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Is it cool to work in your underwear - or is it not?
November 24, 2007 2:07 AM   Subscribe

Is it cool to work in your underwear - or is it not?
posted by janetplanet (122 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
You forgot to add: "discuss"
posted by jouke at 2:24 AM on November 24, 2007


Cool? It's the American Dream!

That said, I don't ever ever ever ever ever ever ever want to see Dov Charney in his underpants. Not even in my head TOO LATE NOOOOOOOooooo...
posted by louche mustachio at 2:25 AM on November 24, 2007


Charney (in deposition tape): I frequently drop my pants to show people my new product

Oh no, it has a nickname. *hides*
posted by louche mustachio at 2:28 AM on November 24, 2007


Reading the comments from the pro-Dov employees so soon after looking at amyms's link on denial was... disheartening, to say the least.
posted by maryh at 2:30 AM on November 24, 2007


Metafilter: "We have been waiting for this day all month. Today, we are super high, and don't know where to put our eyes,"
posted by greenskpr at 2:38 AM on November 24, 2007


To the first link - as if we don't already have to deal with comments, looks, and the odd bit of harassment.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:39 AM on November 24, 2007


cmgonzalez writes "To the first link - as if we don't already have to deal with comments, looks, and the odd bit of harassment."

And to make things worse, all the male workers got stoned on the same day.
posted by Bugbread at 2:59 AM on November 24, 2007


http://www.redmeat.com/redmeat/1996-07-22/index.html

That is all
posted by Sparx at 3:31 AM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


To the first link - as if we don't already have to deal with comments, looks, and the odd bit of harassment.

Liao Wenshen, 30, added: "The men were red-faced all day, and were becoming so polite to us. It's so funny!"
posted by metaplectic at 4:00 AM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is it cool to work in your underwear?

Yes. But it's cooler when they do.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:22 AM on November 24, 2007


I'm working in my underwear right now.
posted by chrismear at 4:42 AM on November 24, 2007


and, ironically, I'm in my underware, but not working...
posted by HuronBob at 4:52 AM on November 24, 2007


"underware"/"underwear" whateverwear...
posted by HuronBob at 4:52 AM on November 24, 2007


hmm. This is an interesting one, and i can't quite figure out how i feel about it.

On the one hand, the first link seems at least sort of to be all-in-good-fun. If I worked there, I'd probably participate. Still, it seems like it made some people uncomfortable, and that makes me think that it's not so appropriate as a way to celebrate... (also makes me wonder if every woman - no matter what body type/size - was invited to participate and treated with respect if she did). Overall, seems like sketchy territory to me, and I wouldn't be surprised to hear more about its legality in the future...

The second link, on the other hand, is just gross. Dov Charney is one fucked up dude. Seriously. I stopped shopping at American Apparel when I found out about all of his creepy business. I hope those women win their lawsuit.
posted by lunit at 6:03 AM on November 24, 2007


If the "Underwear Day" was for men and women to go to work in their underwear, that would be one thing. But it's in Taiwan, where women do not historically have a lot of power to combat sexism/sexual harassment in the workplace and didn't seem so much like "fun" to me as "disgusting and pathetic." How much do you want to bet "Encouraging" was more like the implicit understanding the women were going to face a lot of negative reaction if they didn't show up in their underwear? Ugh. And the quotes from excited dudes who have been "waiting all month" for this moment. Wow, that's great guys!

Also, Charney is gross.
posted by schroedinger at 6:10 AM on November 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


What's the point of being a CEO if you have to wear pants?
posted by I Foody at 6:17 AM on November 24, 2007 [7 favorites]


In poor taste, at best.
posted by ersatz at 6:18 AM on November 24, 2007


Both links: Sad and icky.
posted by Kangaroo at 6:30 AM on November 24, 2007


I like the theory behind it (a little bit of fun, breaking down some of the barriers towards being comfortable with our bodies in public, promoting the product in innovative ways) however I just don't trust that the people involved in either link are really interested in more than their titillating enjoyment of freaking people out/seeing girls in camisoles.
posted by scabrous at 6:43 AM on November 24, 2007


It doesn't sound like he really did anything that offensive. My guess is someone just saw an opportunity to make a shitload of money -- the American way.
posted by knave at 6:49 AM on November 24, 2007


If y'all didn't think seeing someone in their knickers was such a big deal, then there would be a lot less problems.

For these specific instances: In the first instance clearly the company is out of line since a company can't really 'encourage' something without it carrying a lot of weight even in wildly laid back societies, let alone regimented ones. So, they were out of line.

Dov? Well, I can't see how running around in your underwear is, by itself, harassment, and the article is very light on details. And banging your employees, while very foolish, is not by itself harassment either. He sounds like the kind of guy who would harass his employees (and not even know it), but that alone isn't enough to condemn him.
posted by Bovine Love at 6:51 AM on November 24, 2007


Is this where we start the flagging?
posted by sourwookie at 6:54 AM on November 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


My underwear has holes in it & I live in Vermont, so it's more like 'cold' than 'cool'.
posted by MtDewd at 7:24 AM on November 24, 2007


Does anyone not know a woman who has been sexually harrassed by Dov Charney at this point?
posted by The Straightener at 7:28 AM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


"I can't see how running around in your underwear is, by itself, harassment, and the article is very light on details."

Let's see, he's the boss. So, his actions have a very great impact on the atmosphere of an office. He walks around half-naked. Which, regardless of his intent, is bound to make people uncomfortable.

So, the most important person in the office engages in activities that clearly, and obviously, would make his employees uncomfortable. That's pretty much a text-book definition of harassment, isn't it?

And, furthermore, having sex with employees is harassment because it encourages an atmosphere in which soliciting sex from the men and women of the company is seen as normal (or at least allowed). The fostering of this kind of work environment is obviously oppressive and unnecessary.

Put those two together and, frankly, the man deserves to lose his job.
posted by oddman at 7:30 AM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


When I worked in Munich, people would occasionally wear skimpy lederhosen in work. Men and women. And then go naked in the parks at lunchtime. I still feel scarred.
posted by meehawl at 7:35 AM on November 24, 2007


So, the most important person in the office engages in activities that clearly, and obviously, would make his employees uncomfortable. That's pretty much a text-book definition of harassment, isn't it?

Uh, No, in fact, it is not. Wikipedia, though not definitive, has the definition correctly:

Sexual harassment refers to persistent and unwanted sexual advances, typically in the workplace, where the consequences of refusing are potentially very disadvantaging to the victim.

You'll find other "text book" definitions agree. So, again, walking around in your underwear is not, by itself, harassment.

As a person is currently living with a co-worker, I can't say I am against sex between employees, and can't see how that is again, by itself, harassment.

You would have people charged with a crime for wearing a low-cut top, since that makes some people uncomfortable.
posted by Bovine Love at 7:45 AM on November 24, 2007


"As a person is currently living with a co-worker"--Bove Love

Dairy farmer, eh?
posted by sourwookie at 7:48 AM on November 24, 2007 [6 favorites]


It really does seem like the concept of "sexual harassment" has become, in a lot of people's minds, an excuse for insane puritanicalism in the workplace.

As far as the dateline link, well, it's an article based on a plaintiff's lawyer, on one of the most distorting and sensationalist "news" programs on TV. Obviously it's going to make the guy look as bad as possible, come on.
posted by delmoi at 8:06 AM on November 24, 2007


If fashion is your trade
Then when you're naked
I guess you must be unemployed, yeah
posted by betweenthebars at 8:12 AM on November 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


The Charney story is 16 months old.
It has been all over the news at the time.
It's slimy, but old and cold.
It appears to be there only to beef up a single link post.
You didn't find a Victoria Secret juicy story?
posted by bru at 8:15 AM on November 24, 2007


i don't imagine that any of the potentially scantily-clad workers in either of those links are overweight, middle-aged, and out-of-shape. or that the same dynamic would be in play if it were a workforce full of men.

having said that, i wish i could go to work in my pajamas.
posted by msconduct at 8:28 AM on November 24, 2007


“I’m not saying I want to screw all the girls at work,” he was quoted as saying in Jane, “But if I fall in love at work it’s going to be beautiful and sexual.”

