lauer nbc assault fired details

NBC’s Reported New Anti-Sexual Harassment Rules Are … Not Great

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In the wake of so many stories of sexual harassment and assault happening in the workplace, companies—especially high profile ones—are having to reevaluate how they plan to prevent misconduct going forward. It’s also becoming obvious that most of these companies have absolutely no idea how to do that.

NBC has reportedly instituted a new set of sexual harassment guidelines, which include a total ban on romantic relationships. According to an unnamed source at NBC,

Romantic relationships at work are not exactly unusual, but now NBC says it is taking a zero-tolerance approach. Staffers have been told that if they find out about any affairs, romances, inappropriate relationships or behavior in the office, they have to report it to human resources, their superior or the company anti-harassment phone line. Staffers are shocked that they are now expected to snitch on their friends.

Other rules reportedly include a how-to guide for hugs (“If you wish to hug a colleague, you have to do a quick hug, then an immediate release, and step away to avoid body contact.”) and instructions not to share taxis home. The source also says there’s a rule against taking vegans to steakhouses.

In theory, I appreciate that these guidelines seem designed to prevent employees from being forced into situations that make them uncomfortable. Abusers often rely on the knowledge that the responsibility of establishing boundaries and expressing discomfort falls to their potential victims, and that, especially when power imbalances are in play, that can be a hard thing to do.

However, I have trouble believing these rules–if they’re being accurately described–will create a healthy atmosphere at NBC. Banning all romantic relationships (which, come on, is impossible) will prevent aggressors from being able to claim their abusive encounters are consensual, but nothing described here would prevent the kind of unhealthy power dynamics that abusers have been systematically exploiting.

So … good first draft, I guess? But NBC should definitely make sure these rules–espeially ones based on reporting the behavior of friends and colleagues–don’t actually lead to less transparency regarding the line between romantic and sexual relationships and potential abuse in the workplace.

(via Jezebel, image: Shutterstock)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.