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Sexual harassment lands companies in court
plaintiffs. Surveying 155 women aged 19 sexual harassment is increasing as more Working women reject to 61 in two upstate New York cities, the women move into the work force, obscenities, embraces, Working Women's Institute found that competing with men. “Sexual harassand double entendres
70% had been sexually harassed at some ment is a way to assert power," says point in their careers. Some 75% of the Freada R. Klein, founder of the Boston
victims reported that the advances Alliance Against Sexual Coercion. The For more than a year, Joseph Consigli, a continued even when they ignored them. Alliance responds to 10 new complaints vice-president of Johns-Manville Corp. Half of the 18% who complained to their a week, double the number of complaints in Denver, pressured Mary K. Heelan, a employers found that nothing was done a year ago. former um project coordinator, to have about the problem, and a third found Policies lacking. Few companies have an affair with him. As his demands that the complaints led to such retalia official policies on sexual harassment, became more insistent and her refusals tion as unpleasant job assignments. and most feel uncomfortable dealing more adamant, he began sabotaging her The situation in the public sector with the issue. "It can be very sensitive work, claims Heelan. Finally, in April
, appears to be much the same as in the for an employer to intrude into relation1974, Consigli threatened to dismiss her private. Responding to a questionnaire ships between male and female emif she did not submit. Heelan refused
ployees," says Richard Barand found herself out of a job.
ron, assistant vice-president Job-related sexual harassment is an
for personnel at Michigan Bell old problem for women, but Heelan's
Telephone Co. in Detroit. Othresponse was new. She sued jm. In a
ers take the attitude of Herlandmark decision handed down in
man M. Mapelli, president of April, 1978, Denver District Court Judge
Western-Davis Ltd., a Denver Sherman G. Finesilver found JM guilty
liquor distributor, who says, of sexual discrimination under Title VII
"We don't have a policy of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. "An
because we don't have sexual employer is liable under Title VII when
harassment." Western-Davis refusal of a supervisor's unsolicited
recently blocked a claim for sexual advances is the basis of the
unemployment compensation employee's termination," Finesilver
by a woman truck driver who wrote in his decision. JM made an out
said she quit because of sexual of-court settlement with Heelan for a
harassment by a supervisor. reported $100,000. Consigli remains on
There is a growing feeling the payroll.
among companies, however, Only a handful of similar lawsuits
that they would be wise to have been filed so far, but they have
have policies to protect their serious implications for business, be
employees from harassment cause more are coming. Feminist groups
and themselves from lawsuits. have targeted the issue as a major new
The Working Women's Instiarea for litigation. "We've talked openly
tute notes widespread corpoabout battered wives and battered chil
rate interest in the in-house dren. The next thing is battered office
workshops on sexual harassworkers," says Representative Patricia
ment it is designing for man Schroeder (D-Colo). "More and more
agers and employees. The women are becoming aware that they
institute reports numerous indon't have to accept it."
quiries, although the program Organizing resistance. In many cases,
will not be ready till spring they are being made aware by women's Heelan: She successfully sued Johns-Manville
Other companies have asked for sexual discrimination after she lost her job. groups such as New York City's Work
for help from the District of ing Women's Institute. The institute's
Columbia's Commission on Metropolitan Information & Referral in an employee magazine, Impact Jour Women, which is putting together an Project sponsors TV spots urging victims nal, this summer, 63 women at the informational program on sexual haof sexual harassment to phone the Housing & Urban Development Dept. in rassment for employers and employees. project for counseling. A counselor Washington reported that they had been "We're trying to take the titillation suggests "coping strategies"- for in- sexually coerced by their HUD bosses or out of the subject," says Susan Meyer, stance, suppressing embarrassment and fellow workers. "You may be shocked to executive director of the Working Wo speaking out clearly to the culprit - or, if learn that 3 women out of 10 give in," men's Institute. "We want employers to the situation has reached the quit or wrote Impact editor Al Louis Ripskis. view sexual harassment with the same dismissal stage, the names of lawyers "Eighty percent say that making love seriousness as they do any other intolerequipped to handle such cases. The with the boss paid off" in advancement able working condition. We want them project has counseled several thousand or other job advantages, Ripskis re to handle it the way they do any other women to date.
ported, and most of those who turned misconduct." The few surveys that have been made down the invitation reported such after Provocative costumes. The use of corpoof what was until recently a hush-hush effects as skipped promotions.
rate procedures, however, does not topic indicate no shortage of potential Most women's groups believe that necessarily solve the problem for either
BUSINESS WEEK: October 1, 1979
employee or employer. Maxine Munford, regarding whether her boss had ever supervisor with sexual coercion after she a former collections supervisor at James made passes at them.
