“For obvious reasons, few will talk openly about the issue.”

Stepped-up litigation and reputational risks from charges of sexual misbehavior are changing employer policies in predictable ways:

Privately, though, many of the men interviewed acknowledged they’re channeling Pence, saying how uneasy they are about being alone with female colleagues, particularly youthful or attractive ones, fearful of the rumor mill or of, as one put it, the potential liability.

A manager in infrastructure investing said he won’t meet with female employees in rooms without windows anymore; he also keeps his distance in elevators. A late-40-something in private equity said he has a new rule, established on the advice of his wife, an attorney: no business dinner with a woman 35 or younger.

“If men avoid working or traveling with women alone, or stop mentoring women for fear of being accused of sexual harassment,” he said, “those men are going to back out of a sexual harassment complaint and right into a sex discrimination complaint.”

[Gillian Tan and Katia Porzecanski, Bloomberg quoting Stephen Zweig, an employment attorney with FordHarrison.] For an earlier round of these issues, see this 2015 post.

5 Comments

  • Another problem is that normal male human behavior is to at times swear or make a sexual innuendo or dirty joke. The only way to prevent that is to almost completely stop any small-talk/socialization.
    And what does a guy do if it is the females who make dirty jokes?

  • I have to comment for once:
    My entire management team, except for me the token white male, is female. I hear more f-bombs, and innuendos from this group than I do a male dominated group, or even a reasonably mixed group. I think it’s incredibly unprofessional. But, I report to a VP, who sets the tone for personal conduct within a highly visible company in the market place. There’s a lot of hugging and so forth between the women. Me? not comfortable at all when they attempt it with me. I used to get strange looks from my team, which eventually resulted ends up with me being quickly labeled as the ‘cold fish guy’.
    Yet, it doesn’t take much to end with a complaint lodged against oneself, and I have no defenses. It’ll be a womans word against the MAN. Door stays open when women are in my office. good space when in proximity to female coworkers. Laugh or scoff if you want, but that’s reality for many men in many workplaces.

  • Women’s ability to destroy a man’s career with a false accusation (and the “anti-retaliation” law that protects those who do) are not the only reasons to walk carefully around women in the workplace, if not avoid hiring them. There is also the so-called Equal Pay Act that demands equal pay outcomes despite women choosing to work fewer hours and less hazardous jobs, and the Family Leave Act that forces employers to subsidize women’s home-life choices.

    In the face of these laws, it’s too bad the Constitution doesn’t simply foreclose any discrimination complaint by women by setting in stone the principle that authority and responsibility belong in the same hands. But even while such a complaint remains a threat, the marketplace will find ways to evade it.

    Lawmakers, be careful what behavior you incentivize. You may get it.

  • If Al Franken had followed the Billy Graham Rule, he still would be a U.S. Senator. ?
    Farside

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