Why do I imagine his beautiful and sexual evenings consisting of scented candles, body oils, the music of Pat Metheny, cheap white wine, a little thai stick, and three-ways with American Airlines stewardesses? And why do I imagine his dialogue during these beautiful and sexy evening consists of phrases like "Let's let it all hang out" and "Express yourself sexually to me, baby"?

THIS IS NOT 1976, AND YOU ARE NOT A SWINGING PORN STAR LIVING IN THE VALLEY.
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:47 AM on November 24, 2007 [7 favorites]


No one would freak out if employees were forced to play football. I'm tired of sex being put on some kind of pedestal.

Give me a break. In the first link (I avoid all things Dov Charney on principle/out of reflex), it clearly states it was just the women who were "encouraged" to show up in their knickers.

Sexual harrassment, like all forms of sexual violence up to and including rape, are at least as much about power as they are about sex. The owners (powerful) created an atmosphere in which it was seen as preferable for employees (less powerful) to work in a state of undress. But they only asked female employees (less powerful), and seemed to have no problem with it being for the enjoyment of the male employees (more powerful).

Sexual harrassment, whether they did it voluntarily or not. An edict (sorry, "encouragement") coming from management makes it coercive, however subtly. They should all sue and get fat settlements.
posted by poweredbybeard at 8:55 AM on November 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


sorry: "Sexual harrassment... is at least as much about power as it is about sex..."
posted by poweredbybeard at 8:57 AM on November 24, 2007


Sexual harassment refers to persistent and unwanted sexual advances, typically in the workplace, where the consequences of refusing are potentially very disadvantaging to the victim.

You'll find other "text book" definitions agree. So, again, walking around in your underwear is not, by itself, harassment.


Oh come on. Parading around in your underwear is explicitly done to get attention in a sexual way. It's not remotely appropriate in a professional environment, and yes, it constitutes harassment.

And I'm going to take Pig Alien's comment as sarcasm. I have to or my head will explode.
posted by Zinger at 8:58 AM on November 24, 2007


Eww, I've always avoided American Apparel because their ad campaigns are creepy and they explicitly make clothing that isn't designed for the sedentary, beer drinking computer nerd demographic, but now that I know how gross Dov Charney is, I'm surprised his stores haven't been firebombed.
posted by cmonkey at 9:04 AM on November 24, 2007


Wearing a short skirt could easily be argued to also be done to get attention in a sexual way. Is not "looking good" very much in part a mating ritual? Neither one is is harassment, and to say so is ridiculous; you have not bothered anyone, made any demands or advances or in any way punished anyone for not "doing" you. If people are uncomfortable with how you look, that is their problem. A good chunk of people are uncomfortable with women in the work place, should having a female there constitute harassment?

Appropriateness is completely unrelated to harassment. I have no question he is behaving inappropriately and unprofessionally, but that does not make harassment.
posted by Bovine Love at 9:05 AM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


you have not bothered anyone, made any demands or advances or in any way punished anyone for not "doing" you.

When you're the boss, or someone in a higher position in the company doing this to people who are a lower position in the company, you are doing all of this implicitly.

You cannot avoid your boss, you cannot tell him to go put on a pair of pants, and the message here is that if you want to get ahead in this company you'll have to consider doing the boss; at the very least if you don't want to be fired, you've got to put up with a view of him in his underwear. That's harassment.

Like someone else said around here, it's not the sex issue so much as the power issue - and here the power is being abused
posted by Zinger at 9:20 AM on November 24, 2007


Bovine Love - again, sexual harrassment in the workplace is about power. It would be very nice if we could all be as free-lovin' as we like at work, but it would also be very nice if none of us had to waste our days working for rich nonces.

The sad truth is that there artificial are power indifferences both along gender (male > female) and class (owner > worker) lines in this society. Any consideration of harrassment has to be taken within that context.
posted by poweredbybeard at 9:22 AM on November 24, 2007


Bovine Love: all you need is a cursory google of dov charney's name to get a sense of the sheer volume of sexual harrassment incidents. And he knows full well what he's doing - don't be ridiculous.

And, excuse me? Did you just compare the uncomfortableness women feel when "encouraged" to wear underwear to work to the uncomfortableness [some] men [might] feel working alongside women? Doncha think that's a little absurd/offensive?
posted by lunit at 9:23 AM on November 24, 2007


"that there are artificial power differences." Fuckin' yeesh. I apologize for me today.
posted by poweredbybeard at 9:23 AM on November 24, 2007


You guys have to understand that what Dov Chaney does is considered perfectly culturally appropriate and charming in Montreal- which is where he's from, and which is where he should be deported to. They'll treat him like a conquering hero and he can go to all the quaint strip clubs that Montrealers seem to think makes their city "European."
posted by ethnomethodologist at 9:47 AM on November 24, 2007


No one would freak out if employees were forced to play football. I'm tired of sex being put on some kind of pedestal. Legalize prostitution and who cares if employees must have sex to retain their jobs? Get another job where the boss doesn't want to screw you! Blah, people are so boring. Take control of your own life and don't be dependent on someone else for your living, how's that? Whine, whine, whine.

"who cares if employees must have sex to retain their jobs?" "Get another job"!?

What the fuck!? You sound like The Simpson's Mr. Burns on a coke-fueled bender! "Let them eat cake. And knickers!" Do you even work for a living? When was the last time you had to go job hunting? Ever try to do it in a skirt!?

Despite the risks of having my head explode, I'm going to assume you're serious.

Because, you know, it's totally easy for people to get brand spanking new jobs the second they feel threatened by the one they currently have, and there is always such a great social safety net in place to protect them.

Especially when you're a woman and you've had your fucking self-esteem and self-respect shattered by some shitheel of a lecherous boss who just couldn't resist putting his hands all over you or worse. Yeah, that's just the time to be suddenly out of work and looking for a new job.

Or worse, suddenly one finds themselves unable to find a new job because her current one has not only crushed her spirit and self-confidence, but because now the boss is sure to give a bad review or reference in retribution.

Yup, that brand new totally ideal job is just around the corner! Hell, there's 6 of 'em to pick from!

...wait, what!? What do you mean why is her self esteem and respect shattered? What!? She should feel honored or complimented by the attention!?

No...? Bueller? Bueller?

This is exactly why civilized countries have sexual harrasment laws.

Because it's not just about the act of sex, or intercourse. It's about attitudes. It's about power. It's about control. It's about the fact that abuse can happen without actual contact, and that by the time that contact occurs the abuse already began, long ago - in the mind and attitude of the perpatrator and in the environment of the workplace.

Which tends to make for rather shitty work environments, which leads to poor production metrics, which leads to bad reviews and promotional opportunities all around.

And that's why it's called harrassment, boys. It's not just about your willies or where you put your hands, or your eyes. It's also about toxic work environments and "the painful death of a thousand cuts", to paraphrase and mutate the saying.
posted by loquacious at 9:49 AM on November 24, 2007 [10 favorites]


Wearing a short skirt could easily be argued to also be done to get attention in a sexual way. Is not "looking good" very much in part a mating ritual?

YOUR HONOR! I KNOW RAPE IS WRONG, BUT I COULDN'T HELP MYSELF. SHE WAS WEARING A SHORT SKIRT! SHE MUST HAVE BEEN SEEKING ATTENTION!

A good chunk of people are uncomfortable with women in the work place, should having a female there constitute harassment?

A "good chunk of people"!? I don't really have any choice, but I suppose that I must assume that these are men. They're uncomfortable with women in the workplace? Well, fuck, they should just find another job!

Uhh, how about this? Fuck. No. The discomfort a misogynist feels about working alongside a woman isn't even in the same class as the discomfort a women feels when a misogynist presses up against her.

One is irrational fear and loathing, from ignorance mostly.

The other is sexual assault.

Conflating the two is really, really stupid and offensive.
posted by loquacious at 9:57 AM on November 24, 2007


No one would freak out if employees were forced to play football. I'm tired of sex being put on some kind of pedestal. Legalize prostitution and who cares if employees must have sex to retain their jobs? Get another job where the boss doesn't want to screw you! Blah, people are so boring. Take control of your own life and don't be dependent on someone else for your living, how's that? Whine, whine, whine.

