July 19, 2008
Sexual Harassment and Politics

Several years ago, then Governor Mike Lowry paid over $ 97,000 to settle a sexual harassment charge. A female employee claimed Lowry had inappropriately touched her. I don't know Governor Lowry personally and I certainly don't agree with him politically but anyone who has observed him knows he is an extremely gregarious if not flamboyant personality - a hugging, back slapping politician. I am always a little cautious when I hear such charges especially during an election campaign. While many accusations of sexual indiscretions by politicians prove to be true (Clinton, Gingrich etc.), I am reminded of the observation of a well-known radio host, "It is not a question of guilt or innocence, but the seriousness of the charge that counts." Or, perception is more important than reality.

Washington State Lands Commissioner Doug Sutherland, running for reelection, fell victim to this recently. In a front page July 16, 2008 article, the Seattle Times headlined a story concerning a complaint against Sutherland by a female employee of inappropriate touching and comments. It was reported that he "touched her back and waist and made suggestive comments that made her uncomfortable." Mr. Sutherland claimed that he touched her back "after a testy meeting with off road enthusiasts" and commented that she didn't appear to have "any arrows in her back."

I wasn't there so I don't know where the truth lies. The article does mention that the Times only published the story after it was revealed on a well-known Democrat blog and true to form, the State Democratic Party sent out a condemning news release. For both Lowry and Sutherland, there is no allegation of a pattern of behavior. But that is not important, the damage is done even if the charges are never substantiated.

I knew a manager, many years ago, who was well known by women employees as "one to watch out for." A woman in my organization once worked for him. She told me he stopped by her desk one day to talk and casually draped his arm over her shoulder letting his fingers rest on her chest. He was over six feet tall, she, under five two. She took his hand and forcefully removed it off her and told him never try that again. He never did.

The point is she took care of the situation herself. Nowadays, lawyers have instilled such a level of fear in companies and managers that even a hint of impropriety is treated as a major offense. It has spawned a whole industry devoted to helping companies and institutions avoid sexual harassment suits. Once accused, it is often better to apologize and pay off the complainant than wage a "he said, she said" fight in which the "he" usually loses. Sadly, as more women enter management, we are seeing sexual harassment suits by male employees against women managers. Maybe it would be better if parents trained their children to be more assertive when they feel someone is treating them inappropriately.

As a member of the predator class of humankind (males), I'm sure virtually every one of us has made a comment, told a joke, looked at or even touched a female in a way that made her uncomfortable. And most of us have been told so by word or action and didn't repeat the behavior. We live in a time of mixed messages. Look at TV. The cable show "Mad Men" about an advertising firm where sexual harassment is the norm was recently nominated for an Emmy. Try the popular show "Friends" and its message of no consequences sex. Advertisements from Viagra to Victoria's Secret litter the media. No man still breathing will think the same way about a woman he works with professionally after seeing her in a string bikini at an office pool party. None of this excuses boorish behavior nor does it mitigate the harm done by serial abusers who should be punished. But we do need to pause and reflect before we brand a public official with a scarlet letter, especially just before an election.

Posted by warrenpeterson at July 19, 2008 02:31 PM | Email This
1. The best policy is for a male to never touch a female.

When the same liberal hypocrites decide to apply the same standard to their own people then they can talk.

This matter was handled at the HR level and dealt with. The woman wishes to say no more about it.

It is telling about how sleazy the Democrats are that they would publicly shame this woman and bring back that uneasiness and angst she had when the incident occurred. She just wants to put this behind her but the Democrats will leave no victim unharrassed in their quest for power.

Posted by: pbj on July 19, 2008 03:19 PM
2. I worked for a guy one time who had a habit of putting his hand on my knee when talking with me. Being a guy myself, I didn't particularly appreciate this, so I certainly understand what some females go through. This knee fondler happened to be an HR wonk, and one day overheard me and a woman coworker talking about our respective days working in the restaurant business where it was common for restaurant workers to call each other honey and sweetie. Knee fondler misunderstood the conversation, became insensed, butted in, and demanded that we cease using such "familiarities" when addressing each other. I said, "Yes Sir, I would be happy to comply, and I trust this means that you will kindly refrain from grabbing my thigh every chance you get." Several other male employees happened to hear the whole thing and burst out laughing. Knee fondler turned the color of rare roast beef and stormed out of the room. Then, there are the women who are just looking for an excuse...but that's a story for another time. I have to go pick up my loving bride.

