"A federal judge has ruled that a Reston woman was not being sexually harassed when her boss gave her cards and gifts, rubbed her back and hands, and regularly escorted her to the bathroom and her car." So reported Mark Potts in The Washington Post.
It was a landmark decision since the judge said that the person who claimed she was harassed was sending out mixed signals, and the attention that the plaintiff received did not create an uncomfortable working environment. There was, the judge declared, no direct sexual harassment.
We've had a similar situation on our third floor, so we empathize with this case. Katrinka, who is involved with computers, seems to have a mad crush on Orloff, the librarian. She is serious about this because she has told anyone who will listen, "I'll follow him to any Club Med he will lead me to."
Katrinka doesn't pinch Orloff in the library, but witnesses have seen her rub against his shoulders and place Snickers bars on his desk. On a few occasions, Orloff has broken into tears and cried, "Why are you doing this to me?" Katrinka has replied, "You're all I've got."
Orloff has consulted us about what he should do.
I've told him, "You can't do anything unless she engages in sexual harassment."
Orloff asked, "What does that mean?"
"She has to make an indecent proposition that will sicken Jesse Helms."
"She never fails," Orloff said.
"Did you encourage her in any way?"
"No. On the contrary. I begged her to stop dancing on the library conference table."
"Do you have that on tape?"
"No, most of what I do is with microfilm."
"I'll see how I can help." I went over to talk to Katrinka. I told her, "You have to stop sexually harassing Orloff."
"Why? I hope someday that he will be Mr. Katrinka. How do you think people get married if they don't buzz around the office with each other?"
"The office is not the place for women to sneak up on men and rub their necks."
Katrinka said, "It's not the end-all, but it's a start."
"Well," I insisted, "Orloff doesn't like it."
Katrinka laughed. "Orloff doesn't know what he likes. Most of the marriages in this country were made in offices where women knew exactly what they wanted and men had no idea what they were looking for. Sexual harassment is in the eye of the person who drinks the most coffee at the vending machine."
"So you intend to pursue your campaign for Orloff?"
"Someday, when we're keeping house, he will realize that I am more than a potted plant."
"Let's switch it around. Suppose Orloff loved you and you couldn't stand him."
"No problem. I'd sue him for molesting me."