Sunday, May 4, 2008

Out, Out Danned Spot

I wish Marc Dann would step down for the sake of the young women whose careers have been derailed due to sexual harassment. I wish he'd disappear for the health of the Ohio Democratic Party. And to be honest, I wish he'd go away because I'm getting annoyed with writing about him, but each day some new detail comes out that's buried in the reporting but sheds some light on the dynamics of sexual harassment.

Today's Columbus Dispatch reports that Dann more or less admits what I suggested a couple of days ago - that his affair with an employee in his office set a tone that encouraged his aide, Anthony Gutierrez, to sexually harass his subordinates:
Perhaps the tolerance for Gutierrez' behavior could be found in Dann's hour-long confessional, question-and-answer session with reporters on Friday. At one point, he was asked if his secret love affair and personal behavior made him a role model that allowed Gutierrez to behave inappropriately.

"You know what, I'm really afraid that it contributed to that."
The Dispatch further reports that Dann's office systematically ignored complaints about Gutierrez's behavior. As early as October 10, 2007, another young female staffer who reported to Gutierrez, Mariellen Aranda, complained to HR about his sexually inappropriate behavior. (The exact substance of her complaint is not very clear from the Dispatch article.)

In response, Aranda got sympathy from the director of HR but no response for the higher-ups who might've put a stop to the harassment. Instead, a climate of fear prevailed:
Even the human-resources director was afraid of Gutierrez.

"I thought, 'Oh, boy, this is Marc Dann's best friend' and … I had heard these stories about the Mafia, and I was afraid I was going to lose my job."

Aranda said in her testimony that she was fearful of going to HR to complain, but she decided to go "because it had finally been enough for me. That day he had told me to shut up and not speak unless I was spoken to, and that was just what did it for me.
All of this brings to mind figleaf's comments on sexual harassment being a euphemism for solicitation of prostitution (in quid pro quo cases) and for extortion (in hostile environment cases). The response of Dann and his deputies - or lack thereof - shows what's at stake. It's not just a matter of women being a tad oversensitive. It's a pervasive sense of intimidation that often extends well beyond the women directly targeted. Something is deeply wrong when the head of HR fears for her own job and evokes the Mafia to describe the office atmosphere. And the wrong runs deeper yet when we're talking about the Attorney General's office.


ThePoliticalCat said...

Oy, whatta schmuck! Thanks for pointing out so clearly and beautifully that the person at the top sets the tone for the bottom-feeders.

Sungold said...

Hi, Political Cat! Yeah, Dann is turning out to be the über-schmuck. It stinks because all of us beleaguered Ohio Democrats had such high hopes when we finally kicked the Repubs out of office. And now Dann is insisting his own party will have to impeach him before he'll go.