The woman who called into the local morning radio show sounded sincere, intelligent and stable. The pop radio station has the standard morning show DJ pair who routinely discusses current situations and enlists listeners to call in. The woman wanted to air her concerns about a dilemma at work and sought some outside input. Good fodder for the radio show, something the DJs could make a play on for the morning drive time. Maybe the caller just wanted to get on the radio, but when I began listening to her story, I wondered if she realized the potential gravity of the situation.
She was a good employee, she said, but didn’t always arrive on time. Her male boss had in the past mentioned that her tardiness could be a potential problem. She told the radio listeners that her boss had said, “If you are late again, you are fired.” She was late the next day, and he called her into his office and said, “Tell you what, IF you go to dinner with me, you can make up your missing hours that way.” She wondered what she should do, and that if she said no to him, she would be fired.
Cue the sound of major alarms going off in my head. First of all, blatant sexual harassment such as this is appalling and should not be tolerated. Second of all, what was she thinking? Was she considering going out with this creep? Then I thought, does she not know about her company’s code of conduct and its policy on harassment? Why doesn’t she call her ethics hotline? Does her company even HAVE an anonymous hotline? Some follow-up callers said that the woman should report the boss to HR. Good idea, unless perhaps he is the VP of HR. Some suggested that she just quit the job, still others said if she says “no” and he retaliates, she can claim whistleblower status, hire an attorney and retain her job.
Wow, it all sounds like such a simple decision. It’s black and white ethics at its best, yes? Well, gentle reader, no, it’s not. We’re not only talking about two careers at stake here, but also the emotional and mental well-being of foremost the woman but also the male boss. We don’t know the whole story, but it’s a story that should be reported and should be investigated. Don’t forget the question of policy – is there one, does it apply and were employees adequately trained – and the fact that, while the boss shouldn’t even joke about such a matter as quid pro quo, the woman admitted to frequent tardiness, a potential firing offense.
While much of the response fell into the category of “I would do this,” there was no resolution here, no response to the incident other than posturing. But please, take action through your company’s ethics hotline, I thought, not via a radio jock.