quit had never reported the behavior to T. Barnes & Co., a Detroit mortgage In addition to the Title VII precedent, the company while she was employed. company, is currently appealing a deci- California and Wisconsin have enacted The judge ruled that the supervisor's sion that found the company not guilty laws giving unemployment insurance to behavior was "reprehensible" but that in a sexual-harassment case, on the employees who leave their jobs because the woman had not given the company a ground that the employer's investigation of sexual harassment. Other states with- chance to end it, says Brice E. Tarzwell, of her dismissal was inadequate. Mun- out specific laws have ruled that sexual one of the lawyers representing the ford claims that the company checked harassment is an unacceptable working company. her allegations with only three persons condition and therefore grounds for Company channels. In the case of two employees unrelated to the situation receiving unemployment compensation if Michele Wells, the Western-Davis truck and the supervisor she had charged with the victim quits.
driver who claims she was subjected to harassment. The company contends that Despite the growing legal underpin- physical and verbal abuse from her it conducted a proper investigation.
supervisor, the plaintiff complained only Women's groups agree that sexual
to a foreman while she was employed. harassment need not go as far as a
"He told me I shouldn't take it personaldemand for sex in exchange for job secu
ly, that it was more or less a big joke," rity in order to be objectionable. Obscen
she says. Wells says she quit after the ities directed specifically at women
supervisor threw her down on a lunchworkers, uninvited embraces, or a steady
room table and climbed on top of her, a diet of double entendres also qualify as
charge denied by the company. Her harassment, they say. At Detroit's
claim for unemployment compensation Metropolitan Airport, 30 waitresses
was denied in part because she had charged sexual harassment when their
failed to complain through channels. employer, Host International Inc., re
Wells and other women involved in quired them to wear provocative cos
sexual harassment cases say they suffer tumes. The costumes made the wai
psychological effects somewhat similar
to those experienced by rape victims and, One sexually harassed
like rape victims, they may require woman collected $100,000.
psychiatric treatment. Most feel they Her boss kept his Job
cannot confide in husbands or boy
friends. Many have emotional difficultresses feel "available, cheap, sexual
ties in applying for other jobs. Some find objects," says Jan Leventer of the
themselves shunning makeup or switchWomen's Justice Center, the women's
ing to sexless clothes to make themselves lawyer. Local 24 of the Hotel & Restau
less attractive. rant Workers Union, the waitresses'
"I began wondering if I was the troubargaining agent, persuaded Host Inter
ble-maker, if something was wrong with national to switch to more modest
me," says Sylvia E. Borgman, a former costumes, but the women declined to
planning assistant with the Massachudiscontinue their lawsuit. They want to Muntord: She is appealing a not guilty
setts State Employment & Training establish the legal principle that an verdict in her suit against her company. Council, whose supervisor embraced her employer cannot prescribe a revealing
during her first day on the job and costume for women if it does not do so
continued to harass her thereafter. for men, a spokeswoman says.
ning, sexual harassment cases are hard Borgman was denied unemployment Vulnerability. Although men can be to win. The victim must prove that she compensation after she quit five months victims of sexual harassment - by either was sexually coerced, that she resisted, later, but the denial was reversed on women or homosexuals - the over- that her refusal had a negative impact appeal when Borgman presented the whelming majority of victims are wo on her job, and that members of the facts and the council personnel director men, usually those in low-paying jobs. A opposite sex were not coerced. This
backed her up. report on the problem by the Atlanta frequently requires asking personnel Borgman, who says she was on the Community Relations Commission and officers and coworkers still employed by verge of a nervous breakdown when she the U. S. Labor Dept. concluded that the the company to testify in her favor. quit, blames the harassment for back most vulnerable women were those who "Their sympathies may lie with the problems and fainting spells, symptoms had few job skills, who have been woman, but their paychecks lie with the that are common among harassment divorced recently, and who have children company," says Klein at the Boston victims, according to the Michigan Task to support. But sexual harassment can Alliance. A case often ends up as a
Force on Sexual Harassment, a group occur in executive suites as well as on matter of "her word against his," she sponsored by the Michigan Labor Dept. assembly lines, and suits have been filed says.
and the University of Michigan. Memagainst businesses, government agen- Moreover, the law requires that the bers of the task force say they were cies, and universities.
women complain about objectionable shocked by the number of ailments In the wake of the Heelan decision, behavior through company channels be- disclosed by sexual harassment victims. most such suits are filed under Title VII fore suing. Typically, a harassment In fact, says Hilda Patricia Curran, of the Civil Rights Act, which allows the victim tends to avoid doing this for fear director of the Michigan Labor Dept. victim to collect back pay and benefits. A that she will be transferred, fired, or Office of Women & Work, the psychoseparate state suit may enable her to otherwise punished by a company that somatic side-effects of sexual harasscollect damages. Since the plaintiff must she believes basically sides with the ment are so common that companies prove that she was harassed because she man. American Fidelity Assurance Co. that fail to protect women employees is a woman, a Title VII case can produce in Oklahoma City won a sexual harass- could find themselves sued not only for such bizarre courtroom tactics as the ment case after it proved that the violation of civil rights but for workers' questioning of Heelan's male co-workers commercial artist who had charged her compensation as well.
