Government managers, supervisors and some new employes may be required to take a special new course in search-and-destroy tactics, aimed at wiping out sexual blackmail at the office.
Sexual harrassment has been big news recently. Congressional hearings, newspaper and television stories and surveys in government offices indicate many women have been threatened or physically attacked by bosses and subordinates.
Many women said they were told their jobs depended on sleeping with a boss or high official. Other said they were physically or verbally abused by superiors. Complaints, they said, were laughed off as boys-will-be-boys flirting. Some said they were told to play along, and "not make trouble" for themselves or the office.
Triggered by reports of widespread sexual harrassment at Housing and Urban Development (from a survey conducted by the unofficial but widely read IMPACT newsletter), Congress got into the act. Chairman James M. Hanley (D-N.Y.) ordered his investigations subcommittee (of the Post Office-Civil Service Committee) to study the situation and hold hearings. That was done. A report is forthcoming.
Hanley's interest prompted the Office of Personnel Management, Merit Systems Protection Board and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to set up programs aimed at identifying the people the scope of the problem, and ways to correct it.
Within the next few days the OPM will unveil a "training module" that agencies -- if they are smart -- will use.
The program is designed to educate people on two different levels.
For the office Romeo, it will show that not all women love being patted on the rear, hugged in the elevator or told that the bed is the fastest way up the promotion ladder.
For people who realize the situation, the training session will advise supervisors how to deal with situations of sexual harrassment in their office, and advise employes how to deal with supervisors who are themselves the problem.
There is no reason anybody should be subject to blackmail, or abuse, on the job. But if fairness does not persuade Uncle Sam to get interested in the problem, maybe other things will. There is the possibility that Uncle Sam may find himself paying out big bucks (in your money) in damages to women bringing lawsuits alleging a lack of protection on the job. One such is in the works now. Study up or pay up.