Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sexual Discrimination in the Workplace: Back to the Drawing Board

Yesterday I mentioned the difficulties colleagues of different genders face when the try to team up for promotion purposes. We spend most of our days with coworkers, most times more than we do with our own families. It's not odd to find yourself become a little too acquainted with them. The challenge then becomes where to draw the line with any colleagues, but especially so with the opposite sex. 

Gender discrimination is a bad topic, in the sense that it could ruin careers, businesses, even morale. Who wants to work in an environment thick with
with harassment. Or imagine feeling so uncomfortable with a coworker that it leads to termination?

That's precisely what happened to a dental assistant in Iowa. She had been working closely with the dentist for about a decade the relationship apparently got a little too heated. At least the dentist's wife thought so. The dentist was then pressured to fire the assistant and far a gender discrimination lawsuit. Well, the state Supreme Court basically through three the case out on its hiney, and ruled for the dentist. According to the all male panel, the dentist was not discriminating against his former assistant when he fired her. Instead, he was avoiding trouble. 

There was testimony of off hours co-mingling through text messages, some that were sexually inclined. The dentist also testified to feeling uncomfortable by some of the assistant's outfits. Both individuals were married and had children. The assistant denied these allegations and excuses the relationship
as completely proper and professional. What is known for certain is that the judges bought the dentist's story. After ten years of service, the assistant is out of a job she apparently enjoyed enough to fight for in court. 

Once again, tough call, and a serious precedent to set. Can you imagine the number of bosses who can now claim to be sexually attracted to their female staff and just eliminate them? I could understand the wife's jealousy, but the problem was not the assistant but the husband with the lax self-discipline. The case has re-visited the intolerable blame game of the past: men get aroused and women get blamed. We should expect more from our men, ladies. Unless we start to, all this effort at gender equality will go absolutely nowhere. 

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