own if it can grope and squeeze someone’s butt.
An allegation of this sort was like taking a bullet to my chest. I was so livid about these lies, I told my supervisor that if he entertained any notion that these allegations might be true, I would punch out, get my stuff and they would never see me again. I had worked for this business for over 25 years and had a spotless record. I never even had an attendance problem.
I believe it is very possible for sexual harassment to happen in the workplace. We have all heard gossip about this before and we can all imagine that it could happen. Let me say at this point that I have been very happily married since 1969. I respect the sanctity of marriage and have never been unfaithful despite a few opportunities. I take the vows I took that one August day very seriously. An allegation like this had the power to destroy my marriage and negate everything I worked for my entire life. Fortunately, my record spoke for itself and my supervisor told me they didn’t believe anything that my accuser had said.
Fast forward to today. If she were to make these accusations now, I would have been fired or suspended, immediately, without pay pending an investigation. After an investigation I am certain that they would have to believe her story, a case of “guilty until proven innocent” and I would have been terminated. It would have been a classic case of she said/ he said.
With all that has come out about Bill Cosby, Harvey Weinstein, et al, many of us men are trying to maintain a higher standard of behavior in the workplace and elsewhere than we have in the past when we are interacting with members of the opposite sex. I think we all would prefer not to have anything happen that could dramatically change our lives, damage our careers and alter the way other people see us.
Nowadays, people have created rules to follow to try to avoid any possible allegations being leveled against them. For example, there seems to be an unspoken rule on Wall Street that is now instructing men to avoid women. This seems like overreacting to me. It was pointed out in a recent Bloomberg article that this new standard may actually isolate women working in finance and make it more difficult for them to advance in their careers.
A rule or policy should not become a problematic impediment to business meetings or an obstruction to any career path that a woman may wish to follow. To make any job an unattainable part of a “Boys Club” is wrong. These self-imposed rules should not work to prevent women from climbing up the corporate ladder as this is unfair to everyone.
Women should not be avoided. They should just be treated as respected human beings who could bring valuable experience and knowledge to whatever corporation or workplace they are at. Men can and should just learn to keep their hands to themselves, their eyes focused on the other person’s face, and keep any unwelcome compliments to themselves.
Ask yourself this one question, how would you like it if your mother was prevented from getting a promotion because of her gender or was sexually harassed at work? If it is unfair to your mother, then it isn’t fair to another woman either. Remember to treat other women the same way you would want other men to treat your mother or sister so that a woman doesn’t feel the need to rush home every day and thank god that she wasn’t sexually harassed or mentally undressed at work.
Norb is a writer from Lockport. He blogs at WhyWNY.home.blog.