some men in my office refuse to be alone with women

A reader writes:

I work for a mid-sized private company that, while not a religious organization, does have “Christian values” as one of its organizational tenets, and has many Christian employees (of which I consider myself one, but more on the liberal progressive side). Generally, they treat employees well, have flexible workplace policies, and overall strive to create a healthy work environment. For the most part, they succeed. However, one issue has come up repeatedly, and I’m wondering what (if anything) to do about it.

A few of the employees (and managers as well) adhere to a particularly strict brand of religious practice where they (men) do not spend time alone with members of the opposite sex who aren’t their wives or family members. While this doesn’t present itself as much of an issue in the day-to-day operation of the workplace, this has had impacts on performance reviews, work trips, and work-related outings (and, frankly, my morale). Some of my peers share these convictions, and while it’s irritating to me to be reduced to gender, I do respect their preferences. However, I feel like it leads to inequitable treatment when managers can have off-site 1:1 performance reviews (per the typical practice of the company) with their male employees and not with female employees, or could potentially be career-limiting if, say, they needed to choose someone to travel with them for a project and choose a male employee due to their beliefs.

I’ve discussed this with a few others here, and one coworker has raised it up the chain a bit (specifically, the performance review piece). She was told that going for an off-site lunch for a performance review is part of the company culture and that it wouldn’t change, and that the accommodation was to bring along another coworker or a spouse. To us, this seems awkward at best and paternalistic at worst.

So I guess the question is: is there a case for really pressing them on this issue? Does it leave them open to legal liability? Will it benefit women in my workplace? Or is it a smaller issue in the context of a generally supportive work environment?

This is disgusting and sexist, and it hurts women. Despite some high-profile instances of employers apparently tolerating this (Mike Pence), you cannot allow employees, and especially managers, to treat men and woman differently in substantive ways that have real impact on them. It’s illegal.

And this does have real impact. As you point out, it denies women the same sort of relationship-building and professional development opportunities that their male coworkers receive. If only male employees are having one-on-one meals with these managers, traveling with them, and getting picked for projects where they’ll work together closely, they’re getting professional advantages that are being denied to their female colleagues.  If those managers aren’t comfortable doing those things with women, they they need to stop doing them with men as well.

And it’s frankly offensive to require women to have a chaperone sit in on their performance evaluations if they want to have them in the same off-site, and presumably more relaxed, environment as their male colleagues get to do. (Also, that suggestion that the chaperone could be a spouse? That’s bizarre.)

Then there’s the law. I asked employment lawyer Donna Ballman, author of the excellent book Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired, to weigh in:

Refusing to be alone with one gender and not the other in the workplace is, in my opinion, a blatant violation of Title VII and probably most state anti-discrimination laws. If only one gender is singled out in a way that affects their ability to do their job, their promotion prospects, or other terms and conditions of employment, it’s sex discrimination, pure and simple.

That means anyone who decides, for whatever reason, not to be alone with a certain gender of employee must refuse to be alone with all. I’m guessing that will make working almost impossible in many jobs. Let’s look at how it would work if applied evenly among genders.

For example, let’s say the company has an open-door policy, where any employee can go to anyone in management with complaints or concerns. The advantage of such a policy is that employees can feel free to express any issues in private with a trusted member of management. If there is something going on that’s illegal, like sexual harassment, discrimination, or other illegal activity, it’s in the company’s best interest to find out sooner rather than later. The person who requires a witness for such meetings is making the open-door policy a joke. With a witness, employees will feel less free to express concerns. The illegal activity will continue because nobody reported it. The company could well suffer as well as employees.

If the company has a sexual harassment policy stating they should report sexual harassment to specified individuals, the person who refuses to meet with them unless there’s a witness present again makes the policy a joke. Making the policy a joke could well knock out any defense the employer had regarding having an effective policy.

Employee performance reviews are usually one-on-one. With a witness, everyone knows everyone else’s business. That can cut both ways for employees, since they will know who the poor performers are. When it comes to discrimination, if they can show someone else was performing more poorly than them but was not fired, they may be able to prove discrimination. On the other hand, most employees don’t want their business spread among coworkers, so having a witness could adversely affect morale.

When interviewing for promotions, all employees would have a witness present for their interviews. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, but depending on the witness it probably affects their ability to perform well in interviews, and it probably affects the interviewer’s demeanor and questions.

Now let’s look at the single-gender effects of the situations above. Men but not women would be allowed to utilize the open door policy, so men could have a friendly chat but women would be making a formal complaint. Men but not women would be able to report sexual harassment in a confidential way, making it more difficult for women to report. Men would know which women were poor performers but women would not have the same information. Only women would have a witness present in promotion interviews, so men could have a good-old-boy friendly chat and women would have a formal interview with no such camaraderie.

Anyone who can’t see why this would be a problem needs an HR 101 seminar, speedy quick.

As for what to do … ideally you and other women in your company would push back on this as a group. Point out that it’s a violation of Title VII (and check to see if it violates anti-discrimination laws in your state as well), and that your company is illegally denying women opportunities that men there receive. Use language like, “We certainly respect our colleagues’ religious beliefs, but they need to be applied evenly across the board without singling out anyone by gender.”

If your company isn’t receptive to that, I’d seriously consider getting a lawyer involved. It’s worth pushing this.

* I make a commission if you use that Amazon link.

{ 1,098 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    If you are considering posting a comment about false accusations or men needing to defend themselves from #MeToo allegations, please pass this post by.

    (And also, please re-read the info in the post about legally being required to apply the policy to all sexes you interact with if you have it at all.)

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Oh the headline made me think it was a bunch of males who are afraid of alll the ‘false accusations’ that are just flying around because women want nothing more than to have that kind of bullshit scrutiny, being called liars, asking what they did to cause it happening.

        Alison couldn’t the OP (and the other women) go to the EEOC over this?

          1. Ethyl*

            I’ve read the answer three times and I don’t see where the EEOC is mentioned, only that it’s a Title VII issue. It could be worth clarifying this, since I don’t think many people are familiar with what all the various titles and whatnot apply to and who handles them.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Unfortunately there have been a lot of cases of men instituting policies like this recently for precisely this reason, especially in finance. Yuck.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            I think we have to consider the possibility they *say* it’s to protect men from false accusations, but the real motivation is sexism. This country has a long, long history of that.
            In the 1950’s my mother had a job at Woolworth’s. In a few years she was promoted to assistant manager.
            She wanted to be promoted to manager and they told her no because a manager had to drive around to different small-town stores and it wasn’t safe for a woman to drive around alone.
            Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight…

            1. Jessen*

              There’s also the problem that “false accusations” sometimes means more like “well I didn’t think it was a big deal, women are so sensitive, I didn’t mean it like that… just a big fuss over nothing, right?”

        2. Database Developer Dude*

          RUKiddingMe, um….women can and do receive the bullshit scrutiny, being called liars, asking what they did to cause it happening……….when they’re telling the god-honest truth.

    1. Wintermute*

      Precisely, the solution is NEVER sexism. Cameras everywhere, requiring witnesses for potentially risky interactions (Like doctors do with pelvic exams and/or minor patients), access logs and building controls, buddy-system policies for after hours work, 360* performance reviews and transparent management (to prevent quid pro quo harassment allegations)– there are many solutions to both sexual harassment and accusations of it that are fair and equitable. Illegal actions are not a solution (plus they’re totally ineffective, because harassment can happen between any two people of any combination of gender, orientation and sex).

    1. Harvey 6-3.5*

      Not just gross but a weird mix of egotism and lack of self control. These men are, apparently, so desirable that they can’t be alone in an office with a cis-woman, but they also are incapable of governing their own behavior. Also, what if the employee in question is a gay male? Do they also refuse one-on-ones because of the possible attraction? A transgender female?

      Really, there is no end to the discrimination that this policy creates.

      1. FaintlyMacabre*

        I once worked with a supervisor who was used to working with all men. Then he changed jobs and suddenly had four women on staff to deal with. He clearly didn’t know how to handle it- he wanted us ladies to be comfortable, he said, but by constantly harping on how he wanted us to be comfortable and how he’d always worked with males, it made me feel really uncomfortable and othered. He would always open the blinds if we came into his office, and any meeting we had with him was attended by our HR-ish person (small workplace). HR person was also a woman- not sure what he did if he needed a one-on-one meeting with her.

        Unfortunately, that was just the tip of the crazy iceberg at that place and I moved along as fast as possible.

        No advice, just sympathy, and you are definitely not “too sensitive” or anything else. It’s a crock of shirts.

      2. Jamey*

        I’m a trans man. Very curious if I’m close enough to a “woman” in their eyes that I would be subject to these rules – I strongly suspect yes. So there’s another layer of discrimination and disrespect.

      3. Larina*

        I went to a very conservative christian college, and several professors also had pretty gross policies about female students meeting them for office hours.

        One of my favorite professors, a woman, while attending a meeting where some of these men were praising each other for their no meeting alone policy, called them out, saying”It’s incredibly prideful of you to assume that any woman or student who wants to meet with you also wants to have sex with you.” Needless to say, she shut down several of the arrogant professors, and I hope they thought much harder about how their policies were so gross and hurtful.

    2. Sleepytime Tea*

      I just don’t know how you can deal with this. I mean… yes, it is absolutely illegal. That said, how do you handle that while respecting someone’s religious beliefs? If they are truly restricted by their religion from being alone with a person of the opposite sex, then can you ask them to violate those beliefs as a part of their job? From a legal standpoint it’s very clear that this can’t be allowed, but on the other hand, if I held an incredibly strong religious belief how would I feel/what would I do if I was forced to violate that belief for my job?

      This is an extreme case and… I’m just at a loss. I feel like there’s no good way to deal with it. Other than GTFO, of course.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Religious beliefs can only be accommodated to the extent that they don’t infringe upon the rights of others. It is a requirement of managing people that you treat your reports equally with regard to protected characteristics; if your religious belief prohibits that, then your religious belief is effectively prohibiting you from being a manager.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Yep. And practicing a religion in general is supposed to be about YOUR OWN behavior and the relationship to your chosen deity. If you’re demanding the world at large conform to your personal standards, then you’re doing it wrong. It makes no difference what the religion is.

        2. AJ*

          “Religious beliefs can only be accommodated to the extent that they don’t infringe upon the rights of others. ”

          Haha! If only…

      2. Ginny Weasley*

        Alison touches on this in her response. If a religious belief requires you to act one way towards one gender, then you need to act that way towards all genders. The solution is to not allow any 1-on-1 meetings at all. This is obviously a burden for the company, but it is the only way to accommodate the religious belief without resorting to sexism.

        1. Jaz*

          I worked at one company that ultimately opted for this policy, and simply outlawed 1-on-1 meetings completely. It was frustrating sometimes, but it was a way to keep things fair while accommodating religious and disability-related needs.

        2. Starbuck*

          Not every religious belief has to be accommodated in the workplace. If it would cause an unreasonable burden to not be able to have any 1:1 meetings, then that person simply can’t do the job.

          1. whingedrinking*

            THIS. If your religion prohibits the handling of pork, then maybe the position of chef at a Southern barbecue restaurant isn’t the right job for you. If you can’t manage 50% of all potential employees, maybe you shouldn’t be a manager.

