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No, Donald Trump, Jr., Women Shouldn’t Have to ‘Handle’ Sexual Harassment in Order to Work

In 2013, when Donald Trump, Jr. was a mere boy of 35, he went on Opie and Anthony and stuck both Gucci-clad feet firmly in his mouth. Of course, since no one in 2013 really cared about Donald Trump, Jr., the interview stayed forgotten — until BuzzFeed (and then The Huffington Post) reminded us about it late last night.
sexual harassment
Image Credit: JD Hancock/Flickr

In the course of this interview, Trump asserted:

  • That women who “can’t handle some of the basic stuff that’s become a problem in the workforce today” — e.g., sexual harassment — “don’t belong in the workforce.”
  • That they should instead “go maybe teach kindergarten.”
  • That he could sue the hosts if he felt uncomfortable, and make a mint: “This is my get-rich-quick scheme. I’m now suing you guys because I feel uncomfortable.”

Phew. There’s so much wrongness to address here. Let’s take it in reverse order, shall we?

  1. People who sue for sexual harassment do not get rich, quickly or otherwise.

Suing is always risky business, even when a case has merit and the plaintiff is willing to spend a considerable chunk of time and money to bring it to trial. A Slate Explainer from 2011 referenced one study that found median settlements of $30,000 in cases that went before a magistrate judge, and another that showed average awards of $217,000 for those that went before a jury.

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Neither is chump change, but even the higher amount isn’t enough to live on forever, especially once legal fees and lost wages are taken into account. Furthermore, only about 40 percent of cases that make it to trial are decided in favor of the plaintiff.

In short, it’s not worth it to sue frivolously for sexual harassment. If you’re surprised by that, you’re probably not female. So many women experience harassment at work (one in four, one in three, or other shockingly high numbers, depending on your source), and so few sue or make a complaint. It would be hard to live in this culture and think that a protracted legal battle would lead to riches.

  1. Kindergarten teachers are part of the workforce.

I cannot believe that we actually need to say this, but teachers are part of the workforce — underpaid, underappreciated, under-resourced members of the workforce, to be sure, but members of the workforce all the same.

If there’s one thing Republicans and Democrats generally agree on, at least in theory, it’s that children are the country’s greatest resource. Donald Trump, Jr., isn’t running for anything, but his statement, which basically amounts to saying that kindergarten teachers don’t have real jobs, is not great PR for his old man’s campaign.

  1. Sexual harassment is not “basic stuff” and it’s not something anyone should have to put up with, in order to earn a living and have a career.

Here, we come to our most important point: sexual harassment is not something anyone, male or female, should have to “handle,” so that they can stay in the workforce. It’s abusive, it’s discriminatory, and most criminal to a committed capitalist like Trump, it’s a waste of resources. You are not going to get the best ideas from the smartest people in the room, if some of them are fighting off aggressive and inappropriate behavior instead of doing their job.

Work is both rewarding and trying. There are definitely less-than-ideal circumstances that you should expect to handle, if you want to work. It’s just that sexual harassment is in no way one of them.

A few tough things that you should expect to deal with in the workforce (keeping in mind that according to Donald Trump, Jr., “the workforce” apparently means finance or professional/business services):

  • Working with colleagues with different ideas, personality types, learning styles, and priorities than yours.
  • Doing your best work, and still not always getting the promotion or raise you deserve, when you deserve it; putting in long hours, and having a client go to someone else.
  • Gritting your teeth through the thousand small annoyances of working in a group with other humans, including (but not limited to) listening to people chew/talk/argue in an open-plan office, getting interrupted right as you’re about to go into the zone, and dealing with everyone’s moods when pressure is high and resources are thin.

What you shouldn’t expect to deal with in the workforce:

  • …“[U]nwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.”
  • “Offensive remarks about a person’s sex” including “making offensive comments about women in general.”
  • …“[Harassment that is] so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).”

Those last three bullet points are quoted from the EEOC’s definition of sexual harassment. The EEOC also notes that sexual harassment can take place between two people of any sex, including the same sex — and that “the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious.”

In other words, anyone who’s looking for a get rich quick scheme would be better off trying almost anything else but a sexual harassment suit. For example, they might try being born Donald Trump, Jr. But for the next few days at least, the costs are likely to be too great to make it worthwhile.

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Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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