BUSINESS WEEK: October 1, 1979
SOCIAL ISSUES MOTHER JONES
The New Pinkertons
For These Union Busters, Brass Knuckles
By Ron Chernow
Illustration by Christoph Blumrich T. ELIZABETH's Hospital in Boston check of $10.16.
Chicago-based consulting firm called exudes an air of holiness. A stone St. Elizabeth's wor:.ers were, plainly, Modern Management Methods. drive that winds up a slope to the en- meetings were spirited quietly about the the Scotch tape firm) participates in trance, a reminder that the hospital was hospital wards inside pill capsules. more than a hundred union elections once tended by an order of sisters. The After the union campaign, shaken yearly and thwarts union interests in an hospital's affiliation with the Catholic workers would talk about supervisors extraordinary 98 percent of them. EnArchdiocese of Boston can be seen in its turned into “shock troops," of a sconced in a secret command post in St. small chapel and in the crucifixes that “McCarthyite" atmosphere in the Elizabeth's, 3-M consultants composed hang over each bed. The nursing stu- Catholic hospital, of an election climate letters to the employees, coached the dents wear blue uniforms with little lace "poisoned in a cold and calculating supervisors and called all shots for mancaps, which gives the hospital a genteel, fashion." Four supporters of Local 880 agement. Unsuspecting St. Elizabeth's Victorian atmosphere. If Pope John of the Service Employees International workers were actually being subjected Paul II had gotten sick on his Boston Union were ultimately fired or sus- to an elaborate propaganda play, pilgrimage last year, His Holiness pended during the campaign.
scripted by consultants who knew exwould have been rushed to the buff- On October 4, 1978, Local 880 lost actly how to defeat the union based on colored building in Brighton.
the election by about 55 percent to 45 previous testing and experience. But the mercy of St. Elizabeth's has percent. Luter, the regional National Consultants from 3-M carn up to never comforted the employees. In ear- Labor Relations Board (NLRB) $800 per diem. They have a fetish about ly 1978, the largely female staff--re- charged 22 hospital supervisors and anonymity and often install their own sponsible for scrubbing corpses, ladling administrators with 38 instances of un- telephone lines to escape switchboard out meals and rinsing bedpans-sill fair labor practices. The NLRB over detection. Union organizers are frestarted out at the rock bottom wage of turned the election. But fear cannot just quently unaware that 3-M professionals $3.50 an hour. At the same time the be plucked out like a sharp splinter. In a are on the premises. In faci. 3-M helped hospital was baptizing a new $14 million follow-up election last June, Local 880 St. Elizabeth's beat a previous organupavillion, its directors were implement- was again defeated.
ing drive by another union and received ing a "stretch-out." Housekeepers, for
$75,000 for the work. example, were supposed to tidy up
Three-M is the Cadillac of a new three floors instead of one. Pensions at Why did Local 880 get trounced in an breed of management consulting firm the hospital. too, were medieval: election that should have been a piece that can smash unions with the icy logic Elcanor Altrecht, after a 20-year stint of cake?
of the old Winchester-rifle-toting Pinkas a night nurse, banked a monthly The culprit is a shadowy, powerful erton detectives. Its people, and those
BREAKING THE BUSTERS
MOTHER JONES from firms like it, are the New Pinker- heads, like the goon squads of yester- vogue industry remains a mystery, its tons. The AFL CIO estimates that at day, they manipulate minds. They have success is incontrovertible. Unions won least 300 firms devote large portions of substituted social engineering, behavior 73 percent of all representation electime to foiling union election bids or modification, propaganda and dirty tions in 1950, 57 percent in 1970; now breaking unions that have been victo tricks for the bloody mess of bringing in they win only 46 percent of the time. rious. The modem-day hired guns, like scabs. As a result, they appear not just Structural changes in the economy and 3-M, may be collecting up to $100 mil- clean, but very much in step with the an arteriosclerotic labor leadership are lion a year for their services.