      3. Tigger*

        You bring up good points but I think in this case the religious beliefs is harming someone else’s career. I think this a good line to draw

      4. pancakes*

        Respecting someone’s religious beliefs doesn’t necessitate helping them discriminate, nor helping them break the law.

        1. Database Developer Dude*

          Unfortunately, the person that demands their religious beliefs be respected can also be unreasonable enough to demand that NOT helping them discriminate is not respecting their beliefs.

          My religious beliefs prohibit me from saying “Under God” as part of the Pledge of Allegiance. My beliefs prohibit ME from saying that…they don’t prohibit anyone else from saying it.

          If it were brought to someone’s attention, how fast do you think people would lose their minds?

            1. Database Developer Dude*

              If it were locally and commonly known that I do that. If it were noticed that I don’t do that, lots of people would lose their minds over it.

              1. Jasnah*

                As a child I was taught in school that the “under god” part was optional. I suppose this depends where you live though.

      5. JSPA*

        I can see so many options in this day and age. e.g. video link recording without audio, pointed at the male manager who has the obligation, for example. (The religious issue must presumably be directed at actions, not words, or else it wouldn’t be OK for them to talk on the phone, or send emails.) Used for all one-on-ones, of course, not just male-female. Two rooms, two cars for all trips with only two people if one of them has such a restriction (regardless of the gender combinations), perhaps combined with lotteries or a rota or point system (applied to all qualified people), as far as who comes on trips, to prevent bias.

        I’m pretty sure that even if the company tries and manages create a second, statistically-defensible, all-female or female-enriched path to promotion, “separate but equal” still won’t fly in the US (but I suppose they’re welcome to try). But in some countries, I suspect it does; I’m willing to bet (for example) that there are nations where women are only seen by female doctors, and where those female doctors report in their own chain of command up to a high level.

      6. Kimberly*

        Personally, my view is if your religion (something you choose) says you can’t do your job without harming another person because they exist – you can’t have the job. The other person is always more important than your beliefs.

        Harming another person includes denying them the medical care they need, prescriptions they need, and anything that would stop them from being equal with everyone else.

      7. Wintermute*

        I offer my services to a legal advice group. A small group of people seem to have hit on religious and/or ADA accommodations as a way to try to force their employers to implement their gross and sexist beliefs in the workplace.

        But that’s not how it works. You must be able to perform your job with reasonable accommodations, and accommodations must be reasonable. It’s very possible that there are no lawful accommodations that would let you accomplish all the essential tasks of a job in line with your religious obligations. If you keep kosher chances are working as a cook in a BBQ shack is not going to be a good career for you, asking to never handle pork products or prepare them would not be a reasonable accommodation. If you’re a strictly observant Muslim then there’s just no possible accommodations that would let you be a bartender.

        Accommodations must also be lawful, that’s why ADA requests around alcohol and other drug addiction get so tricky, because no amount of accommodation requests in the world will stop the company from firing you for having drugs on you or being on-duty drunk, which can present a nasty catch-22 (you need to ask for help to get sober, you need to be sober to admit to your company you need help, etc).

        Also note that religion only requires “reasonable accommodation” whereas gender and sex are given a higher standard. Companies must not only make “reasonable” attempts to be fair but they MUST SUCCEED. Good faith attempts to do your best are enough when it comes to religion accommodation but when it comes to discrimination against a protected class it doesn’t matter how hard you tried if you fail you are strictly liable. Note that this is different than religious discrimination, which is protected just like sex and all the other protected classes. In other words, you must accept all religions equally but you must not accomodate their needs equally– you can’t not hire a man because he’s Jewish but you can refuse to hire anyone that won’t work with pork if that’s a bona fide job requirement (IE for a BBQ pit that’s fine, for a law office… probably not).

        In other words they wouldn’t be firing them because of their religion, they would be firing them because they cannot work under conditions which satisfy title 7, and title 7 is non-negotiable.

    1. Dragoning*

      I agree. They value company “culture” over equality laws, and that…is basically an unfixable disaster.

        1. JSPA*

          That would be, our current interpretation of our constitution. Not that I’m an originalist, but women only got the vote in the US in 1920. Quite some time after the framing of the constitution. The right to not consent to sex in the context of marriage didn’t exist nationwide until 1993. Lots of what we consider obvious and necessary self-determination and equality issues were not even framed as issues for the first 150 or 200 years of US nationhood.

          Basically, it’s been a fight, it’s still a fight; know that, and in that context please keep fighting the good fight.

      1. Chinookwind*

        Or think outside the box and make every management position split with both a man and a woman with equal power so that both genders have someone to report to?

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Maybe with a discrimination lawsuit and a pinch of media backlash, though I’m not optimistic about that.

      1. Lance*

        Enough of that could see the company close under the costs/pressure, rather than fixing its issues.

        On the other hand, that could be a ‘fix’ in itself, if at the cost of the employees.

        1. Strider 1*

          Honestly before I got to the second sentence I thought that you were advocating it as a fix, and I agreed.

        2. pancakes*

          And? I think it would be fine if it closed. If the owners can’t sort out how to run a business without being outlandishly discriminatory, they shouldn’t have a business.

          1. Hoffnung*

            Still raises the question of how people like this are supposed to survive. Things like Amish-style family farming are harder than they were in the past.

            1. pancakes*

              I’m not following as to why or how being able to discriminate against women is somehow essential to their survival. You think these dudes would literally die if they had to stop doing this, or went to work someplace that doesn’t do it?

      2. MRH*

        Oh, how I wish someone would bring a lawsuit and/or media scrutiny about this issue to my organization! I work for a place like this, and while they aren’t as EX-plicit about these types of things, I’m learning that there’s certainly an IM-plicit bias practice among many of my male colleagues. The informal networking is mostly male, and it’s tough to overcome the “look, I just go to lunch/do things with people I’m comfortable with” when, apparently, the only people they’re comfortable with are their male colleagues. It’s going to take a really big wake up call for anything to change.

      3. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Sadly I think these days such a lawsuit would be highly likely to be taken up as another example of an “attack on religious freedom” and the company would be championed by the elements of our society that promote this kind of behavior.

        1. VictorianCowgirl*

          Well they’re free to champion it. They are also outnumbered. It shouldn’t stop the process before it even starts, then they have won without a fight.

        2. pancakes*

          They can be championed by whoever; they’ll still lose. Remember when Kim Davis went to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses? That was great.

    3. A person*

      I propose not allowing people who hold these kinds of beliefs to be managers. Demote them. If they are unwilling to perform their job duties (which include a legal requirement to not discriminate), they shouldn’t hold the job. Period.

      1. boo bot*

        Yeah, I mean, I get why people might feel like they don’t want to get caught in a religious discrimination issue, but one of the “outs” for providing religious accommodation is, does it interfere with the actual, bona fide job duties, right? Like, if my ice cream shop, Sundae’s Sundays, is only open on Sundays, I don’t have to hire someone who doesn’t work on Sundays for religious reasons.

        I would think, “not discriminating against your female employees” is a bona fide job requirement for a manager. But I also suspect that the upper management at this place isn’t all that motivated to change the status quo, or they would have done so already.

        1. Psyche*

          Also, if having chaperones at every meeting is not interfering with their job, they can do that for the men as well.

          1. boo bot*

            Yeah, that was the other part that made me nuts – there’s actually a super easy way to do this in a non-discriminatory way! I think I recall a letter or comment about someone who couldn’t shake hands with people of the opposite sex for religious reasons. The fix? They just didn’t shake hands with anyone at work. Boom, done.

          1. JSPA*

            Category error; not all fundamentalists do this, and not all who do this identify as fundamentalists. And we’re doing the job of the fundamentalists who think that A implies B, if we buy into that presumption.

            I don’t intend this to be terminology nit-picking.

            If we want to move forward from regressive cultural artifacts it actually is important not to conflate them with philosophical beliefs. Nor do the work of the people who want to see them conflated.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              I’ve rarely met a fundamentalist who calls themselves a fundamentalist. What do you think we should call the religious extremists being discussed here? Conservative Christians have already mentioned this is not them.

            2. Undercover Lady Lawyer*

              So…your last paragraph, I’m confused…in this scenario wouldn’t the “regressive cultural artifact” stem from practical application of the philosophical belief? Assuming that the artifact is the practice of not hanging solo with the opposite sex and the philosophy is the tenets of faith proscribing one’s religious practices and worship. After a quick review of wikipedia’s “Conflate” page, I’ve reassured myself I know what it means. Seems to me you’re suggesting that it is a logical fallacy to guess that a guy who won’t be alone with women because of his religion practices a fundamentalist version of his faith. Or, in other words, you’re saying they’re “thinking about this wrong.” Wikipedia gives us an example of a logical fallacy, as follows it is: 1. All bats are animals – 2. Some wooden objects are bats – 3. Therefore, some wooden objects are animals.

              This ain’t that. I’d call this inductive reasoning, backed by strong evidence. To wit: Strict segregation of the sexes is a common factor among those practice a fundamentalist faith. Boss embraces segregation on these grounds. It follows that boss may be a fundamentalist.

              I bet I could give it a go arguing this is deductive reasoning but I am tired.

              I remain at a loss regarding your admonishment to not carry water for those wanting conflation…and I’ve thought about it…are you saying it’s not cool to point out the ugly consequences of practicing your faith in such a way that real harm is done to others?

      2. RUKiddingMe*

        Agree 100%. If they can’t do their job in a legal way then they need to not have that job. Full stop.

      3. designbot*

        This. If you can’t be alone with half of the workforce, you’re not performing your job and should be treated as such.

    4. Jen*

      Not going to lie, I would just job searching. I know it is illegal but those suits are a pain to bring (probably by design, the EEOC has been pretty gutted, sadly). If a large org it could be worth it, but a small one is more likely to double down. A conversation with the management and request for retraining and maybe a letter from an attorney but more would be tough.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        I’d be looking for a job and suing them. A suit will take time sure, but once they file an EEOC complaint firing them would be illegal so they can look for a job/start a new job while the system grinds away. People like this need to freaking learn. This kind of stuff needs to stop…it needed to stop fifty years ago. Just rolling over and moving on isn’t helping anyone in the long run. What about other companies that do this? With enough media coverage it might spur them on to fix their own house before they have to deal likewise with a suit.

        1. Jen*

          Yeah I know it is the right thing to do, I just worked one of these cases and it was demoralizingly slow and ineffective. We need better legislation.

        2. Michaela Westen*

          It comes down to whether the employee feels up to suing and has the resources (financial, physical and emotional). Someone who doesn’t feel up to it or have a support system shouldn’t try to push themselves to do it, it would just drain them and make things worse for them.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Actually I agree. It’s up to individuals how they handle their stuff. I still think (rather know because duh) if no one does anything nothing will change. Fortunately for me, and others this *is* a hill to die on.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              I agree it’s important, and anyone who is up for it should do something as a contribution to our society and culture.

    5. RUKiddingMe*

      Fix it by suing them into the ground. I’m serious. This is 2019 and this is the US. There are laws, which I would bet real money TPTB know about and are blatantly ignoring.

    6. neverjaunty*

      You don’t. The OP should absolutely consult a lawyer – not to try and “fix” the company, but so she can negotiate a generous severance and a good reference while she finds a job elsewhere.

      This isn’t a company that’s falling down on balancing religious rights. This is a company that is actively cool with favoring the development and success and shutting out female employees.

