Friday, December 23, 2011

More Sex Work

I just got my contract for some part-time teaching down at the University this spring--the 42d year since I started, though I have taken a number of breaks.  I see, inter alia, that as a condition of my employment I must "complete two hour of sexual harassment prevention training within three months ... ."  My first thought was to be irked; if I not housebroken after 42 years, what are the chances I will learn good habits  in the style of traffic school now? Sober reflection directs me to recognize, however, that this has very little to me.  Indeed, I can think of two motivations for the requirement, for both of which my presence is more ore less incidental.  One: I suspect the primary purpose of the rule is to rob me of the defense of ignorance in litigation: I'll never be able to defend by saying "nobody ever told me."  As a sometimes litigator I guess I can follow the thinking here but from the standpoint of the University, wouldn't it be cheaper and  more convenient just to get me to sign a nice boilerplate contract-of-adhesion waiver of rights, promising never to introduce the defense of ignorance in any relevant proceeding.'

Which brings me to the secondary motivation, which would be to make sure we find work for the battery of sexual harassment trainers on the University payroll.   Given the parlous nature of the job market for former bureaucrats, I suppose I can hardly blame them for hanging on in a death grip.   And I admit the exercise itself shouldn't be that onerous.   I haven't actually taken the training before but I have peeked over the shoulder of assorted colleagues in the thrall of the exercise and I think I know the answer to any doubtful situation.  That is: when in doubt or perplexity or otherwise in need, the prudent path seems to be to consult a qualified sexual harassment professional.

Copy that.  I wonder if s/he can teach me how to spell harrassment harasment harrasment harassment?  


Ken Houghton said...

I suspect it's less expensive to bring in trainers for a few hours (or a couple of days of seminars) that to deal with contracts and tracking them--not to mention having to defend them as saying what you want to claim they do through iterations.

The last time I went through it, there were nearly 100 of us in the room--probably a cost of $15-20/person, including paper processing and data storage.

Taxmom said...

Brings to mind the Brett Butler quote when her Grace under Fire character says her ex-husband thought "harass" was two words. And with that, happy holidays.

Ebenezer Scrooge said...

Sexual harassment is a respondeat superior tort, with a defense. If the employer can't argue that the harassment didn't happen, it can still defend itself by showing that it had a reasonable anti-harassment program, and the victim did not take advantage of it. (Vinson v. Meritor, IIRC.) A "reasonable anti-harassment program" consists, in part, of being able to testify that all employees (or maybe all supervisory employees, defined broadly) received anti-harassment training.