Friday, December 7, 2018
Men’s #MeToo Claims Avoidance Rules
An article this week in Bloomberg said that men on Wall Street were getting the message about #MeToo. But the message wasn't quite what you might expect. Rather than "Avoid harassment at work," it was "Avoid women at work.” According to the article, "No more dinners with female colleagues. Don’t sit next to them on flights. Book hotel rooms on different floors. Avoid one-on-one meetings." As an employment attorney quoted in the article says, "[T]hose men are going to back out of a sexual harassment complaint and right into a sex discrimination complaint."
Give these Wall Street guys the benefit of the doubt - that they're not sexual harassers, but just terrified of the current legal climate. Since #MeToo really got going a little over a year ago, we have seen some "opportunistic" claims of sexual harassment that have not been supported by the evidence, and I'm sure those -- as well as valid claims -- will continue to increase. These 6 rules may seem extreme for those of us that don't have a seven-figure income, yet they do provide some potential risk-reduction guidelines for men who are concerned about possible "opportunistic claims."
The following is an attempt to take into account the concerns of the Wall Street guys, while still being EEO respectful:
Rule 1: Don't have one-on-one dinners with colleagues unless you're on a business trip together. Group dinners are fine. That will give you plenty of witnesses. Or of course, there is the Mike Pence rule – "I go nowhere without my Karen." Take your wife along when in doubt.
Rule 2: If you are on the road with a colleague and are having dinner together, do it in a well-lit restaurant with attentive wait staff. Don't go any place dark and "romantic." Don't go any place with a "sexual" theme. Limit your conversation to talk about work and your family (But not about how your spouse doesn't understand you). The attentive and clean-cut wait staff can be your witnesses.
Rule 3: "Don't sit next to women on flights"? Ridiculous! If you're really too paranoid to sit next to your colleague, at least get seats across the aisle from each other so you won't be touching but can still talk. That way, the flight attendants and the strangers in the center and window seats on both sides can be your witnesses.
Rule 4: "Avoid one-on-one meetings"? Good luck with that. You can't really avoid one-on-one meetings, of course, but you can hold them in an office with the door open, at a cubicle, or in a glassed-in conference room.
Rule 5: Don't have one-on-one meetings at your home. Too much opportunity for mischief . . . or false accusations!
Rule 6: Watch your alcohol consumption whenever you're with co-workers. It doesn't mix well with work, whether the "work" is actually getting some work done, putting in your appearance at the office holiday party, or unwinding after a hard day on a business trip. One or two drinks may be all right for most people, but if you must drink more than that, excuse yourself, go to your room, check in with your spouse, and continue your drinking alone.
Tommy Eden is a partner working out of the Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP office in Opelika, AL and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 334-246-2901. He gratefully used parts of Robin Shea’s Constangy Blog.