Monday, February 13, 2012

Valentine's Day

To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day,
All in the morning betime,
And I a maid at your window,
To be your Valentine.
Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes,
And dupp'd the chamber-door;
Let in the maid, that out a maid
Never departed more.
                                                                Shakespeare – Hamlet (Ophelia)
It will come as no surprise to many of you that Valentine’s Day can be a confusing time.  This may be a time when the “would be womanizers” are most confused about where the line is between normal human interaction and sexual harassment.  Expectation and anticipation abound. According to one source nearly $15 billion will be spent on this day in the United States alone.
The basis for a celebration of love on this date goes back to ancient Rome, when  February 13 – 15th were celebrated as Lupercalia, a pagan fertility festival.  Young men would strip naked and use goat- or dog-skin whips to spank the backsides of young women in order to improve their fertility. A tradition of sending anonymous notes to the objects of one’s affections began around 1797 in England. 
Hallmark is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its Valentine’s card and anticipates selling 160 million cards.
The tradition found its way into one sexual harassment case where two men purchased g-strings and sent them through inter office mail to 3 female employees.  The men then denied their participation.  Both were fired.
The one who played the lesser role brought an action for wrongful dismissal.  The court looked at the company policy, the company culture and the degree of dishonesty. All of these factors suggested that dismissal was too severe a penalty. 


Anonymous said...

Were you adjudicating, what penalty might you have imposed? A near mortal wound from Cupid's arrow in keeping with the occasion? Surely not too severe and much to the point.

Randall Telford, Barrister-at-Law said...

That is very funny. Having discussed this case with three of my classes yesterday and today, I have found there to be a consensus that the sending of g-strings in the interoffice mail system is unlikely to result in a mere glancing blow from Cupid's arrow, never mind a near mortal wound. The embarrassment of being outed as the "would be womanizer" is probably punishment enough.