Women harassing men? No way…

Today I read an interesting article about the Co-CEO of Archie Comics, Nancy Silberkleit who was recently sued for $32 million by 5 male employees.  Silberkleit is accused of yelling “Penis! Penis! Penis!” during a business meeting and allegedly acting like “a dictator,” and a “bully,” and displaying “deranged behavior.” She contends her comments are not actionable because the plaintiff’s have not shown that the comments were directed  specifically to any of them or even if they were, they could not cause extreme emotional distress.

Although this case is in its infancy, here are three reminders and lessons.

Reminder #1:  Women can harass men. These types of cases are not as common as males harassing females. I can think of a couple of reasons why.  First, while it takes courage for anyone to come forward with a claim of harassment, I believe it is magnified for men because of embarrassment and humiliation due to stereotypes of men being strong and not being “victims.”  The second reason: what I call the “high-five syndrome”.  This encompasses the view that men should be flattered by the attention, regardless of how unwanted or vulgar the conduct. This is not healthy or fair to men. Stop the stereotypes in your workplace.

Reminder #2: Keep #1 in mind when you investigate claims of harassment.  Be fair and open-minded that the conduct could have been unwelcome and offensive even if female to male.

Reminder #3: Address female to male and same-sex harassment in your training. Make sure you create a safe and respectful environment so that everyone feels they can come to HR and make a complaint.

Also, what the Archie Comics’ case also reminds us about is bullying. While bullying is not yet unlawful in the US (watch out for NY and NJ, could be happening soon!), I recommend addressing this topic in your harassment training. A bully is only one little step away from being a harasser. If you would like a free anti-bullying policy – please shoot me an email @ awest@employmentpractices.net



This entry was posted in Harassment, Investigations. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Women harassing men? No way…

  1. Stacey Ebel says:

    I think you are very talented and knowledgeable about all aspects of employment law. Your training on bullying was particularly applicable to me as my previous employer bullied me for the six months I was employed by him before I finally resigned. Keep up the good work!

  2. SJ says:

    Great post. I also think that training for sexual harassment should be less focused on proscribed behaviors, and more on acceptable conduct.

    The training modules I provide focus on respect in the workplace as well as the law. By providing the law, and consequences of non-compliance, and focusing on workplace conduct, I have found a massive reduction in organizational sexual harassment issues.

    This CEO might be able to plead temporary insanity because her behavior, if it truly occurred in the manner alleged is not only illegal and improper but also indicative of mental imbalance of some sort. It is extremely strange conduct!


  3. Great Post! Please send me a copy of your Bullying Policy.

    Thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *