Get Dates at Work and Don’t Get Sued

Antioch College is in the news because of its new “ask first” policy designed to prevent sexual harassment and date rape.

Under the policy, a student must ask first before initiating any intimate contact. For example, a young man should ask a young woman, “Can I kiss you?” before kissing. If she says yes or kisses him in response, then they can kiss. If he wants to hold her, he asks, “Can I hold you?” and must wait for a yes.

In response to the new policy, one man was quoted as saying, “If I have to ask those questions, I won’t get what I want!”

If we look at television and movies, we see one of the contradictions of our society: it’s okay to be intimate, but not to talk about it. This is dangerous, because it leads to misunderstandings based on false assumptions. We all need to learn to ask first.

This is especially true in the workplace. As we say in Managing Within the Law, with your peers you are allowed one free request for a date, per person. But blurting out a request for a date, out of context, can lead to misunderstandings. Instead, you should build relationships so you know in advance whether a request is welcome.

That’s what’s wrong with this cartoon. If he’s calling her Miss Smythe, he doesn’t know her well enough to ask her out. And if he’s her manager, it’s a bad idea no matter how friendly they are.

A man recently asked, “How do I tell a woman I want to go out with her?” My response, “Have you talked with her about anything? Movies? Books? News? Hobbies?” If you start with friendship, you will learn enough about the person to know whether he or she would be open to a request for a date.

What you should do: If you meet a peer you are attracted to, first find and talk about your mutual interests. Co-create with them a friendship built on trust and dialogue about each other’s boundaries and expectations. Then going out together may grow naturally out of the relationship.

New & Interesting Cases

A woman won a case for sexual harassment, even though everyone at work knew she had posed for nude pictures.

A Jewish U. S. Marshal won a case for racial and religious harassment against his African-American co-workers and managers.

The first class action sexual harassment case found that nude pictures at work created a hostile environment for every woman who worked at the company.

A 76-year-old woman won a claim for age discrimination after she was laid off, even though she was hired at age 63.

A company was held liable for sexual harassment when they didn’t investigate the complaint after the victim said she would handle it herself.

Very Funny!

Recently, Managing Within the Law has garnered some nicknames. One manager calls it Mangling Within the Law, and another says he’s Manacled by the Law.

One manager lamented that he knows the law now as a result of the class. “I know ignorance of the law is no excuse, but there was a certain amount of bliss in being ignorant.”

And now the good news. A manager recently gave the perfect summary of the law of wrongful termination. He said, “I’m getting the idea that it’s easier to turn employees around than to fire them.”

Documentation Wins Case

In a recent case, a manager was accused of making disparaging comments about an employee’s lack of English speaking skills. The employee claimed her termination was based on national origin discrimination. But the manager and the company won the lawsuit because the manager documented the poor performance of the employee.

For 8 years, Ms. Hong received annual reviews which showed she met or exceeded job standards. During the last two years of her employment, she was rated substandard. She also received seven written warnings during this period.

The employee said she didn’t deserve the warnings and poor appraisals. But the court said, “This court will not sit as a super-personnel department that re-examines an entity’s business decisions.”

Once the court found the warnings and reviews legitimate, it turned to the discriminatory remarks. The manager had said a few times that the employee should “learn to speak English.” The court said, “Although this could be circumstantial proof of discriminatory animus, the [employee] has failed to show that it is related to the [company’s] decision to discharge her.”

What you should do: You should never make discriminatory remarks, but this case shows that good documentation can save you even if you make mistakes.

Big Verdicts & Settlements

  • $38.3 million for race and sex discrimination. 20,000 applicants, employees and former employees of a utility company will divide this amount.
  • $10 million for overtime. A company that didn’t pay employees for the time it took them to put on and take off protective gear was ordered to pay this amount to its hourly employees.
  • $3.6 million for employee who quit. An employee who made internal complaints that his company was violating the law won this amount because he was forced to quit through management harassment.
  • $1.8 million for forced retirement. An employee who was forced into retirement after 39 years with the company won this for age discrimination and wrongful termination.
  • $1 million awarded to RIFfed manager. A manager who proved that a reorganization was a pretext received this amount in a wrongful termination case.

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