Autres Endroits Autres Moeurs

Living in a country where it's a serious question of debate whether and when Employer is liable to Employee2 under an 'environmental harassment' theory for Employee1's visible consumption of online porn, it's bracing to be reminded that attitudes are different elsewhere. Consider Danes permit office p0rn. Danish IT firm LL Media found out that its programmers were wasting large amounts of office time surfing online porn, and decided to start blocking it during working hours. In an attempt to keep the troops happy after the blocking went into effect, LL Media is offering a new fringe benefit: signing workers up for a pay online porn service — but for after hours use only.

Which reminds me of a labor law colleague's story after returning from a visit to a newly liberated post-communist central European nation. He'd been talking with local scholars about US sexual harassment law, which makes two kinds of harassment actionable (grounds for a civil lawsuit). Direct harassment is the simple sort where the employer/supervisor demands some sort of sexual favor either in exchange for a benefit, or under the threat of harm. Environmental harassment is where the firm allows a climate of sexual harassment to flourish, even if the firm or higher-ups are not among the offenders.

In the US the first type is uncontroversial: we don't think people should have to trade sexual favors for work. The second type is controversial: some people don't think employers should have to pay Worker1 if Workers2-N are posting pinups in their lockers. Other people think it's too hard to draw the lines for when ordinary boys-will-be-boys turns into something worth suing about.

My colleague was astounded to discover that the post-communist academics he met saw the issue completely differently. What we call environmental harassment was an insult to human dignity and should be sternly punished. On the other hand, if an employee wanted to trade sexual favors for a promotion, well, that's capitalism, isn't it?

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One Response to Autres Endroits Autres Moeurs

  1. Archdukechocula says:

    That attitude seems to ignore the “under threat of harm” part. That is just plain old coercion.

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