Sex has an emotional impact even in countries where prostitution is legal. I can't understand why you disagree to everyday people (and not bosses) choosing their sex partners. Good luck with your self-reliance project though. Just don't fret if your farmer/goods manufacturer demands sexual favours. If you're dependent on him it's fair game, right?

On preview: What loquacious said.
posted by ersatz at 9:57 AM on November 24, 2007


*disagree with
posted by ersatz at 9:57 AM on November 24, 2007


sheesh ... so glad I work in a laboratory ... can't even wear skirts or open-toed shoes ... thank goodness for safety regs!
*shudder*

posted by Quietgal at 10:03 AM on November 24, 2007


I gotta side with Bovine Love on this one. Harassment involves someone coercing or pressuring someone else and if nothing else involves malice. This guy might be risque and oversexed, he might be "icky" and "gross", but none of that automatically equates to being malicious, much less illegal. Harassment isn't a crime that's committed through negligence - it's intentional.

That's not to say he cannot have been engaging in sexual harassment. But by any standard of justice someone isn't guilty of a crime just because society at large doesn't like the way they dress or act. There needs to be considerably more proof before we accept the word of his accusers and condemn him.

I think that the best counterexample would be, what if he was a cross-dresser instead? That would probably make just as many people say "ewwww" and be uncomfortable, and could quite possibly be accompanied by the same taste in explicit humor and explicit conversation, but no one would be saying "Well, he's a transvestite, so obviously he's guilty of sexual harassment!" would they? It's just as prejudicial to say he's guilty by default because he prances around in his underwear.
posted by XMLicious at 10:24 AM on November 24, 2007


Hey, who deleted my comment? My comment was perfectly legitimate, even if you thought it was extreme. I am entitled to my opinion and I slandered no one with it! This kind of censorship on Metafilter is unacceptable. I've seen people call each other worse names without their comments being deleted. I severely protest!
posted by PigAlien at 10:29 AM on November 24, 2007


Yuck and yuck.

Textbook: There are two theories of sexual harassment (which can overlap in a particular case). One is called "quid pro quo," and is about demands for sexual favors. The other is called "hostile work environment," where sex-based comments, touchings, pictures, etc. are sufficiently "severe or pervasive" that they material alter the terms and conditions of employment. It sounds like Chaney may be liable for both kinds of sex harassment.

There has been an interesting development in sex harassment law recently which may be applicable here. When a boss has affairs at work, and promotes/advances these people above others, those left behind (because they don't have affairs with the boss) may have a claim. See Miller v. Department of Corrections (pdf).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 10:41 AM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Harassment involves someone coercing or pressuring someone else and if nothing else involves malice
posted by Zinger at 10:43 AM on November 24, 2007


Rats, wrong button. Try again:

Harassment involves someone coercing or pressuring someone else and if nothing else involves malice

Again, HE'S THE BOSS. What he does pressures his staff by default.

Let's turn this around: What if the Taiwanese company had a female CEO and was 75% female staff, and all of the female staff were in senior positions?

And what if they "encouraged" the men to show up wearing nothing but g string briefs and bow ties a la the Chippendales? While the women remained fully dressed? What if the women wolf-whistled every time some guy went over to the watercooler? Or ran office pools trying to guess the guy's measurements?

Doesn't feel so right when the tables are turned, does it?
posted by Zinger at 10:54 AM on November 24, 2007


This whole thing is horrifying.

Big second to ClaudiaCenter just above on Dov Charney. He makes me sick, so I won't even get into it. As a friend once said, "it feels like you can never win: here's a company with fair labor practices that I can feel good about, but it's replaced with a work environment that's hostile to and degrading of women." Just the Penthouses up on the walls in many of their retail outlets gives me the creepy-crawlies.

It is unfathomable to me that anyone ever thought it would be okay to tell all the women to come in lingerie. Someone above mentioned "If it were both men and women," and I think that would just be an everyday terrible idea. This borders on low-budget porn and, IMO, is a mind-blowingly effective way to say, "You women, this is what you're here for - to look at and sit at desks. We men, we do the work and hold meetings." ICK!
posted by coolhappysteve at 11:05 AM on November 24, 2007


As troglodyte as I found PigAlien's comment to be, its deletion does rather smack of censorship. The worst he did was accuse others of whining.

Of course, if the intention in deleting his comment was so that we could hear him whine himself, that was absolutely brilliant and I wholeheartedly approve. In Soviet Russia, the censorship IS the art!
posted by XMLicious at 11:07 AM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


And what if they "encouraged" the men to show up wearing nothing but g string briefs and bow ties a la the Chippendales?

Dov Charney would drop off an application to work part-time at such a place in a heartbeat.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:08 AM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


The discomfort a misogynist feels about working alongside a woman isn't even in the same class as the discomfort a women feels when a misogynist presses up against her.

If you have been following along, you'll see that we most certainly have not been discussing "presses up against her"; we have been discussing prancing about in your knickers, not doing anything to anyone, pressed up or not. If he has been pressing himself up, uninvited, to women then he is in deep shit. But that is not the discussion at hand. The discussion at hand is whether or not the discomfort felt by employees (and there is no reason to restrict it to females) by having the boss prance around in his underwear constitutes sexual harassment. If you see a person in their underwear and -- simply by seeing that -- feel that unless you sleep with them, you will be disadvantaged I would propose you have some issues. Someone who is in their underwear is not coming onto you, is not demanding sex and is not harassing you. They simply lack good sense and taste. If they press themselves up against you, knee them in the balls and call the cops.
posted by Bovine Love at 11:12 AM on November 24, 2007


Again, HE'S THE BOSS. What he does pressures his staff by default.

Ok, he is in his underwear. What is he pressuring his staff (that is, his employees) to do?
posted by Bovine Love at 11:14 AM on November 24, 2007


Zinger, I think you're mixing things up. The story about all of the female employees of a Taiwanese lingerie company being encouraged to come in to work wearing lingerie, and the story about the CEO of an American company being sued for sexual harassment are two separate, unrelated stories.
posted by XMLicious at 11:15 AM on November 24, 2007


"Sex has an emotional impact even in countries where prostitution is legal. I can't understand why you disagree to everyday people (and not bosses) choosing their sex partners. Good luck with your self-reliance project though. Just don't fret if your farmer/goods manufacturer demands sexual favours. If you're dependent on him it's fair game, right?"

Goodness gracious, who said anything about people not being able to choose their sex partners? I didn't advocate rape! But, I honestly don't have a problem if having sex with the boss were part of the job. I mean, in all seriousness, do you REALLY believe that if bosses were allowed to demand sex from their employees that employees would be putting up with that? And, if they were, does that not indicate that its not quite as unacceptable to our culture as we would here make it out to be?

Everything has an emotional impact. Goodness, are we going to start outlawing anything that has an emotional impact? How about every time the boss makes me work late and I miss dinner with my kids? Should we make it illegal for bosses to prevent their employees with kids from having dinner with their children? If my boss makes me work too late, too often, and my wife and kids become unhappy, what do I do? I quit my job and find a better one or I continue in my job and continue to be miserable and possibly have my wife divorce me!

We are still allowed to form our own communities in this country. You may not be able all by yourself to buy a farm and start growing your own vegetables, but you can find other like-minded individuals and live and work with them. Women, gays, blacks, immigrants, white men can all start their own companies and run them as they see fit and sell their products and services to those who are interested in buying them.

Does the public discriminate? Yes, they do! In a positive way. I do not give my money to McDonald's or Walmart and I try not to support large, multi-national corporations in general, although that is almost impossible to do.

Personally, I belong to a local co-op where we buy our products as much as possible from local producers, including produce and cosmetic products, etc. Our co-op supports a group called 'simply living', which is a group of like-minded individuals who support each other in a common endeavor to lead lives which have a minimal impact on the environment. This organization is effective and helps people lead better lives.

Last I checked, the state where I live is an 'at-will' state, which means the employer can hire or fire you for any reason, unless it can be found that by firing you they are 'discriminating' against people in protected 'classes'. The principal behind 'at-will' employment is that only the owners and the managers have the right and the requisite knowledge to determine what is best for their own company, which atmosphere is most conducive to their own goals and desires and who are the best people to accomplish those goals.

A private company belongs to its owners. Just like the government can't tell you what rules to set in your own home, it shouldn't be able to tell you what rules to set in your own business. Unless you are causing public harm with your business, then your success or failure should determine what you are allowed to do with your business.

