Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The joys of living in an overly litigious society...*

At work, we recently had to do online "Unlawful Harassment Training," and according to the guidelines for harassment, I've definitely harassed everyone in my office at least once. Much of the training was in a test format, where they gave you a situation, and you had to pick which of the answers was correct. Luckily for me, they don't record your answers (they only tell you why the answers are right or wrong,) because if they had kept track, I totally would've gotten fired. I got a TON of answers wrong, mostly because I was naive enough not to know that saying "You're so thin!" or "That shirt looks nice on you!" or "I'm trying to lose weight, too. Are you on that new low-carb diet?" is blatant harassment. (I'm not even joking. Those are real questions I got wrong.) In case you were wondering, here's a sample list of things that are and are not harassment:
  • Giving your coworker a 60th birthday card that says something about being "over the hill." - Unlawful harassment - you can't treat people differently because of their age.

  • Telling blonde jokes in front of a blonde coworker - NOT harassment. It's totally ok to insult someone's hair color, because hair color isn't protected under harassment laws. (Age, race, sex, disability, disease, ethnicity, pregnancy, and gender are protected.)
  • Telling your coworker she looks nice in her new dress - Unlawful harassment - she might feel like you're making sexual advances toward her and/or harassing her based on her sex.

  • Not hiring someone because they have blue eyes or being really mean to anyone with blue eyes- Totally ok.

  • Giving your coworker a hug - Unlawful harassment. You're not allowed to touch your coworkers, because even if they don't mind, it might offend someone else who sees it. (On the painfully obvious side, they did make sure to spell out that sitting on a coworker's lap is inappropriate. Unless your coworker is Santa Claus, I'm thinking that this one was a no-brainer.)

  • Asking your coworker who just lost 50 pounds for diet tips or telling them they look great after their weight loss- Unlawful harassment. They could have lost weight because they have a disability or a disease. You're not even supposed to comment that they lost weight. So, if you think you look great because you recently lost 75 pounds, but you're mad because no one at work has even noticed, it might just be that they don't want to get sued on the off-chance that you've lost weight because you have AIDS.

  • Offering to help your pregnant coworker do some part of her job - Unlawful harassment. Showing preferential treatment to someone based on one of the "protected" criteria can be considered unlawful harassment. So if your pregnant coworker needs to lift something heavy, I guess she'll just have to do it herself. (I'm thinking that this whole "preferential treatment based on 'protected' categories" thing also means that males who open doors for their female colleagues are just begging for a lawsuit.)

I also learned, thanks to the ultra-realistic sample situations that were in the training module, that if I throw a burrito at a coworker's boyfriend when I'm on my lunch break and away from the office, it's still considered workplace violence because I'm on company time, even though he's not a coworker, I'm not at the office, and the burrito didn't hit him. (Throwing a BURRITO at someone?? That was the best example they could come up with??)

So, I'd like to go ahead and offer an apology to my coworkers and the world at large. I'm sorry - I take it all back. That dress looks AWFUL on you (for completely non-sexual reasons), I didn't mean to insult you by implying that you being nine months pregnant warranted me offering my help in carrying that heavy box, and I'll never hug you again.

On the bright side, I did receive a "certificate of completion" for "Unlawful Harassment Prevention," so if you're wondering if it's acceptable to mention to your coworker that you didn't particularly like the movie "Brokeback Mountain" (completely unacceptable, for the record), feel free to ask me! I'll just be sitting here with masking tape over my mouth.

*For some reason (perhaps a new and as-of-yet undiscovered personality disorder), I feel the need to add a disclaimer that this is an edited version of one of the last posts that I wrote on my old, now-deceased blog. It's not like I'm plagiarizing myself, but I felt the need to share that.


Former Fat Chick said...

So when I made my assistant "feel" my new boobs to see if she thought they felt real- THAT WAS WRONG? uh-oh, I better give that bitcha raise tomorrow!

A said...

tova, I love your disclaimer. Ooh, I don't mean I love your disclaimer in association with you, just the words...really.

Candy's daily Dandy said...

All good to know. Funny when you think about a think tank of poeple actually sitting around putting this stuff together. And how PC of your company to require that you complete the training! You are soo right! It would seem that our "overly litigious society" would have better things to worry about (ie-national economic CRISIS, a major presidential election) but a large percentage of us don't. I met a young girl recently who reently told me that she was voting for whomever her friends were voting for because she didn't know the first thing about the candidates and didn't care. Ouch!
As for you Tova Darling-it would seem a shame that you will now be reduced to exchanging simple pleasntries with your co-workers, sticking to topics such as the weather or the score of last night's game. You just seem too sweet for that. I'm sorry-could that be considered "unlawful harassment"?

LYDIA said...

I loved the post - I learned quite a few things to keep me out of trouble at the office. The burrito story was very eye opening, you're a life saver!

Leetid said...

According to your post I can put in loads of complaints but I won't as I can take the teasing with good humour and tease back. I do think regulations have gone a bit too far. The companies will soon want us not talk to each other in case we say something wrong!!!

We tease a lot in my department and I don't think the department would work as well if we weren't able to, even the MD joins in on the teasing and it makes us work more effectivly and get along with each other.

LYDIA said...

Hey - how is your husbands graduation party going? It was a graduation party, wasn't it?

Dr Zibbs said...

What about saying, "Yo Fatty. Pick up my pencil." (if the person is at least 2 levels lower than you).

Dr Zibbs said...

I totally agree with you. I'd like to print my blog out and bind it like a book then leave it in a park. When someone picks it up and reads it, I'll casually appear from behind a tree and declare, "Hi, I'm the author."

Cora said...

Tova, this is hilarious!! My mother was horrified the other week because she'd accidently (and innocently) said "don't be so anal" to her homosexual male boss and then was afraid afterwards that that might've been offensive. I told her not to be such a worrywort. But after reading your post, I'm gonna have to change my mind! The bigmouth ought to be CANNED!

Tranquility said...

HAHA - SO FUNNY (and sadly, so true)!

If it makes you feel any better - those stupid H.R. managers who have to give the tests and implement the rules FEEL as totally rediculous as they (know they) sound! (um... yes, that would be exactly what I do for a living - sorry 'bout that).

In my opinion, we don't devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks. ~ Calvin & Hobbes