      1. Liz T*

        Excellent reminder that bringing in a lawyer can mean other things besides, “Single-handedly destroy this company in court and change the world,” which I think most of us jump to when we talk about (il)legal discrimination.

    7. Wintermute*

      You go in swinging with EEOC complaints and lawsuits and you bring them down. Whatever is left standing is the part that can be fixed.

  2. eplawyer*

    No, just no.

    This is discrimination. Period. Women can’t do their jobs if they can’t meet with the men. Adding a chaperone is a JOKE.

    Push back. If it gets nowhere, get a LAWYER ASAP.

    1. Amber T*

      All I was thinking reading this entire thing was “Nope. Nope. Nooooope. NEWWWWP.” The chaperone thing killed me… what the actual f.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        And seriously their spouse? Sure everyone wants their spouse (i.e. husband…because women) listening in on their work stuff. Of course once they know I suppose they could “correct” their wives right?

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          And if the spouse is NOT a man… well, I don’t imagine this company is friendly to its LGBTQ+ employees either.

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            Yeah every time I see one of those “I can’t be alone with the opposite sex because TEMPTATION y’all!” types, my first reaction is to take it to its logical conclusion: that I – a bisexual – may not ever be alone with anyone of any gender ever. Or have any friends.

            I certainly can’t imagine a workplace that is already illegally sexist is going to be fair and legal with LGBTI+ employees… Best to lawyer up and negotiate a good severance like the LW who updated the mandatory therapy letter today.

            1. Hoffnung*

              It’s likely about the appearance of propriety more than it is the risk of actually being tempted. Of course one wonders who is watching at times – God of course, but He sees everything, so it’s not for His benefit. Still, there is a reason why it’s often not a good idea to walk around with ziplock bags full of oregano and talcum powder.

            2. Gazebo Slayer*

              Yeah, I am also bisexual, and that’s one of the reasons stuff like this makes me furious. Same for jealous partners who object to friends of their gender, or the whole “men and women can’t just be friends” BS.

        2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          I don’t think inviting my husband to any of the asinine meetings I’ve had to sit in would work well for the person requiring it.

          Supervisor: We can’t report child abuse, because it’s bad customer service.
          Supervisor: Can you stop being smart, it’s offending the other employees.
          Supervisor: I just don’t like working with [race] women.
          Supervisor: We can’t trespass that customer, all he did was indecently expose himself to [Female Employee Who Was Working All Alone and was Terrified.]
          Supervisor: How dare you write up suspected sex abuse without asking the parents if the child was being sexually abused? The mom told me the child was not being abused, I took care of it.

          I’d love to watch my smart, argumentative, accomplished professor husband hand any of those people their rear ends for remarks like that.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Mine is on the floor.

              Flashed? Child sex abuse? Not supposed to say/do anything? Yeah, those are hills to die on for me. YMMV of course.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            OMG, what kind of hell do you work in? So glad I don’t live there!
            Very sorry for those that do, especially the children :'(

                1. Gazebo Slayer*

                  “The customer is always right” is dangerously destructive bullshit. It’s a perfect recipe for employee abuse – and sometimes for things like refusal to report child abuse or otherwise being complicit in crimes because a customer happened to commit them. Someone here posted a comment recently about how a lawyer at their law firm had ended up in prison for colluding with an extremely lucrative client because she didn’t want to lose that client’s business – and while that’s quite a different field, it’s the same mentality, and I can certainly imagine situations in which a retail worker could become someone’s knowing accomplice for the same reason.

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  And I’m sure there were parents who thought their children and young women were safe there…

        3. quagmire*

          oh, I assumed the men with the problem were bringing their wives as a chaperone, not making the employee bring a husband.

          Either way, ugh.

          1. Totally Minnie*

            If my boss were to invite me to a closed door meeting where his wife was sitting in a corner planning to observe, that would be the hardest of hard nos.

            1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

              +1. And as the wife, I’d also question why my husband felt he had so little self-control he needed to have me in the room.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                That’s the thing that’s always bothered me about cultures where the woman is held responsible for the man’s inappropriate actions. Don’t the men realize how insulting it is that they’re considered animals with no decency and self-control?
                That attitude insults both men and women.

                1. Elizabeth West*

                  YES YES YES

                  However, I think it persists because it allows those who would take advantage of it to do so and then blame the victims. And unfortunately, too many of them are in high-level positions.

                2. xarcady*

                  I agree–the idea that all men are out there, just waiting for a glimpse of a feminine ankle to go out of control is icky.

                  This is the notion that needs to be turned on its head. If I smash a jewelry store window and grab that $10,000 pearl necklace that I admire, no judge or jury is going to accept my defense of “Well, there it was in the window. If the owner of the store didn’t want it to get stolen, he should have hidden it and kept it out of the window.”

                  But for sexual assault, excuses based on the victim’s attire, or state of sobriety, or any of a number of other things relating only to the victim are accepted by society as a reason for men to break the law and assault people.

                3. whingedrinking*

                  I’ve seen people argue for curfews for women “to keep them safe”. I always ask why they don’t make the curfews for men in that case.

              2. Cat Fan*

                I assume that the wives know fully well all about their husbands’ religious beliefs. They probably go to the same church or whatever it might be. But yeah, this is all very stupid and gross.

                1. Tiny Soprano*

                  Yeah some of them are probably quite happy to ‘protect’ their husbands from that temptress from Finance walking around with her ankles on display like that.

            2. Jadelyn*

              Ew, seriously. Bad enough feeling like I’m supposed to drag my partner to my work – which means making him take the day off from his own job, mind you – just to sit in on a meeting, but to have my performance review in the presence of my boss’s spouse??? NEWP. At least if it’s my own spouse, that’s someone I know and trust and feel comfortable with (which, you know, is also not a guaranteed thing for everyone?), but someone else’s spouse??? Jaysus effing Christ this is so not okay.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Now I’m picturing the letter. “Dear Alison, my employee requested a day off so that he could go to work with his wife, whose boss refuses to be alone with female employees, so that he could chaperone a meeting between his wife and her boss. I’ve already got two other employees off that day, so I said no, but he’s insisting he has to. What do I do?”

        4. Jaz*

          And how about unmarried women? I suppose in that case she should bring her father; after all, he still “owns” her til she’s married, right?

            1. Jaz*

              I grew up being abused by my father and brother (and was briefly in an abusive relationship as an adult), so I’m having a hard time being sure if my response to this is excessive. Because I am livid. My academic/professional achievements were the ONE THING that I could keep separate from my home life and be proud of. If my boss at that time had asked that I bring a male relative/partner to all my meetings, I know I ultimately would have caved to that demand, and lost the tiny locus of control I had left.

              Women deserve professional lives separate from their homes, families, and relationships. A woman is a whole, not just a piece of a family.

              I’m sorry, I know emotion has no part in this discussion, but the whole situation in your workplace is disgusting and disheartening.

              1. Forrest*

                Emotion absolutely has a part in this discussion. Your anger and disgust is a completely valid and reasonable response.

        5. Zev*

          I once brought my spouse with me to a doctor’s appointment, and every time I answered a question the doctor would smirk and ask my spouse if I was telling the truth.

          Spouse shut that shit down (loudly), but I can easily imagine these bosses turning to the chaperoning husband (if the couple passes as het), sharing That Male Look, and saying, “Women, amiright?” and then directing the rest of the female employee’s performance review to the husband instead of to her.

          1. Undercover Lady Lawyer*

            Oh, sweet Lord, I can’t even begin to imagine the kind of scene I would’ve caused. The cold steely kind, where I force a lot of prolonged eye contact and demand verbalization of the ass-hattery. And, then, I would lose cause nobody can play smartest guy in the room better than an asshole doctor. It would sting of a thousand lashes, because one person in the room’s math skills top out at long division and I’d know it wasn’t him.

          2. Michaela Westen*

            I hope you’ve found a nicer and more respectful doctor!
            At the hospital I work for, that jerk would be fired.

      2. Mom of Boys*

        And who should this chaperone be? Husband? Relatives? My husband, father, brother all work. So they need to leave their job during the workday to attend my meetings? I don’t think so. My young sons would be available outside of naptime. Would that be acceptable?

        It just highlights how absurd this request is.

        1. JSPA*

          Also…

          I’d be fine one on one with a male boss, or the boss and coworkers, or a similarly vetted and known group of people meeting in any normal group circumstance.

          But I’d be extremely dang leery of a meeting with boss-who-may-disapprove-of-me, also including not-an-employee-and-not-bound-by-employee-regulations-and-has-nothing-to-lose-and-may-disapprove-of-me-even-more-than-boss-does wife.

          Or boss plus brothers (who already think I’m a libertine).

          Those (unlike a 1 on 1) set up 2+ on 1 dynamics that could be problematic in various ways. Boss and posse is…not cool.

      3. SongbirdT*

        Them: You can’t have a 1:1 meeting with your manager unless you have a chaperone.

        Me: okay, I pick my attorney as chaperone and we’ll meet you at the supper club at 2:00

        1. Jaz*

          When I first read your comment, I thought it said you’d meet at the stripper club. I mean, it’s an unorthodox strategy, but there’d be plenty of women around to chaperone the meeting!

        2. Tiny Soprano*

          Esteemed friend, you have won one (1) internet. Please ascend the podium to collect your prize and receive ovations.

    2. MusicWithRocksInIt*

      Was the suggested chaperone the manager’s spouse or the employees? I’m trying to decide if it would be more horrifically awkward to have my husband at a performance review or my manager’s wife. I have never gotten a bad performance review, but I still would feel so damn uncomfortable with my husband there. Not to mention having to ask him to take time of work to come? And the possibility he could bring things in it up later. ICK. Bosses wife is a whole other barrel of problematic monkeys. It just sounds so humiliating.

      And really – you can’t sit together at a public restaurant? You would be more alone with someone if you both happened to be in the copy room at the same time. What happens if that comes up? Will the manager leave the copy room every time a woman comes in?

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Exactly! Honestly I am simultaneously sick to my stomach and feeling white hot rage at the whole chaperone thing.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Hell, I’d have to be reining my fiance in, not vice versa lol – he works in a blue collar profession where, shall we say, the culture is a lot more casual? We regularly have variations on the following conversation:

            “[Coworker] did [stupid thing] and now they’re expecting me to clean up after them, ugh!”
            “So tell them to stop being a f***ing idiot and get their s*** together.”
            “Babe…you can’t say that in an office. I would get fired if I said that.”
            “Oh, right. Sorry. I’ve literally told my boss he’s being a dumbass before, so…”

            If I had to bring him to a work meeting, his ankles would wind up black and blue from all the times I’d have to kick him under the table to stop him from very bluntly telling my boss what’s what. He’d have to hobble back out to the car.

              1. Gadget Hackwrench*

                Same, only backwards. I’m in IT. We cuss like sailors. Hubby is a High School Teacher…

            1. Tiny Soprano*

              I was thinking of the ruckus it would’ve caused if I’d brought my ex-girlfriend to any of my old performance reviews… It’d be like bringing a mongoose into the snake enclosure at the zoo…

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              I had a boss who got written up for telling a PM, “if I did (thing that PM had done), (client) would say I am being a fng idiot”…

              Just noticed that this is the exact term your fiance used. What can I say? Some people just are… that thing.