No one is a slave in this country any more and no one is forced to work for any one employer. If you don't like the way the business is run, find another one, start your own, or get together with like-minded individuals and start one. No one said life is easy, but it sure is much more interesting when you stop being a victim and expecting things to be handed to you and you start making your own life the way you wish it to be.
posted by PigAlien at 11:20 AM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Ok, he is in his underwear. What is he pressuring his staff (that is, his employees) to do?

Check out his package.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:22 AM on November 24, 2007


The allegations are not only that Charney wore only underwear, but also that he talked constantly about sex and his genitals, that he sought sex from subordinates frequently, that he requested that a subordinate masturbate in front of him in the context of a discussion of a pay raise, that there were pictures of naked women on the walls, and that he called women sluts and c---s. This kind of evidence could easily demonstrate sex harassment under the legal standards. It sounds intolerable to me, frankly.

The legal analysis requires that the court consider the totality of the circumstances. So Charney can explain his side of the story -- that [imagining Charney's defense]: the sex was consensual, that he didn't pressure people for sex, that he didn't promote or demote people based on whether they had sex with him, that the talk of sex was appropriate given the context of the workplace as a fashion industry company, whatever. While the system isn't perfect, it does consider context, whether interactions are consensual, and so on.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:01 PM on November 24, 2007


Well, in a sense, I do see your point, PigAlien: people are free to choose what jobs they take, so if a boss demands that his employees have sex with him, they can go get another job.

However, if that were allowed, there are many areas with very few employers, and sometimes only one. So if that were allowed, it wouldn't just be a shrug, then walk out and look for another job. It'd also involve telling the kids that they're losing all their friends because you have to move to a different town in order to find a boss who doesn't require his employees to have sex with him/her. Changing schools. Moving. Wrecking the stability of your childrens' upbringing.

It's easy to *say* just go get another job. In theory, that even sounds okay. As a matter of practicality, it's not okay, not in the real world. And that's probably why it isn't legal for bosses to do that.
posted by jamstigator at 12:13 PM on November 24, 2007


Is not "looking good" very much in part a mating ritual?

News flash. The workplace is not a fucking mating ritual.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 12:17 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Zinger, I think you're mixing things up. The story about all of the female employees of a Taiwanese lingerie company being encouraged to come in to work wearing lingerie, and the story about the CEO of an American company being sued for sexual harassment are two separate, unrelated stories.

They are not remotely unrelated. Both are stories about sexual harassment, just in different parts of the world and with slightly different situations.

But if you want that same example very specifically related to the Dov story, it would be like if your female boss wandered around in her underwear all the time. It's not appropriate and it constitutes harassment, because she's the boss.

jamstigator: However, if that were allowed, there are many areas with very few employers, and sometimes only one.

Yes, exactly. It's also the case that for many people, foodbanks are only one paycheque away, and even very temporary unemployment can mean financial ruin.
posted by Zinger at 12:26 PM on November 24, 2007


Hi Jamstigator, I appreciate your very reasonable response to my post :)

I must note, however, that it is due to exactly this reasoning that we are being buried by the Chinese and the illegals coming to our country. How hard do you think it is for a Mexican to leave their entire family and make a difficult and illegal border crossing, only to live in a one-bedroom apartment with 4 or more other people and sleep on the floor and work 12 hours a day for less than minimum wage? Then, you send most of that money back to your family in Mexico or South America and have very little money left for yourself.

The same thing happens in China. Desperately poor farmers leave their entire families in rural villages and go to work in sweatshop conditions in the big cities because they can make more money that way and send it back to their families.

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Move our families, if we must. Our children will adapt. Everyone will be stronger and happier. Or, sit back and whine about how unfair the world is and expect everything to be handed to us because (I don't know why anyone would think this), we are somehow entitled to it. We are fighting against the tides and will be washed out into the ocean eventually, no matter how determined we are to fight it. We must learn to swim, or we will sink.
posted by PigAlien at 12:31 PM on November 24, 2007


What doesn't kill us makes us stronger. Move our families, if we must. Our children will adapt. Everyone will be stronger and happier.

So, what? We should poison our kids, beat them to an inch of their lives, break their legs and chop off their hands, wreak havoc with their self-esteem, and torture them? That's going to make them stronger?

Is that how syphilis made Nietzsche a superman?
posted by cytherea at 12:40 PM on November 24, 2007


I'm talking about adapting to circumstances forced upon us and you're talking about willfully inflicting injury on ourselves? Get a grip, cytherea, your argument is completely irrelevant.
posted by PigAlien at 12:48 PM on November 24, 2007


News flash. The workplace is not a fucking mating ritual.

Not by intent. But a sizable portion, I beleive it is a majority in fact, of adults meet thier Significant Other in the work place.

Which is the real problem with kneejerk Sexual Harrassment guidelines. Though I don't think people's response to Charney is knee jerk. That dude is beyond the pale. What a shame becuase the principles of his product... being American made etc are sound. Too bad he is a creep.

In the mid eighties when companies finally became sensative to Sexual Harrassment many did go over-board in reaction. HR departments essentially laid seige over personal interactions. I remember as a department head at an Ad Agency in the early 1990s the guidleines book they gave us was a three ring notebook about two inches thick. It took an HR consultant three full days to review it with us. And one thing stood out in my mind. NO coworkers could date. Esspecially anybody superior to an inferior - THAT would lead to immediate termination.

This was not only not fairly enforceable but absurd since I met my wife there as did most the people employed there. The nature of the goofy hierarchy tree at an agency of that size put you on top AND under 40% of your coworkers. So it nearly became a witch hunt with people hiding who they were dating and people sneaking around trying not to been seen going to lunch together. Other people rating them out becuase of personal grudges. It was crazy.

There were also lengthy descriptions of what could and could not be worn to work... beyond what was reasonable "professional dress" - leading a couple of women to show up to work in burkha like sacks in protest.

Of course most of this was later adapted. I think now in most places a fairer balance has been struck.
posted by tkchrist at 12:52 PM on November 24, 2007


Hey, you said "what doesn't kill us makes us stronger". Now you seem to be saying that "some things that don't kill us make us stronger."

I imagine the trick is figuring out which is which. You know, perhaps like fighting for laws against sexual harassment might make us stronger than giving up and moving to a new town.
posted by cytherea at 12:56 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


pigalien: How about every time the boss makes you work late in your underwear and you miss dinner with your kids?

i rather loathe enforced dress codes, and think 'dress up days' are reminiscent of jr. high school, so that gives you an idea of what i'd think about this if it were a boss strongly encouraging people to dress like pilgrams in honor of thanksgiving. however, when you add blatantly sexual undertones, it's the kind of thing you do in a group of like-minded individuals who support each other in a common endeavor, not in a workplace where most people are just trying to make enough money to put food on the table so they can go home and have dinner with the kids.
posted by msconduct at 12:56 PM on November 24, 2007


Zinger said ...it would be like if your female boss wandered around in her underwear all the time. It's not appropriate and it constitutes harassment, because she's the boss.

So on one hand we have my boss wearing lingerie, regardless of her reason for doing so, without any overture or message directed at me. On the other hand, in a more standard example of sexual harassment, a woman being intentionally and maliciously pressured to trade sexual favors in exchange for an otherwise-deserved promotion. You really want to say that those are the same criminal thing?

If so then we inevitably get back to my question above - what if it was cross-dressing on the part of the boss that made the employees uncomfortable in a sexually-related way?

What it gets down to is, it seems to me that he's being written off because people think he's the wrong kind of freak - an unambiguously straight, white, male freak instead of something like a drag queen. If he actually did and said for the asserted seedy purposes the things he's denying having done then yes, he committed sexual harassment. But as he may not have, I think that condemning him right out of the gate as a criminal because he's a cheesy Ron-Burgundy-type caricature is wrong.
posted by XMLicious at 1:05 PM on November 24, 2007


A good chunk of people are uncomfortable with women in the work place

What.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 1:06 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, they may not be the same thing, wearing your underwear to work and pressuring sexual favors from your coworkers, but they could both be sexual harassment.

