It has become an all too familiar story in this age of #MeToo (although this one has a twist, as you’ll see below): a supervisor using managerial authority to pressure a subordinate to give sexual favors. In this story, the employee claims the pressure started at hire, involved the supervisor demanding attention, favors, gifts and even food then escalating to demands for sex in the office. The employee needed the job and ultimately concluded that sex was the only performance metric that mattered because the clear implication was that the supervisor would ruin the employee if the employee did not comply.
Also unsurprisingly in this #MeToo era, this was not the supervisor’s “first rodeo.” There was a pattern of abuse and upper management and HR allegedly ignored complaints about the supervisor’s sexual harassment and retaliation when advances were refused. Indeed, employees claim, it was not until five of them made a written complaint to the district director with a photograph showing the supervisor in the act of flashing private parts that a full investigation was finally begun; and then, the employees were specifically directed not to speak to the press (or so the sources quoted in this article whispered to the reporter, anonymously).
What is surprising about this whole story is that the accused supervisor is female district director of the EEOC’s Miami district office (she allegedly was photographed in the act of showing off her bare breasts)!!! The management that is alleged to have failed to take appropriate action is the Miami EEOC district management!!! Yes, the very agency charged with rooting out discrimination and harassment! Yes, the agency that has admonished employers that requiring employees to maintain confidentiality during an investigation is a “flagrant violation” of the law! The statement issued by EEOC, quoted in the article, is the canned statement that such employers usually issue: “We take all complaints seriously and have an internal anti-harassment policy in place, which outlines the specific conduct covered by our policy, procedures for handling harassing conduct including investigations and resolving conflicts, taking preventative and/or corrective action, etc.”
Of course, you cannot believe everything you read (particularly from anonymous sources, who may have some axe to grind). Also, people should not be presumed guilty simply because they have been accused; that should be the standard anyway. If true, however, this story should remind us that victims come in all shapes, sizes, colors and genders, as do perpetrators. When we reflexively decide who is and is not within the victim class, we are asking for a comeuppance. In addition, when government agencies assume all businesses will act badly unless the hammer of agency consequences hangs above them, one day they may find a badly-acting employer staring them in their very mirror (and a particularly hypocritical one at that).