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July 21, 2005

Hoist By Their Own Petard

Via my man Brit Hume:

The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as "unwelcome sexual advances," and "requests for sexual favors." But the California Supreme Court has now ruled unanimously that a worker can be a victim of sexual harassment even if the boss never touched her or even spoke to her.

The court ruled in favor of female prison employees who complained that their boss unfairly rewarded women with whom he was having consensual affairs. In overturning earlier rulings, California Chief Justice Ronald George wrote, "even in the absence of coercive behavior, certain conduct creates a work atmosphere so demeaning to women that it constitutes an actionable hostile work environment."

This is without a doubt the most cretinous statement I have ever heard, notwithstanding the fact that this is sexual harassment law (which means that by definition the bar was set about as low as one can imagine).

But the truly interesting thing about this ruling is this: it may not be nearly as idiotic as it first appears. I always say that liberals and feminists should be careful what they wish for - this case is a perfect example. The implications are startling. Look at the court's reasoning:

Widespread favoritism based upon consensual sexual affairs may imbue the workplace with an atmosphere that is demeaning to women because a message is conveyed that managers view women as 'sexual playthings,' " Chief Justice Ronald M. George wrote for the court.

All right, this *is* unbearably stupid. But bear with me.

In such a situation, other employees may believe "that the way required to secure advancement is to engage in sexual conduct with managers," he added.

It is a very strong opinion in favor of protecting women who are not directly harassed but indeed are disadvantaged by the fact there is favoritism in the office," said William C. Quackenbush, an employment law expert.

He said situations involving sexual favoritism arise frequently in the workplace, particularly in large companies.

The ruling is the result of a sexual harassment lawsuit, which has not yet been tried, against the state's Department of Corrections. Edna Miller and Frances Mackey charged that a prison warden, Lewis Kuykendall, who was married, had sexual affairs with three other employees and gave them preferential job treatment. The two women said they suffered retaliation when they complained.

The affairs occurred from 1991 to 1998, when Kuykendall was the chief deputy warden of the Central California Women's Facility and later the warden of the Valley State Prison for Women, both in Chowchilla. The court said the affairs were concurrent.

Mackey, who has since died, and Miller presented evidence that Kuykendall's favoritism to his girlfriends impeded their job advancement. They also said his behavior opened them to harassment by one of the girlfriends. Employees often had to endure jealous and emotional squabbling among the girlfriends over Kuykendall, the court said.

Two of the girlfriends bragged to others about their power over Kuykendall, and he displayed "indiscreet behavior" at a number of work-related gatherings, the court said.

In one incident, Miller competed with Cagie Brown, one of the girlfriends, for a promotion, the court said. Brown told Miller that Kuykendall would have to give her the job or she would "take him down" by naming "every scar on his body," the court said.

Brown received the promotion even though Miller had a higher rank, superior education and more experience, according to the court.

Miller also said she ran into problems with a female deputy warden who she believed was engaged in a relationship with Brown "that was more than platonic," the court said. The deputy warden, Vicky Yamamoto, and Brown frequently countermanded Miller's orders, undermined her authority, imposed additional duties and threatened reprisals if she reported problems, the court said.

Behavior like this is precisely what the military's strict anti-fraternization rules are meant to prevent. "Why", they ask, "can't people date each other at work?". And with women in the military that is becoming a bigger and bigger problem. But that's not all. Activists have been pressing, not only for relaxation of fraternization rules, but for allowing women in combat and for abolition of the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy.

But the logical consequence of both those policies is simply this: during wartime, when human beings are under extreme stress, when the need for discipline is strongest and indelible bonds between soldiers are forged, we are now going to throw people together who are sexually attracted (whether male and female or same-sex couples who are homosexual)? And somehow, miraculously, against all prior experience with human nature, we expect this to have no impact on 'good order and discipline'?

It's very interesting to me that as women take a more assertive stance in the workplace, we're starting to see decisions like this come out of activist demands that actually reinforce old-fashioned standards of behavior. Well you can't have it both ways. You can't have women in the workplace and demand the right to date co-workers and bosses, then demand your 'sexual freedom' and yet preserve the right to be secure against discrimination when your co-workers sleep their way to the top.

Sometimes life isn't fair. Get over it - men have been dealing with this kind of crap for years. Sexual favoritism is hardly the only kind of favoritism out there - if it weren't that, it would be something else. You can't sue over every little hardship that comes your way in the workplace. Sometimes the solution is to leave and find a boss who isn't a complete jerk.

American society is becoming far too whiny and litigious. How about a little self-help here? The courts can't solve everything - this is like killing a gnat with a sledgehammer.

Posted by Cassandra at July 21, 2005 08:40 AM

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Tracked on July 22, 2005 07:15 PM


As you know, Cass, as it is something you have brought up before, I do not have a military background. But it always struck me as the best reasoning in support of the military's "no gays" policy was the simple fact that people who are lovers have a different kind of bond than buddies, and they shouldn't be serving next to each other in the military. My logic is something like this: (1) you have in theory no women in combat; (2) thus, you have only men in combat; (3) one reason to not have women in combat is to avoid the interference with chain of command and duty when one starts balancing orders with concern for a lover, which is much different than concern for a "buddy"; (4) if you eliminate women in combat, you don't have that problem, b/c the presumption is men are buddies, not "lovers"; (5) but that is only going to hold if men aren't doing each other, which means no homosexuals.

Does that make sense?

As for your story, the solution is simple: Don't get your meat the same place you get your bread.

Posted by: KJ at July 21, 2005 10:39 AM

Heh. Every time *I* bring up this argument I get told I'm a fuddy-duddy old bigot and to get a life.

Which may be true. But it doesn't mean I'm wrong, either.

Posted by: John of Argghhh! at July 21, 2005 11:33 AM

Holy smokes! Do you know how many women in California just lost their jobs? "Soory, baby. You know I love you, but..."

Posted by: spd rdr at July 21, 2005 11:39 AM

A few years ago, this co-worker who I could run circles around got a promotion I deserved because his kids and the boss kids played in the same baseball team, and often after driving the kids home, they went for a beer together.

Where is the law to protect me from THAT?

I don't know who coined that phrase
" Feminists simply replaced a tyranny by another tyranny "
but sometimes the feminist's tyranny seems much worst at least more insane.

Posted by: Friend of USA [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 21, 2005 05:22 PM

I read this post several times before commenting.
I have only had one problem with sexual harassment, and I took it to the owner of the store who promptly put a stop to it. That was back in the mid eighties. Since my job didn't depend on this cretin's 'needs,' and the people I worked for were
decent human beings, that was all it took.

Le cretin was later fired for a myriad of other issues, so I am wondering about the whistleblowers
and why they are NOW being given a fair hearing after nearly what...seven years? Why wait that long?

I know, it is my naivete that is at work here, but
bear with me. If they had to wait that long for a climate change in order to have their grievances addressed, wouldn't it naturally follow that it fell outside the statute of limitations after three or four years?

Just asking and will go back to lurking.

Posted by: Cricket at July 22, 2005 07:09 AM

This sounds like a case of a woman being mad because she was not hit on and a judge that would have decided the same way no matter who or what the case was. Someone told him he was a liberal and he always has to rule against the employer,

Posted by: scrapiron [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 22, 2005 10:32 PM

I have nothing against gays if they leave me alone, i'll leave them alone, but if you identify them in the military it will be painting a target in the middle of their back. That is fact, not fiction. A lot of people play along with the PC game, but they aren't really into the game.

Posted by: scrapiron [TypeKey Profile Page] at July 22, 2005 10:36 PM


I'm not now nor have I been in the military. But I don't buy it. People are serving now that people know are gay. We used this same excuse to segregate units -- white will kill blacks if we let them serve together.

I just have more confidence in the military than that. None of this means I think the rules should be changed. B/c I'm not a military man, I will give them the benefit of the doubt. I think my concern, lovers undermining discipline and moral, is more real than soldiers killing each other. From what I hear, b/c of women serving on ships and in other places with men, the lover (and pregnancy) thing is a real problem.

Posted by: KJ at July 23, 2005 07:46 PM

Nobody held a gun two the heads of these two tramps and told them that they had to sleep with this man.Also it seems like a lot of leftwing men are nothing but sissyfied punks and henpecked men.No backbone,and certainly no brains worth much!I tell you what I can't for the life of me figure the silly and crazy thinking of the people on the coasts of this nation.Tell me guys,what in the hell is you all's problem?!will you please get a spine and stop listening to all these dikes ruining the workplaces?if this judge thinks this is going to make life easier for females,he needs a good smack upside his head for stupidity.No wonder California can't get ahead financially.I just don't believe everybody can be stupid out there,but as usual,when you have rabid lefists running your government and anything else they destroy anything they touch and of course stupidity always seems to follow them wherever they go.

Posted by: Lisa Gilliam at July 24, 2005 05:21 PM

I know this is about California, but could it also apply to the federal government? Were there other White House interns in the 1990s besides Monica? Did they get nice jobs after their internships? If not, do you think this wll inspire them to file complaints?

Posted by: GregG at July 24, 2005 10:52 PM

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