Sexual harassment policy as a tool
Protection against sexual harassment is a good thing, as is protection against a variety of other behaviors that can create a hostile work environment. That said, we have seen an increasing number of cases in which sexual harassment protections are being used as a tool.
In one case, a manager wished to get rid of a co-worker. The co-worker was a genuinely touchy-feely guy, and one who tended to call every woman “honey,” and to compliment women on their dress or hair. He also tended to call all men “pal,” and compliment them on their ties, and was equally touchy-feely with them. The manager tried to convince women in the department to file complaints against the co-worker, but, as it happened, the women knew that this was not harassment and nothing came of it. Similarly, when a woman’s job is in danger, a complaint filed against a manager can virtually assure her position in perpetuity. This can be particularly effective if a company is in any sort of financial trouble (which is virtually every company when the market goes south), and management fears suits that could lead to suits against the board.
A contributory factor can be internal politics: There is always someone who dislikes the accused, and can be expected to fall in behind a movement to take “appropriate action.”
As with criminal cases, the innocent often have the odd view that they don’t need to take immediate, forceful, action to deal with a baseless accusation. Because of this, they tend not to race to get an attorney, and to be painfully free to discuss the issues within the formal structure of the situation, and without counsel. It has been said by prosecutors that cases are won on the basis of the “preponderance of perjury.” Putting aside the truth or falsity of this jaundiced view, there is no reason to believe the situation is any better outside the protection of due process.
This means that guidelines regarding harassment should be taken seriously, both for the protection of the innocent who may actually be harassed, and the innocent who might be falsely accused of harassment. Further, if a charge is filed, it should be taken very seriously, and dealt with appropriately. For the subject of the charge it is important to remember that there is no minor surgery when you are the patient….