      1. OP*

        This did come up for me personally; it was my spouse who was suggested. I said he was unavailable (I didn’t have the whole context when this was first brought up and was kind of caught off guard), though I didn’t even check with him because I didn’t want him there! He then apparently asked a few of my male peers (none of them were available either), which is a whole other can of worms.

        FWIW, some of the female employees ascribe to the same beliefs, and will bring along a spouse or relative.

        1. Artemesia*

          This is horrific. What I fail to get here is that having lunch in a restaurant is a very public place. I get that you don’t want to do this in a hotel room, but having lunch in public surrounded by other diners means that you are not ‘alone with someone of the opposite sex’ — yeah the whole thing is demeaning, but this might be a place to start. Work travel is harder, but the lunch thing ought to be defined away as an issue.

          1. CustServGirl*

            I think the line of thinking is that though a restaurant isn’t private, being one-on-one could look like a date, and an acquaintance could see you and then run and tell the world your’re engaging in an affair.

            1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

              That was my thought as well – that they’re more concerned with appearing ‘righteous’ to any acquaintances that happen to see them then they are with making sure they’re treating their employees fairly.

              Which, bottom line – this company does not respect women. I’d be job hunting, as well as speaking to a lawyer.

              1. pancakes*

                Someone who would gossip about acquaintances having an “affair” simply on the basis of seeing them having lunch together wouldn’t know righteousness if it jumped up and bit them on the face, though. If the idea is to pander to the righteous, pandering to inept busybodies seems like a very poor way to go about it. Not that I think it’s a good goal, but even by its own terms it doesn’t make sense!

            2. JSPA*

              Solved by sitting at the counter and leaving a stool between you. Or sitting catty corner at a 4 person table. No footsie options that way. It’s completely reasonable for someone to put some effort into maintaining a personal space buffer. Involving the rest of the world is where it becomes problematic.

              For that matter, if the FBI were to investigate there, what are they going to say if the agent is female? Basically, if the law says that they have to, then they have to. And the law does say that.

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                Or if they’re audited, would they refuse to be in a one-to-one with a female auditer? If they had legal problems, would they refuse a female lawyer? etc etc

          2. Tertia*

            What I fail to get here is that having lunch in a restaurant is a very public place.

            I have so many questions about how the restaurant thing would even work. If the female employee arrives at the restaurant before the male chaperone, does she get to sit at the table while the manager stands outside, or vice versa? If the chaperone leaves the table to go to the restroom, does the manager have to go with him? Ugh.

        2. Jen*

          This drives me nuts. My spouse andI both do work that requires confidentiality or security control. Plus we have very different jobs. So inappropriate.

          I have to say these people view humans very negatively if they specialize every interaction between men and women. My good friend at work is male, a lot of our friendship is trading advice on our close in age babies.

          1. I was never given a name*

            I assume you meant “I have to say these people view humans very negatively if they *sexualize* every interaction between men and women.” Which is so right on I wanted to ensure other people see it. Yes!

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            I’ll bet all the money I will never have that the people they view negatively are women. That is if they even think of women as fully human.

            1. Kat in VA*

              This reminds me of a comment some frustrated guy left on a #metoo article, where he was told that engaging in X fashion was frowned upon by women in general.

              His response, which I remember perfectly, was an aggrieved, “Well, how are people supposed to talk to women then?”

              I thought his usage of ‘people’ versus ‘women’ to be ENORMOUSLY telling of how, for some, women are not really considered people at all.

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                Wow…right? I caught that “people” vs “women” thing, but then sexism is my north star… Male=human/people, female=alien of some kind.

                I know that usually it’s pretty pointless/head hitting a wall thing to try and say anything, but please tell me someone 1) called him out on that and 2) said “you talk to them but not that way/in that fashion?” But maybe with stronger language…

                1. Kat in VA*

                  My response was fairly muted by those who replied in a fashion that I can only describe as “a thing of beauty”. :)

                  But I did point out the obvious discrepancy of noting men as people and women as…well, obviously something other than people. Fungible, interchangeable goods, perhaps?

        3. wittyrepartee*

          Yeah, I think if it’s that much of a concern- they need to make it ubiquitous. Instead of 1 on 1 meetings, they need to start having feedback sessions with everyone, male and female, that include another person. Maybe like, two managers and a direct report. For everyone. Period.

          Sheesh, people’s spouses have things to do too!

            1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

              Yes, in my company it’s normal for their to be other managers in during a performance review (even just in via teleconference). Totally doable.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            And spouses have no business in each other’s jobs. Except here of course where the spouse (i.e. husband) will be there to be informed of his wife’s work etc. so that he can keep her in line.

        4. Sandman*

          I’m not going to ask, but I’m so curious where you live, OP. This is very much a dominant subculture where I live as well, and it’s exhausting.

            1. Aveline*

              I ran into this in the San Francisco Bay Area. Can’t get more “nit the Bible Belt” than that.

              Coworkers were part of a sect that did this. I refused to play ball. Boss couldn’t fire me as I was the only one with a critical skill.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            From what I’ve read, this subculture is present in most parts of America, except maybe the northeast?

            1. Catleesi*

              I’m from the upper midwest, and while there are certainly people with strong religious views I don’t feel it was ever a dominant topic of conversation, or affected workplace policies like this. There is always the occasional person who would insert religious beliefs into conversation but it definitely wasn’t the norm.

            2. Batman*

              This subculture exists everywhere, but it’s not dominant everywhere. And it varies within geographic regions, not between geographic regions.

        5. MusicWithRocksInIt*

          THEY ASKED YOUR MALE PEERS????? I just… I can’t. I can’t even. This is so far beyond the pale…. OMG. My skin is crawling. I would have told them if a male peer was sitting in my review I better damn well be sitting in his.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            Also if their premise that men can’t be trusted to control themselves and behave decently with one woman was true, then having a woman alone with *two* male colleagues puts her in twice as much danger.
            But as I write I realize it’s not about what happens to the woman, it’s so the men can keep each other in line.
            Gross.

        6. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          Wait. They want you to bring a male chaperone? Not just another person, but specifically not a woman? Omfg.

            1. OP*

              OK, so maybe I’m dumb, but I hadn’t even thought of it that way, like…why couldn’t it be our (female) HR person, who wouldn’t be a totally weird person to have at a review? That would make sense! But she wasn’t ever suggested. Hm.

                1. AKchic*

                  Right? HR would have been the default for anyone if management needed/wanted an impartial witness for any other company (unless it was HR that wanted the witness, then they would request HR’s manager, or perhaps the office manager, or the COO or CEO/VP or President depending on office structure).

                  This company is negating all female authority. How many women *are* in positions of authority in this company?

              1. Anne Elliot*

                For me, this would not be acceptable, either. If HR is not sitting in on every performance review, they don’t need to sit in on mine.

              2. Psyche*

                Wow. That is so much worse. They could easily just have HR sit in on all performance reviews. The fact it has to be a male chaperone is mind boggling.

              3. 1-3-5-7 I can't even....*

                If a man can’t be alone with one woman, why should he be allowed to be in a meeting with 2 women (neither of whom is his spouse)? Neither of these makes sense. You need a non-gendered chaperone.

                1. whingedrinking*

                  I had a conversation once with a nonbinary friend who said that no matter who they date, they get called gay (and their partner too). I said I thought that was unfair, since technically “heterosexual” just means “different sex”, and if one is nonbinary and has a male or female partner, then it’s not a same-sex relationship – QED!
                  Alas that my unassailable logic doesn’t rule the world.

                2. Kat in VA*

                  I volunteer my lab. Sure, he’s a male, but he also barks at shadows which means he’s dumb enough to go along with this whole shtick. The mind boggles.

                3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  I thought of my two male grandcats. Thruthfully, with me being basically single, an only child, my dad having passed away years ago, and my sons not being available due to having their own lives and also due to the fact that I do not want my adult children sitting in on my performance review, the cats are the only males I can provide to satisfy this inane requirement. Pretty sure the cats will enjoy it.

              4. Genny*

                OP, are there senior leaders who are women in your org? I ask because on what you just said, it seem like their default is to go men first. If that’s the case, it certainly says something about how far you can progress in your career there. If there aren’t any senior female leaders (or if there’s only a token amount), I’d be a lot less worried about raising Cain over this discrimination.

              5. Val Zephyr*

                Do you know if your HR person is aware of what’s going on and if so what she thinks of it? If she’s a properly trained HR person, she should be aware of how horribly illegal this is.

              6. Kat in VA*

                Possible because as a woman, your HR rep is also devalued to the point of objectification in this terrible, terrible company.

            2. blackcat*

              People are assuming that based on this: “He then apparently asked a few of my male peers”
              It could be that it just happened to be male peers who were asked–maybe only men were around?
              But in context, it’s not a stretch to think maybe male peers were asked because the goal is to have a male chaperone. The attitude is already a bit bonkers and the extra layer doesn’t really make it that much more bonkers.

              1. ThursdaysGeek*

                Right, because if a man is so unable to control himself in the presence of a woman that he needs someone around as a witness, why is adding another out of control man the solution?

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  My theory is the men keep each other in line… that the woman is in twice as much danger is a side issue… :p

                2. JSPA*

                  There’s no good way to spin this. Either they expect (any) two women to collude (but not two men). Even if one of the women is HR. Or they expect that one man will be needed to physically restrain another (or verbally restrain, but with the assumption that only a man will be listened to). Or they expect two women to be double temptation / make it twice as hard for the poor boys to keep their eyes above the collarbone and their minds on the job. I really can’t come up with an answer that’s not overwhelming in it’s WTF quotient.

              2. TL -*

                Or he just feels more comfortable with the male peers… because he talks to them one-on-one… and has more relaxed conversations with them….so the men are his go to people when he needs a favor done…which wouldn’t of course negatively impact the women at all.

                1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                  Yeah, I think this is the best-case scenario. Which…. Says a lot about the scenario.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            …. Okay, there’s a fascinating detour to be taken here through people’s default fantasies and how they has contributed to their ideas of what is and is not a safe configuration of individuals for a work lunch.

            1. Future Homesteader*

              It took me a couple reads to get your meaning (for once my mind *wasn’t* in the gutter). But…you’re right, and – CRIPES, PEOPLE, GROW UP. (Not you, them.)

            1. The New Wanderer*

              The non-manager male can take the fall for the inevitable affair, of course.

              Horrifying situation to be in, and I really hope the whole US VP thing doesn’t continue to normalize this “can’t be alone with women” thing (but of course it does for a certain portion of the population).

              1. Environmental Compliance*

                I was assuming it was some convoluted logic of “but if there’s any question of transgressions, the other man can speak up for Manager Man, because of course we can’t trust the woman.”

            2. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

              THIS!!

              I’m not the only woman who has felt uncomfortable in a legit meeting with 2 legit business men or colleagues, in a room with a closed door. And no camera. I was skeeved. I was skeeved to meet with them and I wished I didn’t have to. (I wasn’t theonly one who felt this way when dealling with 2 specific men from that company)

              This kind of nervousness and thinking of womens’ safety is, unfortunately, something women have to encounter, and just trust we’ll get out okay. :/ Because, you know, it’s a professional setting and these two men are there to make sure nothing happens. …

              Seriously. This is when I make jokes about bringing my bee haatches along to make sure that I AM SAFE. Except they’re not jokes and I haven’t felt safe.

