June 29, 2008
"inherently more offensive to women"
A simple cup of joe not always so simple
While the same article (by Jane M. Von Bergen) appears at the website, it has a different and more subdued headline "Hot controversy: Fetching coffee for the boss." A female receptionist was asked to get coffee for her boss. She refused, and was fired. So she brought suit in federal court alleging a "hostile and discriminatory work environment":
Nine minutes after receptionist Tamara Klopfenstein complained - for the second time - about getting her bosses coffee, she was fired.While I'm glad the judge threw out this legalistic exercise in frivolity (opinion here in pdf), I had a feeling that the author of the piece might have been leaving some of the details out, so I looked elsewhere. Sure enough, the most interesting stuff was not reported. Either that or whoever edits the business section (which is where the article was) thought that details like these shouldn't be read by sensitive Philadelphians:
Plaintiffs attorneys Timothy M. Kolman and Rufus A. Jennings of Timothy M. Kolman & Associates in Langhorne, Pa., said in an interview that they intend to appeal the ruling, and that Schiller erred by failing to recognize that some tasks are "inherently more offensive to women."Via Crime & Federalism.
The things that pass for sexism these days!
I can remember when workplace sexual harassment meant, you know, sexual harassment. I have a serious problem with the idea that the task of getting someone a cup of coffee is "inherently more offensive to women" -- even if we put aside whether it constitutes sexual harassment. Logically, that would mean that getting a cup of coffee is inherently less offensive to men, right? Otherwise, how could it possibly more more offensive to women?
To see this out, let's assume getting coffee is less offensive to men than women. Does that mean it should become "men's work," and that only men should be asked to fetch coffee, lest women be offended by being asked? Can anyone tell me how that wouldn't be sexist? If a man worked somewhere and could show that only men were tasked with getting coffee, couldn't he sue?
And why couldn't women also sue? If we adopt the plaintiff's position, and the company were to show more sensitivity by defering to women, what would stop a woman from turning around and claiming that the company was preventing her from doing what had become "men's work"?
It also bothers me that it's considered "sexist" to tell a woman she looks good or "dresses well." If someone (including me) tries to look nice and dresses well, compliments are always appreciated. So once again, if we assume it's OK to say that a man dresses well, but sexist to say that about a woman, then what would stop women from suing for not being told they dressed well while men were being told they were? And what about telling an employee he or she dresses poorly? Seriously, suppose the boss wants men and women dressed for success. Does he get in more trouble for telling a man to dress nicer than if he tells a woman to dress nicer? As to the idea that a man can eat lunch with a man but not with a woman, please! If that isn't sexist, what is?
Pretty soon, employers will not be in charge of their workplaces. The courts will.
I'm glad at least one court drew the line.
UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.
(But who's going to get me a cup of coffee?)
posted by Eric on 06.29.08 at 04:35 PM
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