Thursday, October 21, 2010

October 21: Harassment Can Take Many Forms

By Sylvia Gurinsky

The phone call Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, made to Anita Hill to ask for an apology for Hill's accusations of harassment by Clarence Thomas in 1991 is, to use a phrase I dislike intensely, a "teachable moment."

It serves as a reminder about harassment in the workplace, and the uphill battle those who endure it must still wage.

Nineteen years ago, Hill had to deal not only with the issues of whatever Mr. Thomas might have done when they both worked in, of all things, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but with a United States Senate under Democratic control that just didn't get it. Their confirmation of Thomas is still one of the great head-scratchers.

Things improved for a while. But in this age of hyper-partisanship, people are more likely to take Mrs. Thomas' phone call as a political act, rather than the continuation of a nightmare that began for Hill during the 1980s. Hill called the police and the FBI after the early-morning phone call from Mrs. Thomas.

What can the rest of us learn? Harassment can take many forms - and harassment in a phone call should be fought just as mightily as insulting comments on the job.

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