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Sexual harassment, conferences, and you
February 8, 2014 7:12 PM   Subscribe

How well do you know (American) sexual harassment law as it relates to conferences? Attorney and Popehat blogger Ken White has created a short quiz to find out.

Would you like to know more? He recently gave a talk on con anti-harassment policies (YT: long)

On a related note, the Ada Initiative has ahistory of anti-harassment campaigns in SF/F, skepticism, and open source software.

Nangar posted the Ada Initiative link as a comment back in August, but it's a handy resource!
So many previouslies. As a start: The skeptic community talks about harassment, the back-up project, io9 compares cons, one of many Penny Arcade threads, the Adria Richards thread.
posted by Lemurrhea (31 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Like many abstractions in quizzes, they are assholes.

This familiar/comical approach, given the subject matter, kind of feels useful to me in the way that Penny Arcade apologies seem contrite (in other words, not). I like what they're trying to do though, and yes, I agree that a lot of hypothetical quiz scenario characters are in fact assholes.

It would also be cool if they could make it more obvious that the "give us your e-mail" is totally optional, and you can still complete the quiz without offering that up. I initially wasn't going to bother trying because I saw that field at the top and figured you couldn't continue without it.
posted by trackofalljades at 7:25 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


It would also be cool if they could make it more obvious that the "give us your e-mail" is totally optional, and you can still complete the quiz without offering that up. I initially wasn't going to bother trying because I saw that field at the top and figured you couldn't continue without it.

That's why The Tubes created mailinator.com...
posted by jim in austin at 7:34 PM on February 8 [6 favorites]


This familiar/comical approach, given the subject matter, kind of feels useful to me in the way that Penny Arcade apologies seem contrite (in other words, not). I like what they're trying to do though, and yes, I agree that a lot of hypothetical quiz scenario characters are in fact assholes.

A lot of sexual harassers are also assholes, ridiculously so. I know someone who makes client visits at other businesses, and she had one client who kept inappropriately close physical proximity, kept scheduling meetings with additional attendees who mysteriously never showed up*, kept suggesting they meet offsite for work-related things, and once she left the conference room for a few moments only to return and discover him using her iPad without apology (a post-mortem examination showed he'd disabled her 5-minute automatic screen lock in the short time he had access.) Finally she brought a guy coworker with her to a meeting, and the client got all surly and would barely talk, not even about the work things they were there to discuss. Now he sends occasional personal texts to her work cell phone, which she ignores, and someone else has that account.

*she figured out what was going on when one of the people who was "supposed" to be at the meeting wandered into the conference room and was surprised to see the two of them were having a meeting, as this person hadn't actually been invited.
posted by davejay at 7:43 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


It would be nice if it popped up answers or explanation right after selecting.
posted by michaelh at 7:47 PM on February 8


First, what is your email address?

Quiz over.
posted by Miko at 7:54 PM on February 8 [13 favorites]


You don't have to supply even a fake email.

My workplace anti-harassment training has apparently sunk in.
posted by janell at 8:06 PM on February 8 [3 favorites]


I got everything but the last one right, and that was because I didn't read it carefully enough.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:07 PM on February 8


This is not my area of law, but I tried and got 8 out of 10 based on general legal knowledge. I'm pretty sure that a person following the rule: "assume the right answer based on the idea that companies shouldn't be an ass" would get 6 of them right.
posted by bswinburn at 8:16 PM on February 8


Since I don't really have any intuition on whether it's federal law or state law that prohibits sexual harrassment under various scenarios, I channeled my most skeptical self and answered basically every question in the most pessimistic way possible, on the chance that 'secularwoman' had a particular viewpoint to espouse. So I guess I am a bit surprised that every question wasn't "[A]ren't you surprised how terrible the law and conference harassment is?" The maybe question was actually maybe, and the outlandish scenarios weren't hiding landmine gotchas.
posted by pwnguin at 8:19 PM on February 8


Conversely, to those of us jaded and cynical from too much internet argument and political bias, this quiz was a lovely antidote. Knowing nothing of law, I just picked the most reasonable answer for each question, and got them all right. (Except for the last one, where I was presuming Gwen was speaking truthfully. I guess that one is a bit more depressing, inasmuch as the legal lesson is you can be sued for making statements of fact that may be true but, without evidence, could still get you in legal trouble.) But still, it's a nice antidote from the general sense that the right has been rolling back 5 decades of legal progress up and down the national and local levels.
posted by chortly at 8:22 PM on February 8 [5 favorites]


Conversely, to those of us jaded and cynical from too much internet argument and political bias, this quiz was a lovely antidote.

My thoughts exactly. I got the impression that it's more a matter of enforcement rather than lack of laws. Which isn't easy to fix either, of course. But it's something good. Same with the history link - things aren't ideal, but they are better.
posted by Lemurrhea at 8:27 PM on February 8


You don't have to supply even a fake email.


That's great, and I thank you for pointing it out, but nothing in the available language specifies that not providing an email will still allow you to take the quiz, which sucks.

8/10, but I think question 10 is badly posed since I assumed that people asserting personal witness were speaking the truth. Blogger Gwen is the only person going on record making a personal observation of fact which can be treated as a truth claim. Gwen has an excellent defense - better than a 2nd party (Steph's) defense that she is just discussing something that someone else reported. Gwen's defense is that she is reporting the truth as she experienced it and is willing to testify.