              Just another reason why this whole sexist thing is bogus. It clearly has nothing to do with separation and trust. Just sexism and power.

          2. ket*

            I’ve been reading some Regency romances recently. Even there a matron or lady friend was good enough to ensure you wouldn’t be Ruined before your marriage!

            1. Julia*

              Heck, I reread some Jane Austen this week and the heroines were allowed to walk in public with only one man.

          3. Jennifer Juniper*

            Sounds like the next episode of Law & Order: SVU is being written right now. Starring: this company!

        7. Falling Diphthong*

          I work from home with a completely flexible schedule, and our children are almost grown. And still, my husband treats it as a huge favor if I am going to reorganize my day to drive halfway to his office to give him the power cord he forgot. I can’t imagine him asking me to set up my day so I could attend all the performance reviews with his female reports.

          … I’m now picturing having all performance reviews offsite at a Chuck E Cheese, so that the small children of the chaperones can be entertained.

        8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          So, by their policy, what happens if you really and truly cannot find an adult male to accompany you to a performance review? You don’t get one?

          1. Anon of the above*

            Women should be grateful they are allowed to have jobs outside the house as it is. /extreme sarc (bcz I know women who have actually internalized this)

        9. Anne Elliot*

          Wait a second, YOUR MANAGER did this to you personally?? If you don’t mind me asking, how did your performance review get done if your manager did not find another man to sit in and make sure you did not fling your vagina at him?

          1. OP*

            I just wore those pants from that Janelle Monae video and it went fine.

            /s

            I proposed we have the review in the office, in a conference room (all our rooms have windows), which he was fine with. Apparently a closed-door 1:1 meeting in the workplace is OK, but get outside that…

            1. Jadelyn*

              Wait. What? A closed-door 1:1 is better, somehow, than a public lunch in a restaurant? I genuinely do not understand this logic.

              1. OP*

                I think the thinking is that at work, even with a closed door (and window), there’s still accountability from other coworkers (and witnesses to any harlotry, presumably); at a restaurant with no one else present, it could seem more like a date? Honestly, I’m not sure.

                1. Jadelyn*

                  Ohhh. Okay so I think I’ve got the logic, sort of. It was the mention of seeming like a date that made the connection for me.

                  The problem isn’t an actual expectation of harlotry (which, btw, love that word). The problem is an *appearance* of *potential* impropriety. It has nothing to do with what they actually think would or could happen, and everything to do with wagging tongues in the community.

                  Because the issue isn’t that men can’t be alone with women because Ravishment and/or Harlotry will take place. The issue is that if anyone sees them spending time together, it will automatically be presumed that the relationship is sexual in nature, because Of Course It Is, because Women And Men Are Always And Inherently Sexing Each Other. The social presumption is what they’re trying to avoid.

                  So a closed-door meeting in the context of the workplace is acceptable, because it is taking place in a Business Setting and therefore the relationship is clearly only a business one. However, even though a restaurant is public, a man and a woman having a meal together are inherently presumed to be boning (though hopefully, you know, not AT the restaurant in question), since all male-female interaction is sexual until proven otherwise.

                  It makes a twisted sort of sense, if you can pretzel your brain around to seeing a world where ALL social contact between men and women is inherently sexual. Having the business setting of a conference room lessens that inherent association between male-female contact and The Sexing, so it’s grudgingly kind of okay, but a restaurant is a place where men and women will sometimes go together before they proceed with The Sexing, so it’s not appropriate to be seen there with a woman you’re not having The Sex with, because there’s no way to hang a neon sign over your heads that says “WE’RE NOT BONING”.

                  …gods, that sounds like an exhausting way to live.

                2. whingedrinking*

                  One of the stranger evenings of my life involved eating dinner with a married couple I’d known since we were all in high school, and another couple they’d met through work. The second couple were engaged, but not married, and living together. They were weirdly quick to inform me that their cohabitation was very awkward for them because they didn’t believe in sex before marriage and they were DEFINITELY NOT BONING. The fiance slept on the couch every single night while the fiancee chastely had the bed.
                  Personally I believe that we need, in our society, to put greater emphasis on frank and honest discussions of sexuality, in part by acknowledging different people’s comfort levels with different kinds of sex and seeing all forms of informed, consenting sensuality as good and valid. And I was made pretty uncomfortable by the degree to which these two self-declared virgins wanted me, their coworker’s random friend with the purple hair and the Judith Butler obsession, to know about their sleeping arrangements – as if it would be totally natural for everyone they met to be judging them on it. I’ve known people who have their own sex dungeons who seemed less obsessed with gettin’ down than these two religious young adults from Saskatchewan.

          2. OG Karyn*

            I just inhaled tempura shrimp, TYVM. XD

            Also, at this point, if I were a woman with a male child, I’d bring the baby with me to my performance review and nurse him. Hey, you said there had to be another *male* here, you didn’t say how old he had to be…

        10. Liz T*

          Particularly telling that the chaperone has to be a man. Suggests it really is women’s behavior they’re worried about, not men’s.

          1. Win*

            That really does make all the difference. Difficult to hide behind that one (esp with the HR person being female and not an appropriate witness) if there were a legal dispute.

        11. Indigo a la mode*

          So *two* men can be alone with a woman and it’s totally okay? Given the lack-of-control overtones here, hat’s a little scary.

        12. Sorceress17*

          Let me see if I understand this correctly: Man A doesn’t want to be alone in a room with a female, but thinks having Man B in the room as the “chaperone” is a good solution??

          Because screw how the woman might feel in a closed room with two men who are passive-aggressively hostile to women. I’m rolling my eyes so hard I think I sprained an eyeball!

          1. General Ginger*

            Because the chaperone isn’t for her safety. It’s to prevent her throwing herself at him (I feel gross typing this).

        13. Minocho*

          But, aren’t they concerned about talking about confidential information in front of non-employees?

          I am a single woman, living and supporting myself independently. I am in Texas, and my father is in Michigan, and my brothers in Virginia and Seattle. What do they do with me?

          I just…I can’t.

          That’s not how this works. That’s not how ANY of this works!

        14. JSPA*

          The “i-dont-want-to-eat-or-travel-alone-with-people-of-the-opposite-sex” thread is in the suggested links, if you want to see what it looks like for a woman who subscribes to these beliefs. There was also an update.

        15. Undercover Lady Lawyer*

          What, so a woman can be alone with 2 men? Who aren’t her family? What are the rules here?

      2. Totally Minnie*

        What are the odds that the kind of man who doesn’t want to be alone with women at work is the kind of man who makes his own copies? Isn’t that what secretaries are for?

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          “Isn’t that what secretaries are for?”

          Isn’t that what secretaries women are for?

          ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      3. smoke tree*

        This gets at the other part of this situation that’s gross–it implies that there is a sexual relationship waiting in the wings in every boss/employee interaction, if the boss and employee are of different genders. I love the idea of a chaperone coming along on my performance review as if it were the school prom. Can’t see any reason why I wouldn’t want to think of my boss in that way.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          Only because the evil, women, temptresses are always throwing their vaginas at males. Trying to make the males fall from grace and all…

      4. Move Over Thrawn - Florian Munteanu is BIGGER than you!*

        This doesn’t even happen in my So. Baptist Church workplace. I meet with my male boss all the freaking time behind a closed door. And GASP nothing ever ever happens. It’s just…work, People. Nothing interesting. Well, ok, we did have a long conversation yesterday about Star Wars. That was interesting.

      5. Zombeyonce*

        The spouse suggestion killed me. What is the female employee is married to a woman? Meeting with 2 women alone is even more offensive to these guys, I’m sure. While I admit I have a hard time seeing a company like this hiring a lesbian, that scenario just increases the discrimination.

        And are there are any female managers? Do any refuse to meet with men alone? Again, I have a hard time imagining any women being promoted into management with this going on, but I do wonder how they’d handle that.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Pretty sure if they knew the woman’s spouse were female she wouldn’t have been hired at all.

            1. Tiny Soprano*

              Boy wouldn’t that be a nice bombshell to drop though… Especially if your female spouse was also a lawyer…

    3. HaveMercy*

      I would agree to bring a chaperone to my 1 on 1, and that chaperone would be my lawyer. In fact, I would probably just bring the lawyer everywhere because omg.

      1. Catleesi*

        Yes – bring the lawyer in on the meeting. This would be amazing. Not prob the best way to approach it, but I love the mental image.

        1. Undercover Lady Lawyer*

          I’ll come to you, OP. Can’t promise it’ll be a productive encounter, but I guarantee it’ll be a dog and pony show you will remember with delight for a long time.

      2. TheFedWife*

        Honestly, if my SO ever pulled this bullshirt in his office, I’D be bringing that chaperone to all my 1 on 1s with him… specifically a divorce lawyer. I don’t want to be with someone that can’t be trusted to be alone with another person. And I’d be upset even if the policy was just to avoid the appearance of impropriety, because my SO’s behavior and reputation should prevent that.

  3. Murphy*

    My jaw is on the floor…having a spouse attend a work lunch? Hell no. If anyone even suggested that in my presence, I think I’d quit on the spot.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          It’s still a male employee being “alone” with female persons (gasp, faint). See OP’s comment above – when she pushed back on having her husband attend her review, the manager tried to rope male coworker(s) into sitting in.

              1. Anne Elliot*

                Exactly. The point here, as articulated by Mike Pence, is that the man’s reputation is not sullied by even the possibility that he might have done something improper with the unrelated, apparently sexually voracious female. Not that our Good Christian man ever _would_, but a harlot could lie and accuse him. It would be offensive enough if it were based in a paternalistic desire to protect women from harm, but it’s not — it’s about protecting men’s reputations from women.

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  But if Pence or any of these men were ever accused of improper behavior by a woman, they could just say she’s lying…

                2. Kathryn T.*

                  It always blows my mind that these dudes have never considered that men can lie about untoward behavior as easily as women can.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Well yanno those uppity women folk have to have a chaperone so that they don’t release their temptations at the poor weak male who won’t be able to resist…because it’s all the fault of the evil vixen woman.

            If not a (male) spouse, maybe their father, brother, male cousin, or even their two year old child just as long as he’s male.

      1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

        Also, flip that around: Manager Dude refuses to be alone with Woman coworker, unless Manager Dude’s spouse is there.

        So, what is Manager Dude’s expectation when other Manager Dude’s spouse is another dude? In which case, you have TWO dudes ALONE with a WOMAN! Que scandalo!

        Shall we all clutch our pearls, dudes included?

    1. Tigger*

      Am I the only one that was having flashbacks to the letter about the employee that cornered her boss because the employee thought the boss was having an affair with a coworker?

    2. Essess*

      I wouldn’t quit. I’d file an EEOC complaint first to force the company to fix this environment for future women even if I decide to quit. Just quitting without raising this to EEOC give the company what it wants…. the result of having only men working there.

      1. Jaz*

        In that case, you clearly shouldn’t be allowed to meet with anyone at all. Everybody knows that speaking with a single woman is basically the same as having all the sex forever. His precious male purity could be permanently marred.

    1. A person*

      Or retire. That’s a great option for people stuck in a 20th century work mentality who really can’t find a way to deal with treating women like their equals in the workplace.

      1. JSPA*

        I’ve run into this mindset in a 23 year old suburban mid-altantic WASP dude (at the polls about 14 years ago). He explained that no, his wife would not be voting, as they both agreed that the home was woman’s domain, and politics should be contested by men. He’d be 37 by now. Not really retirement age.

