Employers seeking to avoid lawsuits in the hypersensitive age of the #MeToo movement are looking to ban even the most innocuous professional courtesies, including handshakes.
Last week, Kate Palmer, associate director of advisory at human resources consultancy Peninsula and an alleged “expert” on the matter, said that employers may soon seek to ban “all forms of physical contact to avoid confusion about what kind of touch is appropriate,” according to The Sun of Britain.
Employers would implement clear-cut “black and white” no-contact policies to avoid any potential situation that could lead to a harassment lawsuit, Palmer told the outlet, fingering the #MeToo movement as the catalyst for the changes expected to come.
“Some employers may put a complete ban on physical contact,” the expert told British-based Metro, adding, “Whether that’s going too far or not is a question I would pose, because it’s contextual. Does shaking someone’s hand go too far?”
“They may just say ‘no contact at all’ because there’s no grey area,” Palmer explained.
As noted by Metro, a recent Totaljobs survey of about 2,000 adults found that three out of four approve of a no-contact policy in the workplace. Of those questioned, “one in three had been affected by an ‘awkward’ greeting” and about 25% of participants claimed to have “avoided a colleague or client because of the way they greeted people.”
Here in the United States, the modern hypersensitivity surrounding alleged misconduct was arguably sparked into the extreme on college campuses, and predates the #MeToo movement. The Obama administration notably offered “guidance” (at the threat of revoked funding) on sexual harassment investigations that stripped the accused of customary due process regulations and, in effect, lowered the threshold with regard to sexual misconduct.
Trump-appointed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has said that the rules "led to the deprivation of rights for many students — both accused students denied fair process and victims denied an adequate resolution of their complaints." As noted by Bustle, schools were forced to investigate complaints with a “'preponderance of evidence' standard, or else risk losing federal funding under Title IX.” DeVos rescinded the Obama-era guidelines in 2017.
Then came the takedown of massive Hollywood players like producer Harvey Weinstein, via the #MeToo movement. Though the movement was well-intentioned, the excesses of #MeToo devolved into basic hysteria. For example, a YouGov poll conducted post-Weinstein found an absurd numbers of young people equating innocuous pleasantries like compliments with sexual harassment. The Daily Wire perviously reported:
Stunningly, over 1/3 of those polled ranging in age from 18-30 (male and female) said a man "commenting on attractiveness" would "always" or "usually" be a form of sexual harassment.
When it came to asking a woman out for a drink, about one in four young males and about 12.5% of young females said it would "always" or "usually" be a form of sexual harassment. For reference, those polled in Sweden, Germany, and the U.K., all polled around 0% for this particular hypothetical.
Additionally, about 50% of young men and woman considered a man looking at a woman's breasts to be "always" or "usually" sexual harassment.