Sunday, May 18, 2014

To Create a “Fairer” Workplace, Start by Treating ALL Workers as Equals

Chief Justice John Roberts famously said, “To stop racial discrimination, we must simply STOP discriminating (counting) by race.”

In recent years there have been dozens of lawsuits centered around race and gender, many of them directly impacting the Fire Service.

In many ways these lawsuits have transformed the workplace. The old rules and old saws (appeals to MORE and BETTER training and strong leadership) simply DO NOT work. Many sexual harassers, even sexual assaulters are well-educated, many are in supervisory positions, in fact, in today’s workplace, some of them are even female!

None of that should be at all surprising, considering that we had a President of the United States (Bill Clinton), who in ANY other job, would’ve been charged with sexual harassment, and perhaps much worse. The mere appearance of impropriety (like the massive power differential between a supervisor and a subordinate, let alone the President of the United States and a young intern) would be enough to force a Corporate or Municipal leader out of that position and possibly into prison.

However, the working world STILL suffers from a plethora of arcane and outdated Victorian fantasies, especially about men and women. Too many men still hold to outdated, wrong-headed and chauvinistic views about males and females. Treating women as perpetual victims not only reeks of paternalism, but it locks women into the “damsel in distress” mode, that all too often has no bearing in reality.

The TRUTH About Men & Women

Women are NOT helpless. They are no more prone to victimization then males are, and they are also no LESS prone to be predators, despite the fact that men and women generally choose different methods of predation.

No less a person than Alan Dershowitz noted the disparities in actions and consequences for female predators; While women in general account for only about 10 percent of defendants charged with all murders...for all spousal murders, women accounted for more than 40 percent of defendants. And "among black marital partners, wives were just about as likely to kill their husbands as husbands were to kill their wives."

Not surprisingly, when it comes to parents who kill their children, mothers kill more often than fathers.

The real headline of this report, therefore, is that women kill almost as often as men do in the context of all family murders, though men much more often kill strangers - nearly always other men.

The other shocker in this report is that husbands who kill their wives are not treated more leniently than men who kill strangers, despite the media myth to the contrary...” the “data dramatically undercuts the myth that husbands who kill their wives are treated more leniently than wives who kill their husbands. The available evidence points overwhelmingly in the opposite direction, Wives who kill their husbands were acquitted in 12.9 percent of the cases studied, while husbands who kill their wives were acquitted in only 1.4 percent of the cases. Women who were convicted of killing their husbands were sentenced to an average of six years in prison, while men received an average of seventeen years for killing their wives, Sixteen percent of female spousal killers get probation, compared to 1.6 percent for males. By almost every other measure as well, female spousal killers are treated more leniently than male spousal killers.”

The point of all this is that the old male chauvinist paradigm that sees all women as “soft, sweet, gentle creatures,” is not only wrong, but dangerous in today’s workplace. There are rewards (civil jackpots) for predatory “victims” adept at manipulating the system. Frankly, the ONLY way to get those old, outdated and wrong-headed ideas OUT of today’s workplace, is to replace the (mostly) male leadership that still clings to them. NOT (necessarily) by women, but at least by a combination of men and women who DON’T hold to those outdated and corrosive ideas.

For the most part, the men who still hold to such views aren’t bad people at all. In fact, most are well-intentioned, but we all know what’s said about good intentions and the road to hell. It is unfortunate, but ideas and views like these die hard and that’s why the purveyors of these antiquated beliefs simply NEED to be replaced.

Treating ALL Workers EQUALLY is a Legal MANDATE

A few years back the DSNY (NYC’s Dept of Sanitation) sought to reduce the workload (the amount of trash female workers had to pick up each day). The Sanitation Worker’s Union rightly sued the DSNY and the City of NY and the courts correctly ruled that the workloads for ALL workers must be reduced, or otherwise kept the same for ALL workers.

That ruling proved that no worker is entitled to special accommodations. Every worker in every Department is seen as “an interchangeable cog.”

The lawsuits that altered physical standards to get more women on various Fire Departments REJECTED the arguments about male/female differentials in upper body strength and in ignoring them, eliminated the right of supervisory personnel to seek to “minimize” such “nonexistent” strength differentials.

THAT is the very essence of today’s “disparate impact” rulings. They have NOT ruled that “various disparities exist, but are considered superfluous,” INSTEAD they’ve ruled that NO such disparities exist.

In cases in which written exams were challenged based on their “disparate impacts,” the courts DID NOT rule that such differentials exist, but are NOT important, but instead, that the tests utilized were flawed and that no actual disparities were recognized by the courts.

That’s a vital distinction because it makes clear that EVERY person who gets on a Fire Department can be subjected to the most rigorous physical and cognitive standards in training (at the Fire Academy) and in subsequent on-the-job drills and outside classes.

A supervisor has neither the legal authority, nor rationale to treat different workers (male/female, black/white, etc.) differently. In fact, such actions amount to “disparate treatment” (or “deliberate/intentional discrimination”) and can be civilly actionable.