    2. High Score!*

      Yep, but how do you convince them to join us in the 21st century? My generally liberal manager has started refusing to be alone with anyone of any gender. I guess that’s at least fair…

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Yknow, that I would accept. It’s equal treatment and that’s what’s needed.
        Paying HR to sit in on all performance reviews wouldn’t be my choice of how to spend my business’s money, but it would at least have the guise of confidentiality and equality by designating an HR rep.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          Hmmm I think a “chaperone consultant” service might have some real traction in this environment. A person not connected to the organization or individual and just there to provide for witness against abusive behavior.

    3. wittyrepartee*

      Hellz bells. I’ll settle for “making sure that their requirements are something that they take upon themselves legally and ethically”. If a 1:1 with a woman is a problem for you, then you stop having all 1:1 meetings with everyone.

    4. Undercover Lady Lawyer*

      I’m enjoying their labor pains – there’s a German word for my reaction here. I am really enjoying this type of discomfort of these others.

  4. Rick T*

    This looks like fallout of the #MeToo movement and the Kavanaugh hearings but Bill Graham had that rule years ago. This is men protecting themselves against false accusations.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      This kind of discriminatory policy from people in Conservative Christianity has been in place way before #MeToo.

      1. No Name*

        I know a church that has this policy. Working with them is problematic because I can’t meet with someone I need to without a third party. This is career limiting in some cases for some of their contractors. For me I make my boss deal with stupid as I prefer to work harder to get work from people who aren’t blatenpy sexist.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        I’m a conservative Christian. This is not part of it. It is a bizarre execution of beliefs.

        Please don’t paint us all with the same brush. That would be discrimination too.

        1. One (1) Anon*

          Speaking from experience, sexism is one hundred percent part and parcel of conservative Christianity.

          1. Engineer Girl*

            Speaking from experience, sexism is part of life. Because of that, it will also find its way into the church.

              1. JSPA*

                Sexism is historic, and broader than any religion. Conservation of old ways without adaptation or examination can cement historic sexism. Religion can be used to justify exempting behaviors from examination. Social conservatism (the conservation of social processes) often runs in parallel with religious conservatism, but they can actually be decoupled almost entirely. Just as Economic conservatism and social conservatism, and economic conservatism and religious conservatism. They are partners due to historical artifact and to some degree psychological predilection; they’re not intrinsically, theoretically hard-linked.

                I prefer not to do the job of people who want to force those three frankly rather ideologically disparate streams into closer lockstep.

              2. TL -*

                Some branches and forms of practice contribute. Others don’t. Same for most (if not all) major religions, or cultures, or really any other form of demarcation. Some atheists circles are notoriously hot messes of sexism.

                They tend to be the loudest, even when they’re the minority. Non-sexist versions tend to just have people getting on with their day.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              Which came first, religious sexism or American cultural sexism?
              If I understand history correctly, the Puritans brought both and the white male founding fathers helped.

              1. Engineer Girl*

                I suggest you look at more history.
                Because the Quakers were also founding fathers and they believed that there were “neither male nor female, slave not free”. Women held equal rank in leadership and they intermarried with other races.

                1. JSPA*

                  Of a sort, though Quakers were also tarred and feathered or imprisoned and then banished from MA and other puritan strongholds. That’s part of why PA is so enriched in Quakers and other smaller / niche faith traditions.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        +1, and lol.

        The mindset behind ‘never alone with member of the opposite gender’ is awful on so many levels.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          If it helps, my experience is many who have these beliefs don’t understand the ramifications. They’re following the rules without thinking too much.

    2. AnonEMoose*

      So…blaming women for being on the receiving end of discrimination AND for speaking out about being on the receiving end of harassment and assault? And implying that false accusations are common.

      Nice trifecta of misogyny, there.

      1. KimberlyR*

        Yep. We women should allow men to do whatever they want to us, because we’re Jezebels, you know? But also, choose not to be alone with us when at work because. again, Jezebels. Basically we’re sin incarnate and innocent men need to protect themselves from us!

        Hey Rick T, if my comment seems stupid and ridiculous, that’s because it is a reflection of your comment. The problem isn’t women. The problem is with men who just can’t treat us like normal human beings.

      2. Artemesia*

        And being ‘alone with a man in a restaurant with a hundred other people around you’ is an ideal situation for a false accusation. Sheesh.

      3. Kat in VA*

        Anon, I…I think I love you (in an entirely platonic, non-discriminatory, respectful way).

        Thank you for concisely summing up what I just spent ten minutes incoherently pounding out on my keyboard.

    3. Third username*

      If you don’t want to be alone with a female employee fine, but then you should never be alone with a male employee either. It’s a matter of being equal.

      1. tangerineRose*

        This! I don’t think Pence (for example) is being as careful as he thinks he is – what if a man accuses him of doing something unsavory during their one on one?

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No. It’s more often rooted in a view of women as temptresses and a threat to these fine upstanding men’s marriages. It’s gross.

      Regardless, the motivation doesn’t matter. It’s discriminatory and illegal.

        1. Avsline*

          Please, please remove this.

          I can’t see how his second sentence is at all ambiguous.

          He believes men do this to protect against false accusations. That implies there are a lot of false accusations.

          1. B.*

            I mean, I definitely read it at first as just “this is why I think they’re doing it,” without an implied “and I think that’s reasonable” added at the end. Thinking about it more, I agree that most likely that was meant to be implied, though…

          2. Troutwaxer*

            The problem is this: The cultural issues are very, very different, to the point where a highly-religious environment generally reads as “insane” to an ordinary American agnostic. This means the real question is “false accusations by who?” It’s not just the woman in the meeting who can make a false accusation, or the man, particularly in a Church setting when someone’s fidelity and probity are considered to be essential to the job. Anyone, male or female, adult or child, who was in the building while it happened can say “Pastor Smith and Annie were alone in his office for an hour,” which might be enough to tank someone’s job or marriage in the right/wrong circumstances. The fact that a person who’s religion or culture seem “nuts” to us lost their job or their standing in their community is still a horrible problem for that person.

            So on one hand I’m appalled that people still think like that, but on the other hand I’d hate to live in that culture and run afoul of one of those taboos.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              The great thing about America is, we can leave that culture! People who are born into the culture/area have the freedom to leave. People who try it and don’t like it can leave. No one is forced to keep living that way.

        2. Aveline*

          Please consider flagging the top to ask people to focus on the religious angle and not derail on a false accusations/response to Me Too argument. It’s already starting!

      1. 1-3-5-7 I can't even....*

        I might be clueless, but it never occurred to me that this policy was due to the women not being trustworthy. Under this “logic,” a man shouldn’t be allowed to be alone with another man either, since men can have affairs with other men.

        1. Just Employed Here*

          “men can have affairs with other men”

          Possibly not in the warped world view of some people at this company.

        2. Meara*

          What’s ridiculous to me is that this really doesn’t prevent anything for a bad person. So if Bob loudly claims he never meets with women alone…he could still go have affairs or be secretly harassing his secretary at night. He’s just not alone with MOST women…except the ones he’s lying about. And by the same token even if it was false, someone could accuse him. Maybe he could prove where he was at all times, but “My personal policy is I’m never alone with a woman” is not proof of anything!

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Um, I’ve read the Bible quite a few times – I don’t know where you’re getting your “biblical practice”, but it isn’t in the Bible.

        2. palomar*

          Bless your heart, I’ve never met people more obsessed with sex than conservative Christians. I don’t know how y’all get work done… most of us are just out here trying to accomplish the things on our work task lists, not scheming to seduce you or entrap you or frankly have anything to do with you beyond what is strictly necessary for the completion of our work. And yet… the obsession with our bodies, our sex lives, and the kind of sex you think we want to have with you just grows and grows and grows. And you make it OUR problem, instead of keeping it to yourself. Why?

          1. Hoffnung*

            From my POV it just comes from being such a counterculture (plus the fact that most peoples’ emotional lives are to some degree affected by such matters, in whatever way). It wouldn’t be noticeable if we were “at home” in a country where our conventioms are considered mainstream.

        3. Dankar*

          I don’t think Alison should “censor” this post, since I think it’s important for women to know that gross viewpoints like this haven’t been banished to trash bin where they belong. FYI, dude: Secularism (or at least identification as “spiritual nones”) is on the rise in the US. I would think very carefully about whether you want your freedoms to be governed by “important forces in US politics,” since you may not be in that boat forever.

          And the Constitution also protects our freedom FROM religion, which means that I am not to be subjected to the whims of your beliefs simply because you believe them.

              1. Agatha_31*

                If you really desperately need a reminder that there are some really gross people out there, there’s a WORLD of loud, obnoxious, AWFUL internet social groups waiting for you. I have quit (or even not bothered trying at all) countless online games & discussion groups because it’s so bad in so many places. I have had “nice” places ruined by infiltrations of assholes who just cannot BEAR the idea that a bunch of people are having a pleasant time. And I’m an able-bodied hetero cis white woman so I know I’m only getting a FRACTION of what some other women deal with. I LIKE that there are actually a few places in existence that enforce a “play nice” policy so that the spoiled infants don’t drown out the people who are actually here for a nice conversation.

            1. JSPA*

              In some places and strata, it’s the distant past. In others, it’s very much the present. People’s mileage really does vary.

          1. Gadget Hackwrench*

            I’m a big fan of the practice of “disemvowling” such posts, so people who want to know what was said can still parse it out if they slow down, but no one need be subjected to it simply in scrolling.

        4. Disgusted*

          Citation needed,
          Please show where the Bible says not to be alone with unrelated members of the opposite sex. You can’t, because you don’t actually know your Bible. You might want to start by reading Matthew 23. You say constructionists and I say white sepulchers.

          1. pancakes*

            It doesn’t matter which particular passage(s) in the Bible do or don’t set forth rules for men & women spending time together — employees aren’t obliged to pretend to ground their ethics in antique books.

        5. London Calling*

          *As I realize that the blogger is a secular humanist and will try to censor this post I copy it to the Wayback Machine*

          I had to look that up. Frankly, get over yourself. There are billions of words posted daily on the net, you reckon anyone will go looking for yours or care if they disappear? still, 10/10 for self-importance.

          1. Hoffnung*

            I went looking.

            I wasn’t entirely impressed – not least because I’m pretty sure that guy was adhering to a heresy called “Americanism”. I’m not sure why these guys are always so obsessed with America.

        6. CAA*

          Nobody wants to exclude you. If you require a special accommodation for your religious practices then your employer is required to provide that accommodation as long as it doesn’t create an undue hardship on the business. The obvious way to accommodate this particular religious practice without violating the law is for your employer to require that you never be alone with only one other person of any gender.

          If this rule makes it difficult for you to carry out your assigned duties effectively, then your employer should try to find you a position with lesser responsibilities. You don’t have a constitutional right to be promoted into a role where you are unable to perform the basic duties of the job due to your religious beliefs.

    5. Shark Whisperer*

      yeah, no, this has been a practice in conservative Christian circles for waaay longer than the #MeToo movement

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        I believe this is also practiced in some other conservative religions, although I might be misremembering my facts here.

        1. Clorinda*

          Control over women is a hallmark of conservatism in general, so it’s likely practiced in some form in the most conservative version of every religion.