Perhaps it would be the same if your crossdresser came to work in lingerie?
posted by cytherea at 1:10 PM on November 24, 2007


Actually, you know what--I've changed my mind. I agree with you in principle about not having your dress code dictated solely by how it makes others feel.

But, there must be a line to be negotiated somewhere. I mean, people running around in their skivvies at work would make me a bit uncomfortable, but I could handle it.

I'm not sure I could handle people not showering for months (days, actually) on end.
posted by cytherea at 1:16 PM on November 24, 2007


considering my boss is over 500 pounds and one of my co workers is over 300, just the thought of either of them. . . excuse me I just puked in my mouth.klasdf
posted by cdavidc at 1:19 PM on November 24, 2007


Employees are required to do things that they don't enjoy or are uncomfortable with every day. The only reason sex is singled out is because of our puritanical attitudes toward it.

How about this example: you are a white male married to an Iraqi emigre and have two multi-racial children. You converted to islam for your wife. Your wife chooses to wear a headscarf and your family is constantly the subject of people's stares. She lost much of her family in Iraq to the American bombings, the insurgency and sectarian violence. People on the street, in restaurants, bars and other public places are constantly talking about the 'damned terrorists' and turning the Middle East into glass.

What if your boss required you to wear an american flag pin to work and only red, white and blue clothes, even though it had nothing to do with the business requirements? "Support Our Troops" posters are all over the place and your boss is an army veteran. In the lunchroom, people talk about the war in Iraq and vaporizing the Middle East. They don't make any unacceptable 'racist' comments, but they do talk constantly about 'terrorists'.

Despite this, no one has mentioned your religion or your wife's ethnic background and everyone treats you nicely. No one has broken any laws, but nonetheless, would you consider this a hostile work environment? I challenge you to find a jury in America that would find an employer guilty of being 'patriotic'.

If anyone thinks a particular work environment is hostile, they should leave it. Plain and simple, end of story. If they choose to stay and put up with it, for any reason, they have no one to blame but themselves.
posted by PigAlien at 1:39 PM on November 24, 2007


No to wearing underwear in the workplace. No one wants to find armpit hairs in the Krispy Kremes, or sit on the leather sofa glistening with back sweat. I don't even need to be feeling sexually harassed to be grossed the fuck out.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:42 PM on November 24, 2007


I challenge you to find a jury in America that would find an employer guilty of being 'patriotic'.


Now that's silly, because that's not what any case would allege, so of course no jury would find anyone guilty of "being patriotic". They would be deciding on whether or not a workplace is hostile.

A Kurdish American man is suing Nummi over this sort of harassment.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:50 PM on November 24, 2007



The same thing happens in China. Desperately poor farmers leave their entire families in rural villages and go to work in sweatshop conditions in the big cities because they can make more money that way and send it back to their families.

You say that these people and their families live stronger and healthier lives working under unsafe, unsanitary, unmonitored and illegal conditions? Really? I've lived in rural communities and met the families of migrant workers poisoned by illegal pesticide use who now have no health insurance and are slowly dying. Your comments make it pretty clear that you don't know much about the hardships faced by illegal migrant workers who even under the best conditions don't get to see their families for months at a time, accrue no benefits, get no health care, and have to live with the fear of being outed or deported. That's not considered by many people to be a recipe for health and happiness, FYI. I assume you're trying to say that employers should be able to do whatever they want because employees can just leave and be like happy migrant workers to the benefit of all. Well, economically speaking, it's not a benefit to an employer to have a high turnover in the workforce. It's not a benefit to civic infrastructure and communities to have a constant flow of people in and out. It is not a benefit to families to be constantly uprooted. It is a huge burden on a society to have an ill and aging bunch of people with no health care and no money saved and no ties to the community. Frankly your argument makes no sense, socially or economically.
posted by oneirodynia at 2:13 PM on November 24, 2007 [2 favorites]


Ooookay -- the allegations are not limited to Charney walking around in underwear -- that was one fact alleged among many. SO -- all the hypotheticals about dress codes and women bosses in lingerie and pilgrim outfits and flag togas are fine, but are not analogous to the actual lawsuit that was filed.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 2:29 PM on November 24, 2007


cytherea -
There definitely should be a line for what constitutes acceptable behavior in a given workplace. There should also be an entirely separate line for what constitutes legal behavior in a workplace. What I'm saying is that dressing funny or smelling bad should not of themselves constitute an illegal act.

Now, intentionally dressing funny for the proven and express purpose of illegally coercing someone else may be criminal, but it's the coercion that's criminal, not the dressing funny. Being a certain way or dressing a certain way, or having a certain creed, or having a certain religion, etc. does not harass anyone.

(I want to mention that I do not agree with PigAlien's position that virtually anything an employer may do to the employee is fair because the employee has the option to quit and that consequently any misery in the workplace is the employee's fault.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:48 PM on November 24, 2007


PigAlien: No one is a slave in this country any more and no one is forced to work for any one employer.

Wrong again.
posted by hydrophonic at 2:55 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


PareidoliaticBoy: News flash. The workplace is not a fucking mating ritual.

I think you'll find that for most people all of life past puberty and perhaps just before very old age is a mating ritual. The workplace is not only not an exception, it is one of the primary places to begin the ritual.

sheesh, next thing you'll be claiming college is not a mating ritual. Ignoring sexuality doesn't make it go away.
posted by Bovine Love at 3:13 PM on November 24, 2007


I must note, however, that it is due to exactly this reasoning that we are being buried by the Chinese and the illegals coming to our country.

Stop.

Stop now.
posted by poweredbybeard at 3:16 PM on November 24, 2007


If anyone thinks a particular work environment is hostile, they should leave it. Plain and simple, end of story.

Funny how that logic never goes both ways. We don't hear, for instance, people telling managers that if they don't like their employers demanding basic dignity, they should just move on and give up the big chair to someone else. Or let the workers run things.

If that's the approach people take every time, then there's little incentive for any employer to make sure their work environment isn't hostile. Your trust in wealthy people is cute and all, but not exactly borne by history.

But, then, whatever. Generally, that sort of comment doesn't come from real concern for (or even understanding of) the issues, but a desire to dismiss the issues while still appearing to give a shit, and perhaps appearing to not be precisely the sort of privileged fuck most likely to be causing the problem in the first place.

Is it just me, or are Metafilter threads dealing with gender becoming increasingly likely to get very icky very quickly?
posted by poweredbybeard at 3:29 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


If during the interview for the job the interviewees were told that employee dress code was very relaxed and that the boss worked in his underwear then you can make a case that it was informed consent, except if there was additional behavior like womanizing and demeaning the female employees with inappropriate behavior. As I doubt many of the employees agreed to work in that kind of environment then I believe that this constitutes sexual harassment.

So while in theory you could have a work environment in which, say, employees can work completely and not have sexual harassment (I believe they're called nudist colonies), in practice this isn't what happened here.
posted by Green With You at 4:02 PM on November 24, 2007


*completely nude
posted by Green With You at 4:03 PM on November 24, 2007


Just don't forget to bring a towel.
posted by cytherea at 4:38 PM on November 24, 2007


Wow, cool, I've stumbled into a thread populated exclusively by lawyers and HR personnel.

Well, that's what I assume, at least, because everyone is arguing so vociferously about what is and isn't sexual harassment, as opposed to what they believe should or shouldn't be sexual harassment.

I'll be the first layman to jump in then. I don't know if wearing your underwear to work is sexual harassment or not. Some definitions seem to say "yes" (the "creating a hostile environment", and some say no "coercing or pressuring"). It sure seems like he's the kind of guy who, in addition to creating a hostile environment, also pressures people into sex, but I don't know for sure. But, on the underwear issue alone, I have no idea if it's sexual harassment or not.

Still, seems strange that everyone here is so sure about the law, but there's so much disagreement.
posted by Bugbread at 5:30 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


I am skeptical of ananova since they lied to me.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 6:59 PM on November 24, 2007


PigAlien: are you really serious?

I mean, in all seriousness, do you REALLY believe that if bosses were allowed to demand sex from their employees that employees would be putting up with that?

Why, yes, I absolutely believe that employees would put up with it because a huge amount of the time you don't have a choice if you want to feed your family and keep a roof over your head.

If you don't like the way the business is run, find another one, start your own, or get together with like-minded individuals and start one.

You live in a delusional world. Do you actually work for a living?