Sexual Harassment, Sexual Assault, Rape and Bullying in the Workplace

In another discussion on LinkedIn, I took issue with another member about both the prevalence and abusiveness of false allegations. In virtually EVERY case, false allegations amount to “bullying,” by a predator masquerading as a victim.

Few EEO Departments take this form of bullying at all seriously and that in itself is criminal.

Just how prevalent are false allegations of sexual misconduct? Well, as to rape allegations, several decent studies have been done recently on the frequency of false rape accusations.

“A meta-analysis by Rumney (2006) suggests that between 10-50% of rape allegations are false. Kanin (1994) arrived at an estimate of 40%, using methodology that strikes me as more trustworthy than a simple count of police-recorded ‘malicious accusations’, since many false rape claims are ignored. Kanin’s unique process was as follows:

“Kanin investigated the incidences of false rape allegations made to the police in one small urban community between 1978 and 1987. He states that unlike those in many larger jurisdictions, this police department had the resources to “seriously record and pursue to closure all rape complaints, regardless of their merits.” He further states each investigation “always involves a serious offer to polygraph the complainants and the suspects” and “the complainant must admit that no rape had occurred. She is the sole agent who can say that the rape charge is false.”
The number of false rape allegations in the studied period was 45; this was 41% of the 109 total complaints filed in this period. The researchers verified, whenever possible, for all of the complainants who recanted their allegations, that their new account of the events matched the accused’s version of events.”

As a recent article in Slater magazine asked, “What is rape, anyways? Once upon a time it was when a man had sex with a woman even while she was saying ‘No.’

“Today, there are many articles that argue that a “weak yes” can also be considered a “No”. Feminists are actively working to re-define the definition of consent to make it as subjective and open to manipulation as possible. The days of No Means No are long gone, replaced by a new paradigm of “If I Wake Up and Feel Uncomfortable With What Happened, Well I Guess I Must Have Been Feeling No.”

This data is vital because it highlights another form of bullying that has largely gone unnoticed and unresolved.

Thankfully, new changes in technology are also quickly transforming our workplace as well and some of these technologies might very well make dealing with such incidents a whole lot easier.

DEALING WITH Rape, Workplace Violence and Bullying...

While maintaining our empathy for anyone claiming “victim’s status,” we must ALSO maintain a healthy skepticism. That skepticism SHOULD BE heightened considerably when a “victim” refuses to file an official report, or file criminal charges.

If a serious physical assault occurs between members, we expect both Departmental and criminal charges to be filed. ALL actual sexual assaults should be considered serious. IF an individual who claims to be a “victim” refuses to come forward, that’s indicative of either a pervasive atmosphere of bullying, or that perhaps the alleged “victim,” is the actual predator, or “bully.”

As you’ve probably noticed, we now live in a virtual surveillance state, where private phone conversations can be made public, where individuals can digitally record the events of the day on a wide array of easily concealable devices and in at least 37 states, it is perfectly legal for any individual to record others, so long as ONE person (the recorder) is aware that the event is being recorded.

In short, “privacy,” as we once knew it, is functionally obsolete. In fact the very term “privacy” has been transformed today with the introduction of ubiquitous camera. I routinely have 3 video cams set up in my car alone (front-view, rear-view and side view). My home is ringed with surveillance cameras, many that monitor the street in front of my home and I have more such cameras set up inside my home. I act accordingly. I have NO expectation of privacy once I step outside my front door. My neighbor has every right to record everything he/she sees, whether through mobile cameras, either on mobile phones, OR emerging technology like Google Glass.

Moreover, surveillance cameras actually reduce illicit action BY reducing that illusion of privacy and, believe me, “privacy in a public space” today, is very much an illusion. More than that, such images demonstrably illustrate what happened and who was a fault and given the inherent murkiness of sexual, racial and other charges today, nothing could be more vital than getting to the bottom of who is who in any given situation.

There will ALWAYS be bigots and sexists everywhere in society and sadly “better leadership,” and “more training, better education,” etc. WILL NOT change the human condition.

Interdiction is the ONLY real way to combat such problems. Such interdiction requires getting to the bottom of “who’s who,” which party is at fault – Is there a violation here, or a false report – and the most effective and reliable way to do that is via surreptitious surveillance. The charge that such surveillance is an “after-the-fact” approach is utter nonsense. A verbal/written “victim’s statement” or report is an “after-the-fact” response, while an actual real-time video recording of an event gives an immediate (“in the moment”) documentation of the event in question.

One thing we all must be clear on is the days of us saying things like, “Why would a ‘victim’ lie,” SHOULD be over. Countless incidents over the past few decades have proven conclusively that not only has there been a plethora of false rape allegations, but false racial incidents, or hoaxes, as well. These are complex issues and are NOT open to simple, straightforward approaches...they DON’T work.

When looking to deal with such issues, the FACTS must guide us and thankfully, the ubiquitous surveillance camera may yet provide us with the BEST possible tool for doing that.


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