In reality, in a court of law, Gwen's statement would carry the most weight - more than the other three.
posted by Miko at 8:28 PM on February 8


Harassment of any form should not happen in the workplace.
posted by PennyLanes at 8:42 PM on February 8


So the gauntlet is right out then?
posted by The Confessor at 8:44 PM on February 8


Miko: Steph hasn't made any assertions about the guy, though. That "if" is a big deal. "Earliest" as in Gwen would end up mired in a dispute over the truth of what she said; Steph wouldn't even get that far. Steph hasn't made a statement about the guy that could be false. The truth is a defense, but it's way better to never have to argue about it. You can lose your shirt fighting a case where your only defense is the truth.

I liked the bit about abstractions, but I came out of having been to law school, where the individuals in the law school hypotheticals are enormous morons who do not in fact behave like real human beings.
posted by Sequence at 8:56 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


You can lose your shirt fighting a case where your only defense is the truth.

Indeed. A defense is nice, but it doesn't trump a tidy motion to dismiss.
posted by cribcage at 9:00 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Miko: Steph hasn't made any assertions about the guy, though.

Yeah, I get that. I wasn't even concerend with Stpeh. I think she's right out; there's no decent case against her because she framed the discussion carefully. But, if Gwen is telling the truth as she witnessed it, and especially if her writing is the earliest documentation of it, there's no robust case against her either. That's my point. She could certainly lose her shirt, but that doesn't make her claim indefensible. I think in order to agree with you I'd have to understand why consider "best and earliest" to not be Gwen's. Because it seems best is truth. The fact that she'd have to fight it is unpleasant, but reporting the truth in a defamation suit --? Hard for that not to be the best defense.
posted by Miko at 9:06 PM on February 8


Gwen's statement would carry the most weight if Sam were the one being sued, but since he's suing people for libel:
1) Bill may or may not be telling the truth about what he was told. If he's lying, then his opinion isn't protected. In some jurisdictions even a true statement may not be protected, although I suppose isn't the case in the USA. Anyway, let's go to court and demand his sources!
2) Gwen may or may not be telling the truth about what she saw. If she's lying then her statement isn't protected. Let's go to court and test her veracity!
3) Steph is not accusing Sam; she is saying what she thinks Gwen's statement would imply, if it were to be true. I think that sort of statement ("if that's what happened ...") may be protected in every common law jurisdiction, even outside the USA.

Gwen's case is certainly defensible (and Sam would be a fool to sue her), but of the three, Steph "has the best and earliest defense": it's a hypothetical statement of opinion based on someone else's public statement. There's nothing there over which Sam can sue her.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:12 PM on February 8


But it does say "and earliest". Not "or earliest". Fighting it is never the earliest. You want to get out on a motion to dismiss if you can, or summary judgment, you don't want to go to court. You only get out that early on matters of law, not fact. It doesn't say Gwen's claim is indefensible, it's just not as easy to get out of.
posted by Sequence at 9:12 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


The point of question 10 is that Gwen, if sued, would need to present evidence to a judge or jury that she did in fact witness Sam grope Jane. Meanwhile Steph won't need to present any evidence whatsoever. There is no claim (a term of art not synonymous with "case") against her, and consequently she will be immediately dismissed from the litigation. Hence the question's phrasing about who has the "earliest" out.

There is nothing wrong with question 10.
posted by cribcage at 9:15 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Steph's defense is "best and earliest" because there is no valid claim against her in the first place. Her troubles would stop at an earlier stage of the process.

Gwen, on the other hand, would have to spend more time and energy fighting the claim against her.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:21 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


10/10. I guess having mandatory training on this every single damn year for 15 years worked. Each year I wish could just skip to the test at the end.

I do enjoy the ambiguity of the phrase "sexual harassment training" though.
posted by aubilenon at 9:45 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


It's called marketing your practice. Lots of people do it playing golf.
posted by ADave at 10:16 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


9/10, never been through one of those mandatory training sessions or the like. It's mostly common sense.
posted by Justinian at 11:16 PM on February 8


Question 9 is a no-brainer: You can always sue. Whether you will win is a different question, of course.
posted by sour cream at 1:43 AM on February 9


But, if Gwen is telling the truth as she witnessed it, and especially if her writing is the earliest documentation of it, there's no robust case against her either.

Wow, you assumed someone on the internet was telling the truth? Hey, I've got a bridge in New York I'd like to sell you. It's yours for a song-trust me.

Honestly, if the question of the veracity of anyone on the internet is brought up, unless there's good reason to think otherwise, the safe bet is to assume they're lying.
posted by happyroach at 4:15 AM on February 9


Are you trying to start a logic problem here?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:46 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Wayne eats paste and is unclear on the distinction between fact and opinion.
posted by eviemath at 6:58 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


10/10, go figure, just had to gloat into the ether. And I guessed on the last one.

Seriously, every single one but #10 was common sense to me.

Have I been working in a university setting for too long? I felt like I was reading our annual memo from the provost on workplace harassment policies, which I believe is required under federal law for higher educational institutions.
posted by spitbull at 8:27 AM on February 9


Eventually Albert left the tech industry altogether and became a superstar of bisexual porn. Shouty McRedface (under the screen name Blogger Bill) is one of his biggest fans.
posted by La Cieca at 9:28 AM on February 9


I see how you are all constructing "best and earliest" now. I suppose I considered Steph completely out of the question as there is no case against her, there's no charge, so she doesn't need a defense. So I just didn't consider her in the set of people who need a defense.

So I thought that Gwen, employing the truth defense, would be best and earliest; she doesn't have to produce any sources other than her own testimony, whereas Bill's are unsourced allegations.
posted by Miko at 10:58 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


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