For the past 12 years, I’ve offered a two-hour sexual-harassment-prevention course to supervisors at corporations and churches, schools and charities, police departments and law firms. I’ve talked about sexual harassment in sweltering community centers and classrooms that smelled of feet, hushed chapels, and posh executive boardrooms. I’ve been met with disconcerting enthusiasm and glaring hostility and everything in between. Office dogs have sat on my feet as I’ve explained hostile work environments, pastors have asked me to give examples of prohibited “sexual gestures,” and I’ve lectured a roomful of lawyers about propriety with my fly down.
I get a lot more questions about that course than I used to—I suppose because powerful people have only recently begun to encounter limits on their abusive behavior. The latest to fall in the wake of the #MeToo movement is, of course, the CBS power broker Les Moonves.
But when they discover my side hustle—most days, I’m a litigator— people don’t ask me about the most outrageous question I’ve heard, or the most hostile reaction I’ve drawn. Instead, they ask me: Does it work, or is it mere theater?
My answer is: Both.
I address the “What’s the point?” issue every time I give my presentation. I always start by telling my audience the 85/10/5 rule. Here’s the rule: 85 percent of you don’t need training and if left alone, you won’t sexually harass anyone. You don’t need to listen to me for two hours; you’re the collateral damage here. Then there’s the 10 percent of you who might sexually harass a colleague, but you can be convinced not to. Congratulations! You’re teachable. Finally, there’s the 5 percent of you — the 5 percent of humanity that assures steady work to lawyers and emergency-room doctors. You will always do whatever amuses you. But, if you sit through my training, we can prove we tried.