Posted by: NW Denizen on July 19, 2008 03:25 PM
3. pbj,

Are you assuming that he was guilty because he paid her off? Am I missing something here?

Posted by: NW Denizen on July 19, 2008 04:53 PM
4. Where was the condemning Democrat party press release on Bill Clinton when all those women made far worse accusations of him?

Posted by: Michele on July 19, 2008 08:45 PM
5. Hey Michele, they were busy bashing the women as "trailer park trash". Remember James Carville?

Posted by: PC on July 19, 2008 11:05 PM
6. Yes, I do remember. But it never hurts to remind the Ds of their screaming hypocrisy. Did they accuse Juanita Broddrick of being trailer trash, as well?

Posted by: Michele on July 19, 2008 11:58 PM
7. Denizen,

Where did I say anyone was paid off? Please reread my post. Have you been down on the docks inspecting tankers again without proper breathing equipment?

Posted by: pbj on July 20, 2008 12:45 AM
8. In my experience the vast majority of harassment is age related and also male on male. Almost anyone has free reign to make an age related comment and jibe. Also, any kind of lude or lascivious act by homosexual men against straights (around here) is looked on with closed eyes.

Do these crimes ever get prosecuted...let alone heard?

Posted by: John Bailo on July 20, 2008 02:53 AM
9. Lowry was guilty as sin; and so is Doug. I know them both well. Doug should get out of there this time.

Posted by: brobdinag on July 20, 2008 03:02 AM
10. PBJ,

Still the same old charmer, huh. Please re-read MY post. I asked you if you thought he was guilty. Your boss out at the velvet sweatshop does occasionally allow you a bit of independent thought, doesn't he? Oh darn, and here I was going to try to avoid sarcasm. Sorry, it just slipped out. On second thought, never mind. I don't want to over tax you. LOL : )

Posted by: NW Denizen on July 20, 2008 08:29 AM
11. PC @5.,

Well, if they were trailer trash as the Dems claimed, it sure goes to Bill's taste in women. Bill refered to them as bimbos. I guess that makes Hillary trailer trash too.

Posted by: NW Denizen on July 20, 2008 09:00 AM
12. Denizen,

Go reread your own post at #3. You are presuming things again. The guy already ADMITTED he touched her. I clearly state in my very first post that the best policy is to never touch a female, ergo there can be no "misunderstandings".

I know that union rules preclude you from having to exercise your brain, but you're on your own time now. Give it a try. Even after all these years of inactivity,it may yet still function. You'll never know until you try.

Posted by: pbj on July 20, 2008 09:13 AM
13. pbj,

I want to make this very clear so that you will understand. I WAS REFERRING TO LOWRY.

"Without admitting any wrongdoing, Gov. Mike Lowry has agreed to pay $97,500 to a former spokeswoman who accused him of sexual harassment, his lawyer said today."

I apologize; I should have realized that, with you, pictures are necessary.

pbj, you really ought to get over that severe case of blue collar envy and admit that you are just green with jealousy that a few, uneducated (according to you) blue collar workers beat you out in the salary department. LOL Have a good day.

Posted by: NW Denizen on July 20, 2008 12:24 PM
14. Denizen,


Please do try to keep up with us old man will you? Perhaps you need a new pair of glasses or it is simply the fact that you had the ILU telling you what to think for so long, that you cannot think on your own?

"pbj, you really ought to get over that severe case of blue collar envy and admit that you are just green with jealousy that a few, uneducated (according to you) blue collar workers beat you out in the salary department. LOL Have a good day."

Uh no they didn't beat me out in the salary department, sorry to disappoint you! Having a great day already. Went to several NON-UNION stores and bought lots of stuff! LOL!

Posted by: pbj on July 20, 2008 01:02 PM
15. Hee, hee. My apologies again. In the future, I will try to remember that you have difficulty understanding the concepts of subtlety, nuance, and common courtesy. Sorry to disappoint you kid, but I have never belonged to the ILWU (not ILU), and have never been big on unions. Put down the bong, stop admiring yourself in the mirror, and pay attention for a change.

Posted by: NW Denizen on July 20, 2008 02:23 PM
16. Well if you call subtlety, nuance, and common courtesy presuming something about a post and then getting miffed because your presumption was proven wrong, you will have a difficult time here.

I think you ought to go see lens mogul guy for a new set of specs. At any rate, it is nice that some senior citizens still try to interact with the younger generation. You ought be commended. Pretty soon you won't even be able to remember your own name.

Posted by: pbj on July 20, 2008 04:09 PM
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