For example, I'm a computer programmer; I have been for 25 years; I'm at the top of my career; I've never been out of work except by choice; I could could walk out of my job into one paying 30% more tomorrow if I cared to; I have enough money in the bank that I could live for a year; I've started companies before, with some limited success and could probably do a lot better now, and yet the thought of quitting one job and starting another is difficult enough to me that I'd be seriously upset if the environment got so difficult that I had to leave.

My next door neighbor is "semi-skilled" -- he's actually quite brilliant within his domain -- you give him anything with wood or stone and he'll do marvels with it. Yet every job he gets, he gets robbed by the management; not because he's a poor worker but because they can get away with it.

His most recent job was revelatory. When we looked at his paycheck, I realized that they were stealing hundreds of dollars from him each paycheck. They weren't paying him the $12/hour they claimed in their initial letter, but $9; there were made-up tax deductions that corresponded to nothing; there was a "garnishee fee" of $75/paycheck that didn't correspond to any event.

Eventually he was badly injured -- one of the managers dropped a 200lb box of stone on him. (He was lucky -- when he went to OSHA he discovered that previous workers had been seriously injured including one guy who lost all the fingers on one hand). He kept working. Then he asked them about the missing money (and other things like "vacation" -- he had *0* days of vacation per year, except for statutory holidays) and they fired him. They immediately regretted it, as he was the only competent person there, started calling him every day, sending people to show up and knock on his door -- and mine -- but they weren't even willing to offer him two weeks' vacation and the rate they promised him in their offer letter.

(He took them to court over the missing money that by my calculations was about $250 every two weeks for a year and a half. The principal laughed and told him that they had it all fixed; my neighbor *won* the case and yet the judge awarded him $180. Luckily, his appeal is going very well as the paystubs speak for themselves and the company perjured themselves repeatedly in the first trial -- but it's clear to me that the first judge was on the take.)

So, PigAlien: what is it you do again you can waltz into a new job at any moment?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:11 PM on November 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


Goodness gracious, who said anything about people not being able to choose their sex partners? I didn't advocate rape! But, I honestly don't have a problem if having sex with the boss were part of the job. I mean, in all seriousness, do you REALLY believe that if bosses were allowed to demand sex from their employees that employees would be putting up with that? And, if they were, does that not indicate that its not quite as unacceptable to our culture as we would here make it out to be?

I didn't say you advocated rape. But as I think bosses shouldn't be allowed to take advantage of their position to ask sexual favors from staff, I'm fine if a law enforces that. It's not as if there's parity between boss and employee.

No one said life is easy, but it sure is much more interesting when you stop being a victim and expecting things to be handed to you and you start making your own life the way you wish it to be.

Pressing for legislation according to your best interests is empowering, right?
posted by ersatz at 7:31 PM on November 24, 2007


I'm working in my underwear right now.

me too. I'm working in chrismear's underwear. The thong is really uncomfortable.
posted by jonmc at 7:45 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


bugbread said I'll be the first layman to jump in then. I don't know if wearing your underwear to work is sexual harassment or not.

And any layman rendering an opinion other than "I don't know" is getting uppity, eh? C'mon man, be nice. None of the participants in this thread claimed to be a lawyer.

Fortunately we live in a country where one can have an opinion on whether a person has committed a crime or injured another, whether or not one is a lawyer. If you are abdicating your right to form those opinions, and leaving the decision of what's wrong or right up to lawyers and HR personnel - 1) shame on you and 2) don't pretend to take the rest of us along with you! If any of us cared that much about the legal specifics, we'd be arguing about whether the lawsuits would be successful, not about whether it's right or wrong.

P.S. I don't really think you believe that non-lawyers cannot form their own opinions here but it's difficult to read your comment above as implying anything else.
posted by XMLicious at 7:51 PM on November 24, 2007


I've done many things, lupus - I started minimum wage at fast food restaurants, waited tables through college, worked as an administrative assistant with temp agencies, did medical transcription, worked as a computer programmer for 10 years, got into real estate, now own my own company. I had the privilege of a middle-class background and a college education, but both of my parents came from poverty. My parents never complained about their poverty, they were always focused on moving forward in life and not dwelling in the past.

My mother lived in a dirt hole in the ground with her 6 siblings and my grandparents while my grandfather built a house above their heads with his own hands. My grandmother would beat my mother naked with a chopped-up hula-hoop and force her hands into scalding water to do the dishes while the water was still almost boiling. She never had new clothes because she always wore hand-me-downs, and she was treated like shit by her step-mother, while her half-sisters were spoiled. My grandfather's excuse was, "well, we learned from our mistakes with you." My mother forgave my grandfather a looooooooong time ago, because she knew he truly was doing the best he could with limited resources.

My father treated my mother with great respect and she married him at a young age. She didn't have to work while married to him, although she took a few part-time jobs and did some community college. Eventually, she fell out of love with my father and decided to go out on her own. She left my brother and me with our father, but promised us that as soon as she could afford it, we would be living with her, which we did just a year later. My parents shared full custody and my father always paid more than what the courts required and saw us every weekend. They never fought over us or in front of us.

My mother made it very clear to us that it was important to her to be able to prove to herself that she could "do it" on her own, since she had always been reliant on my father. She took jobs waiting tables and bartending and eventually got jobs working for mortgage brokers and title companies and even got her real estate license and became a Realtor. My mother is very attractive and was always being hit on by men, but she was a humble person and did not exploit people. She dated a few men and then met my step-father, a wonderful man who treats her with great respect and equality and who treated her 2 children like her own. I love and respect him dearly and think of him like my second father, for I am very close to my biological father too.

My father grew up in a shack in the woods shooting possum and my grandmother left him and my uncle with their step-father when he was 14 years old. His stepfather was apparently a pretty cool guy and he was pretty happy to live with him. My dad went into the reserves and got his associate's degree. He then went into computers and saved his money and worked hard his entire life and now has retired in a nice community with my stepmother. What he always taught me was, "work for yourself and don't ever put your faith in any company to look after you; they will always look out for themselves first." He also always taught me that he would love me no matter what, and that I should always pursue that which gives me happiness.

I left a $160,000 a year job to make almost nothing in a new career because I saw the IT industry changing and decided to get out early. 6 years later I'm still only earning 1/4 of what I did before, but I'm still happy because I made the choice and wasn't forced into it. People need to be responsible for their own destinies and not expect some person or company to take care of it for them. You need to always keep your eyes open and be prepared for change because its usually forced upon you. I'm shocked at how people can be so clueless to one of life's most fundamental lessons.

I know that to a certain extent being white in a system which was created by whites gives me a built-in advantage, but the truth is, there are still white people in poverty, including my parents when they were growing up and some of their relatives still. And I mean this in all honesty, and not in a, "I have black friends" way, but probably more than half of my friends, including my closest, are non-white, and they are all successful children of immigrants, mostly Indian and South-East Asian. Why are immigrants so successful in this country? Because they know they are coming into an adverse situation and are prepared for it. They are prepared for bigotry and discrimination and they stick together, help each other, form their own businesses and they work hard as hell. They don't whine and they don't complain about discrimination, and in the end, they are succesful because they focus on the results.

I'm gay and I've worked in plenty of 'hostile' environments. In fact, much of my LIFE is spent in a hostile environment. I honestly worry today about the direction this country is going in if I won't be shipped off to a concentration camp by the neocons after they've declared martial law.

I own my own company now and still find myself in situations with clients where I feel uncomfortable. I haven't fired a client yet because of that discomfort, but I know I can if I want to. I choose not to. I think discrimination against gays and lesbians is atrocious and I'm completely against it. I understand what it means to work in a hostile work environment. Nonetheless, it does not change my position.

