Sexual Harassment: My take on the Andrew Cuomo situation
On Wednesday, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo addressed allegations of sexual harassment from three different women, two of whom are former staffers.
My Facebook feed clearly had political reactions to this news, as I would see Republican friends mocking Cuomo and calling for him to resign, yet who previously ignored sexual harassment claims against likes of Donald Trump. When it comes to issues like sexual harassment, facts and people must take precedence over party, plain and simple.
Putting politics aside, one wonders why it took so long for these accusers to come forward (and conveniently at a time when Cuomo is already facing scrutiny over the nursing home situation). I'm not ready to pass any judgment or say that Cuomo is guilty or that the accusers are lying for political or publicity reasons. We need to look at all of the facts. We can't assume people are guilty based on an accusation. Look what happened with Brett Kavanaugh.
The behaviors that Cuomo exhibited are considered to be sexual harassment under the hostile work environment principle. But in order to claim hostile work environment-type harassment, it is important for the victim to speak up. Too often, this does not happen and that could be the result of a toxic work culture where voice behaviors are discouraged. If these individuals had spoken up at the time and Cuomo apologized and ceased that behavior going forward, we might not be here today. Again, I am not trying to place any blame on the accusers, but just saying this could have been resolved much better; after all, the actions for which Cuomo is accused of are relatively mild compared to other, more serious cases (like the Jared Porter situation, for one).
Here's an example of what I mean: 10 years ago, at a company holiday party, I was trying to make my way through a crowded bar of people, whereby physical contact with others was unavoidable due to the concentration of people (especially for a klutz like me), when I accidentally - ACCIDENTALLY - touched a female coworker (who I did not know particularly well) in a place where one does not want to be touched. She spoke up immediately (and rather rudely, I might add). Fortunately, another female coworker (who I worked closely with and knew I had no intent) came to my defense and the issue was dropped and never brought up again.
The point of the story - and this post - is that while I do not condone any behavior like what Cuomo is alleged to have done, it is very important to speak up and make your lack of comfort known; otherwise, you may unknowingly make the situation worse. And if your work culture is such that you are afraid to speak up, then that's an even bigger issue.
EDIT: Since this post originally appeared on Facebook, one of the accusers' lawyers stated that the accuser did bring up the issue to the chief of staff. How this never got to Cuomo himself is still unresolved, but clearly there were some workplace issues at play here. Still, I stand by my defense of Cuomo himself; if he didn't know they were uncomfortable, then he couldn't act accordingly. Period.