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CUOMO CONTROVERSY – teachable moments not to be shoved under rugs.

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Over the past several months we have often announced to each other at noon “It’s Cuomo Time” and now it is starting to look more like “Cuomo’s Time May Be Up.” Personally, I hope not but time will tell.

I will share that I am rather familiar with Sexual Harassment. As a victim, as a trainee, as a trainer of prevention and awareness, as a workplace investigator, and as a policy writer. Once, while trying to coach an executive on the subject, he responded: “I’m really good at this so no one needs to teach me how!” Well, times have changed my friends. Starting in 1991 when so many of us witnessed the explicit trial of Anita Hill vs. Clarence Thomas, and I clearly remember where I was while watching, amidst several male coworkers. A bit uncomfortable to say the least.

Today, we are hearing multiple allegations of incidents that occurred in the past against the outspoken and amiable Governor of New York. Why don’t these accusers come forward at the time? What about the Me, too? For some, silence is golden. And in some cases, sure, biting our tongues may be the right thing to do.

But for others, silence, or internalizing these experiences will not help anyone. Not you, nor any other prospective victims. Speaking out in a timely manner is more than freeing; it is the right thing to do.

We live in a ‘see something say something’ world. We are all on watch at airports. We are more aware at shopping malls than ever before. We look over our shoulders all the time. If we do witness something in the workplace – we are required to acknowledge and report, even if the victim is unwilling.

So, these recent allegations came through Tweets! Really? Damn that bird, setting precedence once again. Why would these accusers not follow formal or official channels? And why now? Could there be political motivations or retaliation? These questions are not intended to accuse the accused. They are simply questions.

The former president of the United States has had at least 18 claims against him for sexual harassment and misconduct, and worse. We have all witnessed his inappropriate and unprofessional behavior during his campaign, his rallies, and since. Yet he was not asked to step down by his party. But calls for Cuomo’s resignation are loud and clear.

Many behaviors can be considered harassing, bullying, inappropriate, immoral, or just simply ignorant. Does the accused realize what they are doing or saying is felt as a threat? One would hope so, particularly with high profile, highly educated, and even elected officials.

Types of ‘sexual’ harassment are physical, verbal, and visual. Not all harassing behaviors are sexual in nature. However, they can be intentional behaviors that are found or felt to be disturbing or threatening.

The EEOC defines sexual harassment as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.”. Even if no sexual affronts or intrusions occurred, it is also illegal in the U.S. to harass a person at work simply because of the person’s sex or gender.

We live in a ‘see something say something’ world. We are all on watch at airports. We are more aware at shopping malls than ever before. We look over our shoulders all the time. Anyone accusing someone should first tell that person that their conversation, their behavior is unwelcome, and it needs to stop. Then, if it continues, it is time to report it.

In most workplaces today, people are reluctant to speak truth to power with often disastrous consequences. Leaders must do more to encourage speaking up. There are employee assistance call centers for employees to anonymously report concerns. In the most ironic situation where one cannot comfortably go to their Human Resources office – because maybe someone there is the person doing the harassing, then it needs to go higher. Today, not next year. The time may never seem right, but the behaviors will always be wrong.

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