But since the law says that words can create a harassing "hostile environment," some employers are so afraid of being sued that they keep their own rules even more restrictive than the law.
Some forbid dating in the office altogether, a policy that will no doubt become more popular now that the California Supreme Court says it can lead to lawsuits from colleagues who aren't involved. An overreaction to sexual harassment law? That's what happens. Given what lawsuits cost, managers must take desperate measures. If workers lose freedom of speech, so what? If they miss out on relationships that could have added joy to their lives, who cares? Better safe than sorry.
America is supposed to be a land of self-reliant, hardy individualists who cherish their freedom. But sexual harassment law treats women as so weak and vulnerable that not only can they not handle rude and boorish insults, they can't even handle gallant compliments. At the "harassment seminar," Jones told us we must make sure we do not engage in even the most basic kinds of friendly, human interaction. "Don't touch a co-worker on the shoulder. And be careful of compliments!"
"Are you becoming a bland person?" said Jones? "Yes, you are."
Everyone must become bland? I don't want to! I want to joke and flirt. One seminar participant complained Jones' rules would make the workplace "cold, unhealthy, less fun." I agree. Yet by seminar's end, Jones had convinced most participants that workplace speech should be censored.
How easily we give up our freedoms.