current antiunion mood of the country. often cited as the chief factors behind The New Pinkertons don't bust Although the precise scale of this organized labur's tailspin, and business
is still flocking to the Right to Work" states of the Sun Belt. But it is the New Pinkertons who have taught manage
ment how to capitalize on these handOSTON UNIVERSITY is no model employer. Despite a reputation for lavish spend icaps for labor. During the early 70s, the starting take-home pay for a Boston University secretary
Enter John Stevens was a miserable $85 a week, with few fringes. The clerical workers tried and tried to To find out why the New Pinkertons organize, to no avail. What finally got them mad coough to try again was the can make patsies of even the best union university's institution of a merit salary plan-replacing regular, yearly step-raises organizers I decide to attend one of with increases based solely on a supervisor's arbitrary evaluation. Represented by their traveling road shows. Three-M District 65 of the Distributive Workers of America (since amalgamated with the deals largely with an elite cliente United Auto Workers), the clericals filed for a union election in May 1977.
Allstate, Prudential, Travelers and Their big break came, oddly enough, when B.U. hired the union-busting Modern
Aetna in insurance alone. In contrast, a Management Methods (3-M). Of course, nobody saw it that way at the time. Three-M
middle-brow firm called Executive Enhad acquired quite a name for itself around Boston, having defeated union organizing drives at several local hospitals. District 65 organizers showed their genius by analyz.
terprises Inc. offers bread-and-butter ing these previous drives in order to develop a strategy. And that strategy hinged
advice for the corporate masses. In almost entirely on predicting 3-M's moves.
order to eavesdrop on a seminar, I don "Any of the campaigns we've heard about in which 3-M has beaten a union, the
the pseudonym John M. Stevens-in union has responded in the same way,” explains former B.U. secretary-turned
homage to that great union-buster, J. P. District-65-organizer Barbara Rahke. "We were different only because we let people
Stevens—and pose as personnel manknow what was going to happen in advance."
ager for my father's defunct discount A primary goal of Rahke and other union organizers was to characterize 3-M as the
store in New York's Chinatown. bad guys, the outsiders who didn't belong. To that end, they held workshops describ
Executive Enterprises makes some ing 3-M's typical successes-born of scare tactics, the literature war and the manipula
minimal effort to screen out troubletion of supervisors. To the largely female audiences, the organizers also stressed the makers. When I go to their New York sexism of the firm's fronting only handsome, well-dressed young men. The weekly office to pay the exorbitant $500 fee for union bulletin Coffee Break ran regular articles, which made 3-M such an issue that the the two-day session, I notice a memo campus press, and eventually the Boston media, picked up the story. By the time the above the registrar's desk: "Please do union busters got around to accusing the New York-based District 65 of sending in not accept registration from the followoutside agitators, the clericals only laughed.
ing people." I get a glimpse of five To undermine 3-M's expected attempt to discredit the union as rigid and undemo names, at the bottom is written, "These cratic, the organizers distributed annotated copies of the union constitution to all
people are BAD NEWS!!" prospective members. The handout explained that the clauses on compulsory attend- The star of the seminar's first day at ance at union meetings, closed shops and picket lines were all simply ways of the Sheraton Centre is a bearded, midmaintaining union solidarity. The pledge of loyalty to the union was just a sentimental dle-aged hipster named Charles vestige of the 1930s. Dues were what you paid to any club. As expected, 3-M raised
Hughes. He wears a stylish beige suit, these issues right on schedule, but by then it didn't matter.
open-collared shirt and cream-colored Organizers also made a conscious counter-appeal to supervisors, sending out letters
loafers. With his aviator glasses to cap urging them to resist administration pressure and encouraging them to call the union if
his wardrobe, he is the epitome of Sun they needed advice.
Belt cool. A former personnel manager Probably one of the most effective tactics of all was publishing the university's
for nonunion IBM and Texas Instruunion-busting budget in Coffee Break. Next to 3-M's reported $16.000 monthly fee. the average secretary's salary looked like pin money.
ments, Hughes travels some 365.000 Organizer Rahke admits that workers at B.U. had a unique foe in university
miles a year touting the union-free" President John Siber, whose autocratic behavior helped stir up resentment. Still, the gospel. He is the Billy Graham of the union decided early in the campaign not to let Silber become an issue. "To think that
faith. getting rid of Silber would solve the problems of the clericals," points out Rahke, Hughes opens the session by telling "would have been a wrong assumption."
us that a unionized hotel employee has It took more than two years and two strikes, but it was worth it in the end. Three-M angrily scratched out the seminar titlefinally left in defeat. With their new contract last fall, the clericals got a grievance "How to Maintain Non-Union Staprocedure, higher pay, better benefits and the satisfaction-rather rare these days-of tus"- from a lobby signboard. Flashing having fought the big guys and won.
-Connie Paige a little smirk, Hughes says that his lec
tures have been pickcted and disrupted