          1. Artemesia*

            The ‘fundamental’ in fundamentalism is misogyny — it is true across religions e.g. certainly true in Judaism, Christianity, Islam fundamentalist branches.

            1. it's me*

              And let’s not forget that this misogyny exists because women carry children and control of their reproductive capacity is necessary for out-populating other religions.

              1. Starbuck*

                Bingo, can’t have a patriarchy and pass power and property from father to son if you can’t establish paternity, or at least maintain a reasonable illusion of it. Nor can you own and exploit the labor of women and their children if they’re allowed the freedom to leave their husbands/fathers and earn their own living.

      2. CocoB*

        Yes, very common in churches and ministries so as to not create and “appearance” of impropriety, i.e. closed door meeting of male minister and female bookkeeper and then the rumors fly. Been around waaaaay before #MeToo.
        I have many friends and acquaintances that subscribe to this practice. I’ve seen this applied ridiculously as in the suggestion of having a chaperone at a performance review lunch, but also reasonably.

        I have traveled by car and air with coworker of opposite sex, had closed door meetings in office, etc., but would never enter his hotel room or such.

        Unfortunately, some of these types choose form over substance, rather than common sense.

        1. Win*

          Agreed. There are definitely versions of this that are fair, and still protect both parties. I think most managers or business owners are looking to make sure “the air is clear” more so than protect from false accusations. No rumors, etc…

          And those reasonable practices are much more common at least in my experience.

            1. Win*

              Any number of things ranging in severity from rumors to assault.

              Transparency in business, especially handling personnel, is a good thing for all parties in my opinion. The less people have to assume about (particularly hierarchical) inter-office relationships the better.

              1. pancakes*

                This sort of policy, even where adopted, doesn’t have the power to protect anyone from rumors or assault, though — literally all it reaches, and has the power to reach, is certain interactions between men and women. It doesn’t prevent anyone from spreading rumors about either men or women, and it certainly isn’t any sort of protection against assault.

                You’re saying you value transparency, but from where I sit, you don’t value it at all — you appear to value regressive and ineffectual gender-based proxies for transparency instead. Not quite the same thing.

                1. Win*

                  If you have read my posts here… you would see that I am not talking about any different treatment for men and women at all.

                  And I did not claim that this would solve all the worlds problems. Not having a closed door, windowless office to hold meetings (particularly for personnel issues) is just common sense (to me). No harm or regression in having a door with a window, or an interior window elsewhere in the office. All of the ones in my building are like that… and it just seems like a good idea.

                2. Win*

                  Maybe I did not express this in this particular comment train. I am talking about literal transparency, via windows into offices, which are common in many offices, being a good thing. Not sure how that is controversial or regressive.

                3. ket*

                  I think this is not quite fair. For instance, I’m a prof, and the new normal is to leave your door ajar during meetings with students. You let the student have the chair near the door and if they want more privacy they can close it a bit more, or they can leave without passing by you if they want. This is because of the power differential, in general, between students and profs, and a desire for both transparency and a symbolic statement about transparency (the open-ish door).

                  Of course, as a female prof I’ve once or twice had a (bigger, stronger, male) student use this against me by crowding my space or trying to physically intimidate me regarding a grade — but I keep the phone on my side of the office, so could have called security if it had gone farther. We each have our protections, and overwhelmingly it’s students who benefit from the physical enactment of having an open door, because it limits to some extent the possible inappropriate behavior of profs. I don’t think this is regressive, and I don’t think it’s only a proxy for transparency (of course there’s much more to transparency!).

    6. Bend & Snap*

      Do you actually believe this?

      Also #MeToo is a movement because of sexual abuse by men, not false accusations by women.

    7. Labradoodle Daddy*

      False accusations are incredibly rare, and a woman making an accusation will suffer far more professionally & personally than the accused man. Let’s drop this sexist narrative, shall we?

      1. Justme, The OG*

        Christine Blasey Ford still has a security detail and can no longer teach but Brett Kavanaugh is a Supreme Court Justice.

      2. A Conservative Christian viewpoint*

        Well that explains the Duke hockey team and the university of Virginia. There is a presumption of innocence in our courts and constitution and yes that means if the evidence is not proved beyond a reasonable doubt we do not always believe an accuser.

        1. OG Karyn*

          Funny how there is never that argument about any crime other than sexual assault/harassment. Sexual assault seems to be the only crime where you have to prove it even happened, not who did it it. No one asks carjacking victims if they wanted it, and no one assumes that a person whose house was burglarized just made it all up for the insurance money.

          We are derailing here, but when you point to two instances of false allegations in order to try and claim that ALL allegations should be doubted from the beginning, well, then, I guess I should just assume that all conservative Christians are sexists and misogynists because that’s true of the few I’ve had bad experiences with. That logic makes no sense, and neither does yours.

          1. Win*

            I am not sure if you are being sincere, but why would anyone need to prove they didn’t give someone permission to break into their car?

            Sex is complicated. It could can happen with and without consent between the same people in the same day. It is usually happening in private. It is usually not recorded.

            If there is no proof, only a claim, of a carjacking, no court is going to hear that case.

            1. TL -*

              Well, most rape and sexual assault cases never see the light of a courtroom either.

              It’s not the proving it legally – it’s the social response. If I tell people I had money stolen from me, nobody demands to see my bank account to make sure I had the money in the first place. If I say, “I’ve checked all my pockets and my wallet; I remember seeing the bill sticking out the top of my wallet before I left and when I came back it was gone” people don’t start telling me that I must have misplaced it, forgotten it, misunderstood someone’s intentions of stealing my money.

              If I say my car was broken into but the thieves didn’t end up taking anything but my spare change, people don’t demand to see the damage, see photos, see the mechanics’ report, tell me that it was probably just somebody who hit my car mistakenly, who probably thought it was actually their car and got confused, that it must not have happened because they didn’t take anything, that I am probably making it up for attention, having a car is just asking for it to be broken into…

              But if I say, “hey that person just grabbed my rear” – oh, no you were mistaken. It was probably just an unintentional brush, it’s crowded (even if it’s not crowded), *eye rolling*, doubt that you’re telling the truth, well your shorts are really short/jeans are really tight/you are wearing a skirt.

            2. Aveline*

              You’ve obviously never been in a courtroom given you discount witness testimony so entirely. The proof in most cases is literally overwhelmingly testimony and a he said v he said narrative.

              Crikes.

              A woman’s word if proof. Just not proof you want to believe.

              The vase, vast majority of convictions don’t rest on extrinsic dna type proof.

          2. Batman*

            The rate of false reports of sexual assault is about the same as false reports of other crimes. People do falsely report other crimes, but we still believe people when they say they were robbed or whatever.

        2. Laura*

          If there is a presumption of innocence, how come that presumption is often not afforded to women in these cases by conservative Christians?

    8. Grand Mouse*

      I’m uncomfortable with this statement because the rate of flase accusations is very low, and it’s not a coincidence that people believe the perpetrator over the victim. I’ve been a victim of sexual assault and this attitude is why I never reported it. This also doesn’t justify treating women differently and disenfranchising them, especially with the underlying belief that women are liars who will make false accusations.

      I hope this isn’t too harsh per commenting rules, but this is very upsetting in a lot of ways.

      1. Artemesia*

        Yeah I didn’t even consider reporting the very important big name University professor who assaulted me because we all knew where that would go with our careers. It is ‘metoo’ because most women have had an experience of serious misogyny in their professional lives.

        1. Old Admin*

          Right. The manager who regularly cracked sexual jokes about me and called me a wh*** in a full meeting never had a problem, even after I officially reported him for harassment. My *female* supervisor told me he was only joking.
          I had to change groups within the company, and was trailed by a reputation of of being difficult to work with /showing bad behavior, which basically destroyed any chance of advancement there.

          1. Lance*

            That is completely awful. Both that your supervisor chose to pass it off as a ‘joke’, and that he got away with even using that word in the workplace, ever.

            1. Old Admin*

              He did it with gestures – claimed he had seen me “the night before and in the morning”, then did a pantomime of taking money out of his wallet.
              Colleagues groaned, but nobody was a witness.

              1. Lance*

                Ew, ew, ew. A huge shame that it doesn’t sound like he was so much as written up for that nonsense, but at least you’re away from him, and hopefully don’t have to see/interact with him any more.

                1. Old Admin*

                  Yes, but he’s a deprtment head now, while I have been told there will be no advancement for me, in spite of being an expert in what I do.
                  Once I’m off my financial obligations (which might be a while), I will be job searching.

              2. VictorianCowgirl*

                OMG I hope you documented this.
                This is why I advocate for documenting every single transaction in a daily log. Takes about 5 minutes out of your workday, saves your butt when needed.

        2. AKchic*

          Exactly.
          I was an “anonymous” witness in a state and federal case of child prostitution, child sex ring (for drugs), drug smuggling, drug ring, human trafficking, influencing law enforcement and politicians and bribery of same.

          Guess how many of those I officially named were ever charged? Even with proof that one paid for medical care relating to my sexual abuse. Not. A. Single. One.
          Only the individual who ran the ring, and two of his operatives were charged and sentenced.

          1. JSPA*

            In case nobody responds (because there is really no coherent response to this)–it’s being read and digested, and I’m pretty sure anyone who sees it is hot-and-cold burning mad on your behalf.

            1. Electric Sheep*

              Well put. I read this and my heart burned at the injustice, especially after you were a witness which I can only imagine was quite challenging.

            2. Perpal*

              Yes I… read sometimes about these trafficking rings and am just so aghast I don’t see a long list of perps who when to jail for it. So many people involved, so much profit off of vulnerable people, so few arrests. Its so depressing.

            3. Thursday Next*

              Yes, JSPA is right, AKchic. What a terrible ordeal. It’s so unjust. I’m sorry you had to endure all of this, and I’m appalled.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            That is extraordinarily disgusting. I’m so sorry. And thank you for your courage in being a witness.

      2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        I might be wrong, but I didn’t read it that way. I think the fear of false accusations is… kind of like the fear of planes being hijacked (apologies for the analogy, I’m sure there was a better one I couldn’t think of)? In that it happens once and gets highly publicized, and then people are terrified that it will happen to them, so they start going to extreme measures to avoid the possibility. I read the top comment as just talking about men’s fear of false accusations, which by all accounts is on the rise, rather than false accusations themselves.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          I think it’s also an easy fear to imagine. I mean, the idea of being persecuted and ostracised by your community for something you didn’t don’t feels horrific, and, if TV thrillers are anything to go off of (they’re not) incredibly easy to imagine.

          On the other hand, it’s hard for me to imagine myself in a position where I’m being ostracised for something terrible I did do, since I don’t really imagine myself as the sort of person who does terrible things. And I think even people who many would say have done terrible things often don’t think of themselves as those sort of people, either. They get defensive and embroiled in a justifying narrative.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            My dad was falsely accused years ago, and it was terrible and took a long time to clear up. But a false accusation is still not as bad as needing to make a real one, which is where so many, many women have been and still are. And even in my dad’s case, the accusation wasn’t false, it was just directed falsely, as a coping mechanism. My dad doesn’t live in fear, and is still the loving and trusting soul he always has been.

            That wasn’t the only trauma in my family, and I can see both sides. But decent men don’t have that fear, because everyone around them knows they are decent men. They know that living in fear of a false accusation or a jet crashing on their head – neither are rational or likely fears that should take up space in their heads.

