Modern life is full of improvements on our recent, neanderthal past.
We've learned a lot: that political leaders shouldn't be held to the same moral standards as the people they rule; that the ends always justify the means; that there is no problem that doesn't have a technologically based solution.
One of the most important changes we've made is how women deal with unwelcome sexual advances in the work-place. We all know that the vast majority of men don't go to work to actually work, but instead spend all their time plotting sexual conquests of their saintly and hard-working female co-workers.
In the dark ages, say a generation ago, there were different kinds of solutions to this problem. When a women tired of unwelcome sexual advances she might take any number of possible steps, including but not limited to the following:
- Frankly explaining to the man that his advances were unwelcome, and he'd best stop.
- Slapping face of said co-worker, to convey same point as above.
- Informing boss that he/she would lose a valuable employee unless said advances were stopped.
- Calling in husband/boyfriend/brother/father to explain that further advances would result in loss of vital portions of male anatomy.
- Sometimes the woman changed jobs to find a more congenial work environment. However, since good employees are always hard to find, management tended to discourage the need for such drastic steps.
There were a number of problems with the steps outlined above. But the biggest is that NO ONE MADE ANY MONEY at any point in the process! What were these people thinking of!
In our Brave New World we've learned that financial compensation is the solution to every problem. In fact, sexual harassment is the growth industry of the 90s! Just ask the female workers at Mitsubishi. They've just managed to pull in $34.5 million in the biggest sexual harassment settlement to date. But that record won't stand for long. The same day that the Mitsubishi settlement was reported three TWA employees began their assault on the existing record by filing a sexual harassment suit for $120 million!
The advantages of life in the Brave New Work-Force are almost too numerous to mention, but we'll make our usual feeble attempt. First of all, the amount demanded by plaintiffs in sexual harassment suits bears no resemblance to any sort of outside-the-courtroom reality. You can ask for anything! Would you like to be able to buy the company you work for? Want to have more money than your favorite movie star? Pick a number! Add a few zeroes to the end! Double it again! You might get it! Go Girl Go!
In the Mitsubishi case the award will be spread among the 350 female assembly line workers who filed claims. (Once word started to spread that big money could be on the line those claims just seemed to multiply.) But even in the perfect world of sexual equality some claimants are more equal than others. Some of the workers will receive "only" a few thousand dollars. The highest-paid "victim" will get $300,000.
(What about the women who don't file claims in these situations? To pass by an opportunity like this! We've heard these women mutter about "honest labor" and "creating value." They keep on working for $14 an hour when they could be millionaires. Fools!)
Another great feature of these suits is that in many cases the accused men get no chance to defend themselves. Since Mitsubishi settled the case with the EEOC it just assumes that claims are valid. Mitsubishi gets to avoid more bad publicity, the women get their money, and the accused men...well, the Hell with them, we know they're all lecherous villains.
Since sexual harassment is a work-place "crime" the damages and fines bear no relation to punishment meted out for real crimes. In the last edition of The Outrage we told you about the heiress who blew away her lover with four shots from a semi-automatic pistol. She got a voluntary manslaughter conviction, a $2500 fine, and sixty days in jail. But then again, she only killed someone in cold blood. Not nearly as serious a crime as creating a "hostile work environment."
Sexual harassment covers a vague multitude of sins; everything from firing an employee for not engaging in sex with the boss to circulating dirty jokes via email. What harassment does not cover are true crimes - sexual assault and rape. If having an obscene picture on an office room wall is punished by a million dollar fine, then an atrocity like rape must be punished by...nothing.
A woman who is raped and beaten by a man who breaks into her house in the middle of the night will usually receive no compensation. The rapist may, or may not, serve a few years in prison. But a female accountant who receives a dirty joke by email can get rich with a sexual harassment lawsuit. In the case of rape the victims seem traumatized: they usually want to put the whole matter behind them and get on with life. Sexual harassment "victims" seem to have quite a different perspective. They're willing to go through years of press conferences and court appearances to reach the great payday.
Another great virtue of the sexual harassment industry is the hypocrisy and double standards it fosters. Hollywood's fictions aside, the vast majority of sexual harassment suits are filed by women against men. In the Brave New Work Place, women can get away with anything. The same joke that would be considered the basis for a lawsuit if told by a man is just amusingly risque if told by a woman.
Feel like wearing body-hugging clothes to work? A micro-mini? Stretch pants? No problem! Just do it! Who cares if such clothing is totally inappropriate to a work environment? If any of the men stare or make suggestive comments just sue 'em. Who needs heroes when you have lawyers?
Haven't been harassed but you'd still like to get your share of the bonanza? Just file suit. Businesses are getting burned by harassment suits so badly that they may make you a settlement offer without even investigating the case.
Another great advantage of the burgeoning sexual harassment industry is that no one has to pay for it! Plaintiffs and their lawyers get rich by suing corporations, and no real person is any worse off. No one bothers to sue the harassers themselves. After all, they don't usually have much to get. But the employer has plenty of money to make victims rich.
Some skeptics say that every single product in America now costs consumers more because the costs of defending and settling these suits are passed along in the form of more expensive goods and services. Ignore this kind of chatter. We all know that big, evil corporations have an infinite amount of money, with plenty to spare.
The same skeptics talk about poisoning the work environment. Companies that were once fun and relaxed places to work now circulate memos about unacceptable jokes. Go to a web site like the Outrage and you may get an automatically generated email - "EXIT THIS SITE OR FACE POSSIBLE TERMINATION!" Big Sister wants to make sure that you don't look at any objectionable sites, or tell any objectionable stories, or throw any objectionable
parties, or ...
The best thing about sexual harassment suits is the role they play in destroying the usefulness of reason itself. Let's take two examples. One woman works hard and competently for thirty years, then retires on a meager pension. Her younger friend works for a few years, then is awarded $10 million because her manager whispered dirty jokes to her. She retires in luxury at age 27. It's enough to make your bewildered brain explode. Which is just the point.
A final note about media coverage of lawsuits. For better or worse, we've read hundreds of stories about sexual harassment, discrimination, and other civil lawsuits. Despite the fact that the greed of trial attorneys is often the prime motivating factor behind these suits, we have almost never seen the question of
attorneys' fees discussed in media coverage. In case you're wondering, we estimate that the private attorney, Lizabeth Schalet, representing the three TWA employees is seeking about $50 million for her efforts.
Modern life is full of improvements on our recent, neanderthal past.