In preview, ersatz, legislation already exists, there is no need to fight for it. 'Sexual Harassment' in the workplace is already illegal. I am simply saying I personally think its poppycock. There should be no such legal distinction as a 'hostile' work environment.
posted by PigAlien at 8:02 PM on November 24, 2007


and, PS, my father was 'laid-off' from his job and replaced with a younger person at half his salary. It was a clear-cut case of age discrimination, as my father had a perfect work record and was their documented best programmer with the least mistakes and never a write-up and never missed work. What did he do? He investigated the possibility of suing, but decided not to. What he did do was put out an ad in the local paper for handyman work and set about helping people with small carpentry and plumbing problems. He also advertised himself as a computer geek and helps set up people's home networks and remove viruses, reformat hard-drives, etc. Its very hard for people of my father's age to find employment. They are too expensive and close to retirement. I NEVER heard my father complain. He simply took it on the chin and found something else to do.
posted by PigAlien at 8:11 PM on November 24, 2007


XMLicious writes "And any layman rendering an opinion other than 'I don't know' is getting uppity, eh? C'mon man, be nice. None of the participants in this thread claimed to be a lawyer."

I guess it bugs me that everybody is making bold strong declarations about how this is clearly X or Y. Sure, express opinions, but when it becomes clear that people don't agree on stuff, present your opinion as opinion, not fact.

XMLicious writes "P.S. I don't really think you believe that non-lawyers cannot form their own opinions here but it's difficult to read your comment above as implying anything else."

You missed the part where I advocated saying "This should be sexual harassment" or "This shouldn't be sexual harassment".
posted by Bugbread at 8:16 PM on November 24, 2007


I know that to a certain extent being white in a system which was created by whites gives me a built-in advantage

Do ya think?

I had the privilege of a middle-class background and a college education, but both of my parents came from poverty.

Sorry, but the fact that your parents were poor does not give you an understanding of what it's like to be beholden to someone else for your daily bread.

I haven't fired a client yet because of that discomfort, but I know I can if I want to.


Exactly everyone else's point. You had the luxury of a $160,000 job which you supposedly voluntarily gave up; you had the luxury of a middle-class background and college education; you're now your own boss and can fire clients if you want to. Bully for you for getting there.

However, the rest of the population occasionally needs a little protection, so they don't have to deal with some jerk who's on a genitally focused power trip, as well as everything else.
posted by Zinger at 8:31 PM on November 24, 2007


PigAlien - kudos to you and yours for suffering and surviving. Seriously. I can understand how a person who surpassed things like this on their own, without assistance, would resent the idea of someone being shielded from the trials that person had no choice but to endure.

But I think you're going a little bit overboard here in reveling in the suffering - like, your mother being beaten naked with a hula-hoop and having her hands forced into scalding water. That's unambiguously wrong, isn't it? No one would be whining if they were complaining about that kind of treatment, not as an employee and certainly not as a child, right? And surely, even if it made some children stronger, you wouldn't advocate that as a reason to treat children that way, would you?

You seem to be saying that as long as an employer is treating its employees better than outright slavery anything that employer should choose to do is perfectly fair and any advantage the employer may press to use as leverage in defining the employer-employee relationship cannot be unethical. And furthermore, anyone who disagrees with that position or the behavior of any employer is whining. Can you see that you aren't leaving anyone room to even slightly disagree with you?

That might be what you really believe, or it might just be the way you're saying it. I don't know. But it's at least part of the reason that some people in this thread haven't taken you seriously, because particularly with the "whining" comments you're saying that you're not going to take anyone who disagrees with you seriously.
posted by XMLicious at 8:59 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


bugbread said You missed the part where I advocated saying "This should be sexual harassment" or "This shouldn't be sexual harassment".

Except that you didn't do either of those things, you just said "I don't know." And you're acting as if no one else in the thread had used the word "should." Taken together with your sarcastic quip that, *gasp* to be discussing what harassment actually is we must all be lawyers and HR personnel, you're articulating a clear message about who can decide what harassment is and is not. (Not who should make that decision, I would note. Little bit of a double standard, eh?)

I guess it bugs me that everybody is making bold strong declarations about how this is clearly X or Y. Sure, express opinions, but when it becomes clear that people don't agree on stuff, present your opinion as opinion, not fact.

... but snarkily implying that others don't have the authority to make the statements they're making is perfectly fine? Pluck the timber from thine eye, dude, before you start complaining about my rhetorical technique.
posted by XMLicious at 9:27 PM on November 24, 2007


I'm working in my underwear right now.

I work at MetaFilter where every day is Work In Your Underwear Day ™ except now that it's cold it's more like Work In Your Pajamas ™
posted by jessamyn at 9:53 PM on November 24, 2007


XMLicious writes "Except that you didn't do either of those things, you just said 'I don't know.'"

bugbread writes "Well, that's what I assume, at least, because everyone is arguing so vociferously about what is and isn't sexual harassment, as opposed to what they believe should or shouldn't be sexual harassment."

In an argument phrased "People are doing X, which is illogical, as opposed to Y", Y is implicitly being presented as the logical alternative to X. So I'm sorry if it was unclear that that's what I was doing.

XMLicious writes "And you're acting as if no one else in the thread had used the word 'should.'"

Ok, good point. It felt as if everyone was making universal declaratives. Maybe that was selection bias on my part. Sorry.

XMLicious writes "you're articulating a clear message about who can decide what harassment is and is not."

I'm going to have to disagree with your use of "clear" here, because that's not the message I intend to be sending at all, so if that's the message that's coming across, the problem we have is that my message is unclear.

XMLicious writes "but snarkily implying that others don't have the authority to make the statements they're making is perfectly fine?"

Actually, my snark usually sucks, but in this one case, it's at least crafted right: if people here don't have the authority to make the statements they're making, then it's a snarky barb. But if they do, it's an accurate statement. It is then kinda cool to jump into this conversation by authorities on the subject, and I am the first layman to comment.
posted by Bugbread at 10:03 PM on November 24, 2007


I guess I should have just said, "Wow, you're right bugbread, you are so much more objective and impartial than the rest of us. Thank you for contributing such clever and relevant insight to the discussion at hand."
posted by XMLicious at 10:18 PM on November 24, 2007


You're welcome.

(Yours is finely crafted, too. If I'm more impartial or objective than y'all, I deserve the accolades, and if not, I deserve the sarcasm.)

Anyway, sorry, didn't mean to make a big derail. It just bugs me when I see people vehemently disagreeing about something that both sides insist is so clear. If it were that clear, there probably wouldn't be so much disagreement.

Anyway, more on topic: is there anyone here who can clarify if the underwear part of the American Apparel issue actually is or isn't sexual harassment? I'm curious and actually would like to know.
posted by Bugbread at 10:31 PM on November 24, 2007


I can't speak for others, but I guess I made the mistake of assuming others would know that I was offering my lay opinion. I mean, it's common for people with authority on a subject matter to say as much so by not saying that I thought it was implied it was just my uninformed opinion.

So I guess bugbread is technically correct, but probably could have said his piece with more tact:

I don't know if wearing your underwear to work is sexual harassment or not. Some definitions seem to say "yes" (the "creating a hostile environment", and some say no "coercing or pressuring"). It sure seems like he's the kind of guy who, in addition to creating a hostile environment, also pressures people into sex, but I don't know for sure. But, on the underwear issue alone, I have no idea if it's sexual harassment or not.

Also, I think it would be better if those who aren't lawyers or in HR who are just guessing would say as much. It qualify their statements better. It sounds like everyone is just advocating what they want the law to be and not what it is.
(bold text added)

That may not be exactly what bugbread was trying to convey, but I think I got the gist of it.
posted by Green With You at 11:01 PM on November 24, 2007 [1 favorite]


Change that to "would say as much and would qualify their statements better"
posted by Green With You at 11:03 PM on November 24, 2007


If it were that clear, there probably wouldn't be so much disagreement.

On the other hand, though, if the people involved in a discussion really thought their position was completely clear, they probably wouldn't bother to construct arguments in support of their points or achieve any consensus. The kind of stuff that you do when you're, y'know, discussing or arguing about something.

I assume that when you ask about what "is" sexual harassment, you don't mean "is" in any universal sense, but whether the underwear situation could be successfully prosecuted as sexual harassment under the statutes and precedents of U.S. common law? ;^) I just wouldn't want anyone to get confused and think that we're discussing what harassment is in any non-technical-legal sense, so you probably should tack "as could be successfully prosecuted under the statutes and precedents of U.S. common law" bit on every time you mention "sexual harassment." But I just think you should tack it on, that's just my opinion, I'm not saying that I have any means of judging that it would be more accurate.

Not an entirely unpleasant derail, I've seen worse.
posted by XMLicious at 11:08 PM on November 24, 2007


if the underwear part of the American Apparel issue actually is or isn't sexual harassment?

