Striving to Understand Sexual Harassment

In harassment, discrimination and bullying training, after recognizing I have significant room for improvement, I ask managers to place themselves in the alleged victim’s shoes in treating him or her with dignity and the seriousness with which the circumstances deserve.  To reinforce this respectful request, I include the following powerful quote from a 1991 discrimination case:

“Because women are disproportionately the victims of rape and sexual assault, women may have a stronger incentive to be concerned with sexual behavior.  Women who are victims of mild forms of sexual harassment may understandably worry whether a harasser’s conduct is merely a prelude to violent sexual assault. Men, who are rarely victims of sexual assault, may view sexual conduct in a vacuum without a full appreciation of the social setting or the underlying threat of violence that a woman may perceive.”  Ellison v. Brady (9th Cir. 1991).

The quote’s second sentence stuns me every time I read it.

Recently in a training, after reading this quote to the participants, before I could transition to the next slide, a participant made an important contribution from which I learned very much and I paraphrase:

The quote from Ellison v. Brady is true but do not overlook men who are victims-especially men in the LGBT Community who may have the same legitimate fears.

Another powerful message.  The participant validated the woman’s perspective and asked us to recognize that men can be victims as well.

Whether you are in human resources or work in another capacity, when you have responsibility for the welfare of other employees, strive first to understand the complaint, problem, issue, matter or dispute from the employee’s perspective.  Be an active listener before you judge.

Before you judge determine whether you actually understand.

Once you believe you understand, determine whether your remedy (discipline, teaching, corrective action) best serves the employee and the tribe or is your reaction generated from ego or momentum.

After you decide, if the remedy works well, you did your job.  If the remedy did not work as well as planned, do you have the respect necessary for the employee and the tribe to consider another option next time?

All of this starts by first seeking to understand.  I will work harder at it because of the quote and because of the wisdom of a participant helping me to understand.  Grateful.

About the Author:

Richard McGee is a lawyer in Minneapolis, Minnesota who focuses his practice on gaming, gaming regulation, tribal employment and litigation in tribal, state and federal courts.  Richard has the privilege of working with tribes and tribal organizations on Human Resources matters including training.  Additionally, tribes ask Richard to address specific topics while incorporating the tribe’s related laws and policies into the sessions.  This is an invitation to engage Richard to produce and facilitate training for your tribe.