Universal but accurate lawyer response -- it all depends. Wearing only underwear as the boss is unusual, and is a very bad sign if you're the defense lawyer in a sex harassment suit. But in and of itself that one fact doesn't answer the question. There's no way to say, "wearing only underwear equals unlawful sex harassment."

A pattern of conduct is "sex harassment" if it meets one of the legal standards. So, wearing underwear while hitting on a subordinate might be a piece of evidence supporting the "quid pro quo" kind of harassment. Wearing underwear together with sexist commentary and insults and creepy touching would be evidence of the hostile environment kind of harassment (which to be legally actionable must be "severe or pervasive").

Sometimes a single act or just a few acts can constitute harassment if it is "severe." For example a sexual assault by the boss.

Could the underwear fact alone be sex harassment? I think it would depend upon the context. In the context of designers and models and fitting rooms, where people are trying on different outfits, wearing underwear might be no big deal. In a late night one-on-one meeting in a corporate law office, with no one else around, the arrival of the big boss in his skivvies might be scary and "severe."

It can be interesting to consider a hypothetical (the underwear-fact-only hypo), but FWIW the typical harassment case is filled with lots of facts (on all sides). As in the Charney case.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:09 PM on November 24, 2007 [3 favorites]


Green With You writes "So I guess bugbread is technically correct, but probably could have said his piece with more tact:

"
I don't know if wearing your underwear to work is sexual harassment or not. Some definitions seem to say 'yes' (the 'creating a hostile environment', and some say no 'coercing or pressuring'). It sure seems like he's the kind of guy who, in addition to creating a hostile environment, also pressures people into sex, but I don't know for sure. But, on the underwear issue alone, I have no idea if it's sexual harassment or not.

"Also, I think it would be better if those who aren't lawyers or in HR who are just guessing would say as much. It qualify their statements better. It sounds like everyone is just advocating what they want the law to be and not what it is. (bold text added)

"That may not be exactly what bugbread was trying to convey, but I think I got the gist of it."


No, that's exactly what I was trying to convey, and you're right, that's way the hell better than what I wrote. I apologize for my huffy style up above. That was bad.

Also, thanks, ClaudiaCenter, that was exactly the kind of comment I was hoping for and failing to express my desire for which clearly.
posted by Bugbread at 11:42 PM on November 24, 2007


Universal but accurate lawyer response

Ah well, looking back I guess I did throw the word "legal" around alot. Though I meant to talk in a more universal sense about what sexual harassment is, more than what is encoded in law or demonstrable in court.

But while there's a legal expert at hand - ClaudiaCenter, does intent figure in to it at all? Or could a boss wearing underwear-only for any reason whatsoever in the contexts you mention be acting unlawfully, as long as he caused sufficient discomfort on the part of the employees? Of course I realize it's difficult to demonstrate intent.
posted by XMLicious at 11:46 PM on November 24, 2007


And bugbread, I apologize for my huffy response to your huffy style.
posted by XMLicious at 11:52 PM on November 24, 2007


does intent figure in to it at all?

Good question. Sex harassment is categorized as an "intentional"* type of employment discrimination. In practice, however, the courts don't really spend that much time on intent (in the way that most people use that word). It's enough that the conduct be "based on sex" -- a subjective intent to offend or harass is not required. And, because of the nature of many of the facts in sex harassment cases (for example, using explicitly sexual terms or soliciting sex only from women), the "based on sex" part may not be seriously disputed.

There are sex harassment defendants who have explained that their conduct was not based on sex -- that they yelled at everyone, not just women. (This person is sometimes referred in dull legal seminars as the "equal opportunity harasser.") So, underwear guy could state that he wore only underwear all the time, around men and women equally. That it wasn't "sex-based." The court might consider that, but would probably also consider whether the conduct was "sexual."** An actual investigation would probably go into every aspect of the underwear -- boxers? briefs? thong? ripped? stained? erection? And on and on.

*There are some types of unlawful discrimination which are explicitly divorced from the concept of intent, such as "disparate impact" -- the classic example being requiring a high school diploma when it's really not necessary for the job when it is proven that the requirement is screening out applicants on the basis of race.

**Aside: I tend to focus on the sex-based framing of sex harassment, because I think it helps separate out the most harmful conduct. But lots of courts focus on the sexual part of sex harassment (ala "it's called sexual harassment, right?").
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:12 AM on November 25, 2007


Metafilter: boxers? briefs? thong? ripped? stained? erection?
posted by wemayfreeze at 2:01 AM on November 25, 2007


ClaudiaCenter: In a late night one-on-one meeting in a corporate law office, with no one else around, the arrival of the big boss in his skivvies might be scary and "severe."

All in all, it seems late night one on one meetings are pretty unwise, even fully clothed. It would seem to create an awful lot of exposure to problems, and can easily lead to one party or the other being confused.

FWIW (nothing to do with ClaudiaCenter), I was careful to never frame my opinion inside a legal framework and to restrict it to the hypothetical skivvies only. Having a discussion means (in my world, anyway) making some -- possibly bold -- statements and examining them. I don't think making extremely weak statements really contributes much to such a discussion other then letting people know what your opinion is (and that you don't apparently even know why), which typically no one really cares about. And I will admit the ease which some equate any action which could be construed as 'sexual' to be sexual harassment gets my blood up some, especially the 'uncomfortable' argument which somehow implies we have to do nothing to make anyone uncomfortable (though almost always the complainer means *their* standards) without those people being responsible for their own feelings. So in many work places now no one will talk about religion, politics or sex; no one will express an opinion on about anything of importance. All that seems to be left to discuss is TV and movies. Ok, I wandered off there ...
posted by Bovine Love at 7:15 AM on November 25, 2007


lupus_yonderboy: Scary and a depressing story. Here's wishing your neighbour gets his right dues in time.
posted by the cydonian at 7:20 AM on November 25, 2007


the ease which some equate any action which could be construed as 'sexual' to be sexual harassment gets my blood up some

I'm with you there -- that kind of simple conflation can mix up harmful conduct with not-harmful conduct, and can create a backlash against sex harassment claims generally. In practice, it's s tricky. Lots of times the sexual conduct is the tool or weapon being used to advance the pattern of harassment. The law tries to manage the issue by requiring that the plaintiff show that the sexual conduct was "unwelcome." (This is for when the evidence is is sexual as opposed to hostile on its face (ala "you stupid bitch," or whatever).)
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 11:08 AM on November 25, 2007


China is indeed a Socialist (male)Worker's Paradise.
posted by strontiumdog at 3:25 PM on November 25, 2007


strontiumdog "China is indeed a Socialist (male)Worker's Paradise."

How...odd. You're making fun of China, and yet at the same time using the word "China", normally used to refer to the People's Republic of China, as instead referring to the Republic of China, which is normally called "Taipei".

I can't figure out if you're a pro-China person pretending to be anti-China, or an anti-China person pretending to be pro-China.
posted by Bugbread at 5:05 PM on November 25, 2007


Or, it could have just been a slip of the tongue, like how I referred to Taiwan as Taipei up above.

(Head hung between knees in embarrassment)
posted by Bugbread at 4:22 AM on November 26, 2007


Most non pedants refer the PRC as simply China and the RC as simply Taiwan. No one ever refers to Taiwan as China or even as the Republic of China. So I said only China with the understanding that most would think I meant mainland China.

I'm not at all a fan of the Chinese government, but I like the Chinese people. One of my best friends is Chinese. Well he's from the Republic of China, so maybe my good will is only for those people from Formosa, erh Taiwan, erh the Republic of China.

Maybe I don't like mainlanders at all. Never met one, so I couldn't really say, I guess.

What we're we talking about?
posted by strontiumdog at 5:48 PM on November 26, 2007


strontiumdog : "Most non pedants refer the PRC as simply China and the RC as simply Taiwan. No one ever refers to Taiwan as China or even as the Republic of China. So I said only China with the understanding that most would think I meant mainland China."

Yeah, that's exactly what I was saying. "China" means mainland China, not Taiwan. So why the "China is indeed a Socialist (male) Worker's Paradise" joke when the article isn't about China, but Taiwan?
posted by Bugbread at 1:37 AM on November 27, 2007


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