        2. patricia*

          Sorry, “by all accounts is on the rise”? I’m going to need a cite for that, because my experience as a woman who has been assaulted multiple times (and reported exactly none of them, it wasn’t worth it) and as a woman who has watched what Professor Ford has gone through in connection with her testimony against Brett Kavanaugh (I am a lawyer and it disgusts me to refer to him as “Justice Kavanaugh, he is a disgrace to the Supreme Court, even if you pretend that Professor Ford was not compelling and believable), I can’t know how I will advise my daughters (both preteen for now) in the likely event that they are assaulted. I would very much like some evidence that false accusations are on the rise. If that is the case, I will be forced to reconsider my thoughts on this.

          1. Marion Cotesworth-Haye*

            Pretty sure “So long” meant that men’s fear of false accusations is on the rise, not that false accusations themselves are on the rise. (Hence that the fear of false accusations is an irrational reaction to rare public reports of false accusations similar to folks having a fear of hijacking based on a very small number of hijackings.)

        3. patricia*

          Just realized perhaps you meant that men’s fear of false accusations is on the rise, in which case I retract my earlier comment (no matter how dumb I think that position is). If you meant that false accusations are on the rise, I really would like to see some research on that. Thanks.

    9. I See Real People*

      I’m with you Rick. Every choice has consequences. I’m a woman by the way. If you want to make a sweeping policy or idea, make it a comfortable fit for every.single.person regardless of gender.

        1. NerdyKris*

          I think you misunderstood the point of her reply. She was pointing out the absurdity of the statement.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        So the “consequences” of women speaking out about sexual harassment/assault is that other women don’t get the same work opportunities? I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying here.

        1. NerdyKris*

          She’s saying “You’re right, and while we’re at it, they shouldn’t be alone with anyone”. She’s pointing out the same thing Allison did. If you have the policy, it needs to be applied evenly to all interactions.

          She wasn’t seriously suggesting that the policy stated in the letter was acceptable.

          1. Lora*

            I was thinking of how unable to control themselves such people imagine they must be, and started to fear for not only passing office park wildlife, but also the jar of peanut butter in my desk.

            Where I work we have safety metrics that affect our annual bonus, i.e. if someone on the entire site gets hurt, everyone’s bonus is reduced a little site-wide, and we are told the details of every safety incident. Now I’m imagining someone having a bottle of salad dressing in their desk that is just large enough to get into but not quite large enough to get out again…

    10. Celeste*

      This is men saying that women don’t belong in the workplace because they are a sexual threat to men, cloaked in their righteous talk of protecting their marriages. It’s disgusting.

      1. Bill Walshe*

        No, it’s men saying they would like some due process before being summarilly fired on the strength of an accusation and nothing more.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          I’ve never seen an instance where a man was fired on the spot after being accused. Can you give an example?

        2. Kat in VA*

          Oh my god, shut up. It’s as if bad behavior only goes one way – to the lying, lying women and never to the men.

          You’re talking about an office requiring an extra layer of “protection” from 50% of the world’s population. That’s not reasonable, nor is it fair. Just because some miiiiiight someday levy a false accusation, let’s punish the entire other gender for the possibility (not even the probability) of that happening.

          The reverse absurdity would to require that all offices require a canister of Mace in every male’s office, just in case they decide to get the notion to sexually assault a female employee.

          Either everyone gets a chaperone, or we all act like fucking adults and no one gets one. That fact that you’re defending this makes me wonder why.

    11. OP*

      It’s not. I’ve been here longer than #MeToo. And religion and patriarchy precede that movement by a few thousand years.

      1. Celeste*

        I agree, but I’m saying that this is effectively what they’re doing. I’m not saying it’s a conscious decision at this one workplace.

    12. kittymommy*

      Doubtful. This is actually a long standing tradition in some very conservative sects/denominations of the christian church. When I was in seminary back in the early 2000’s this had to be addressed by administration with some of the students.

    13. Mr. X*

      This is men being sexist asses. If you are a manager and you can’t be trusted to have professional, respectful interactions with all of your directs, anywhere and anytime, then you need to stop being a manager. Full stop. As others have said, it’s discriminatory and sexist. I would imagine if women refused to meet with men in O3s and performance reviews that they would be considered cold and bitchy and not just “protecting themselves”. I am male and this crap has no place in OP’s workplace or anywhere else.

      1. The elephant in the room*

        I work at a company where most of management is women and I’m trying to imagine a scenario where they refuse to meet with male employees to protect themselves from being raped or from false rape accusations.

        And I can’t. Not just because it’s ridiculous, but because the men in our office would put an end to it before it got off the ground.

    14. Mike C.*

      Huh, that’s weird. I don’t do this and yet I don’t have a nagging fear of being falsely accused of anything.

      1. Emily S*

        I actually had a surprisingly positive exchange on Reddit of all places with a young man who had asked how men should protect themselves from false accusations on business travel where they might be alone with women…something about the way he phrased it made me think he was being sincere – he was probably 20 years old, honestly, given the Reddit demographic, so I thought maybe still teachable.

        I told him that false accusations are exceedingly rare, but then I also asked him this: Do you have any reason to believe your coworker has it out for you and is willing to lie about something to hurt you? Do you think she would try to frame you for theft, or blame a mistake on you that you had truly nothing to do with, or spread malicious gossip about you? If you do have those fears, that’s the problem you need to resolve, either by smoothing over whatever conflict is going on in your relationship, or at least looping in a manager that you think Sally is trying to sabotage your work. But if you have a halfway decent working relationship with Sally, she has no motive to make up accusations, so there’s really nothing to worry about.

        He actually responded positively and said that he was reassured by the way I explained it. He had never thought of it from the woman’s point of view, that there would need to be some reason on her end why she wanted to make stuff up and hurt him – he had just sort of been thinking of false accusations as this dangerous thing that comes from women without understanding the agency involved.

        Now that’s become my go-to when I’m talking to someone who I think is sincere and not just hateful – comparing false rape/assault accusations with any other sort of false accusation, and how something like that doesn’t just arise out of the void in an otherwise healthy working relationship. The kind of person who makes false accusations is not going to be someone who’s otherwise entirely honest and pleasant to work with – it’s someone who has a beef you need to squash, or it’s a sociopath who lies for fun and personal gain, and that sociopathy is going to show up in more than just one false accusation.

        1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          I have to say, I’ve spent a LOT of time working in the space of youth programming, so I do think there are some people, especially young adults, who are going to struggle implementing this.

          In youth programming we have the Rule of Three: there can never be a group of fewer than 3 kids. Kids have to always be in the full view of staff, and there must also be other staff and children within view of each other, to serve as witnesses. A lot of students who are college-age are probably familiar with the “fishbowl” offices that schools and other youth-heavy orgs have, so closed-door meetings are visible to the outside, and a lot of students are familiar with the “Teacher has to leave the door open when there’s under a certain number of students in the classroom or relocate the meeting to somewhere more public.”

          As it should be, this is different to navigate as adults, because in the work world there are plenty of reasons you’d have a 1:1 conversation with a coworker or employee that should be completely private. But there’s also situations in the work world where you have to monitor appearances, like perhaps it’s not the best idea to have 1:1 meetings in your hotel room at boozy conference, even if the meeting is professional in nature. And if you’re female, of course you’re going to be mindful of 1:1 situations that are above the board, but still potentially risky, like when I had to take meetings with various maintenance subcontractors in the vault-like, outside access basement where they were working: they were all professional, but I was acutely aware the whole time that no one could hear me scream down there.

        2. Genny*

          @Emily, there’s also a really great article in Quartz called “What kind of person makes false rape accusations”. The writer found that most false reports fall into one of three categories.

          1. Third-party reporter (i.e. kid misses curfew and lies about being raped to avoid punishment, parent immediately calls the police). Half of all false rape reports fall into this category.

          2. The person who claims to have been raped to receive needed medical care/psychiatric help.

          *Types one and two usually evaporate pretty quickly.

          3. A history of making bizarre, fabricated claims, usually later proved false (sometimes because of untreated past trauma, sometimes because of certain mental illnesses, and sometimes for personal gain like the people in slip and fall scams).

          If you’re coworker doesn’t fall into one of these categories, the likelihood of them falsely accusing you goes way down.

        3. JSPA*

          A young man who has not interacted much with women except for vague attempts to “get a girlfriend” can really have a hard time seeing a woman as an agent of her own life, not a bonus, add-on, booby trap or trip hazard in his.

          The fact that we don’t insistently teach boys otherwise does them a great disservice.

          But it does a worse disservice to the women who have to live with those attitudes.

    15. neverjaunty*

      Let’s drop the bullshir and acknowledge that the phenomenon you’re talking about has nothing to do with protection and everything to do with childish spite. And with pretending that the old boys’ club has a legitimate purpose.

      I mean, you’re effectively arguing that someone evil enough to lie about sexual assault would draw the line at lying about being alone together for five minutes. That’s not a rational argument.

    16. Nay*

      By your logic, women should not be having 1 on 1 meetings then with men to protect themselves from being raped.

      1. Liz T*

        I mean yeah, he probably thinks that most rape victims brought it upon themselves by being alone with a man.

      2. Win*

        I think there is reason to avoid a truly private meeting like this (I am NOT saying women should have to bring a spouse to a review!) and it goes well beyond protecting from false accusations. It can protect both parties from rumors of affairs or otherwise inappropriate relationships, can protect either party from a he said/she said or a miscommunication. Can protect women from actual assault or threats/abusive behavior.

        We live in a time now where trust ins’t enough. Every company vehicle has to have gps and dash cams. Cameras are common nearly everywhere now. Employees routinely record conversations with their managers (see this in the news now) and are being publicly encouraged to secretly do so. As a manager my words have been severely misrepresented after a closed door 1:1 meeting which has led me to seriously considering recording all conversations in my office. I was falsely accused (of nothing sexual) of something the employee later retracted. False accusations of many kinds may be a fear for some men, but it would not be the only fear in a truly private meeting. The fears of a man/man or woman/woman meeting may be less, but still IMO there should always be clear windows at a minimum to the meeting place.

        1. Emily S*

          I do agree that window doors/walls are a smart idea for workplaces in general. Also helps to head off a potential Duck Club situation if there aren’t any convenient private spaces…

      3. Kat in VA*

        I can say this – I am 100% certain that women spend far more time concerned about protecting themselves from actual sexual assault than men do about protecting themselves from a potential false accusation of the same.

    17. Totally Minnie*

      The whole “we have to protect men from false accusations” idea comes from a worldview in which women frequently lie about sexual harassment and assault. This is manifestly untrue, and has led to a culture in which women who come forward are not believed, and are asked horrific and inappropriate questions on witness stands. Our legal system treats these victims in a way that victims of other crimes would never be treated, all because of this stupid, unfounded belief that women routinely lie about harassment and assault. This mentality needs to die a very swift death.

      1. Win*

        The legal system relies on facts and evidence. It is becoming much more common for people to secretly record meetings for just that reason.

        I am not saying women shouldn’t be believed, but there is a very public push to condemn men without evidence, which is understandably making many men nervous.

        All of this to say, the OP’s company has taken this not only too far, but way out in left field where it makes no sense for even the paranoid to go.

        1. pancakes*

          Who keeps statistics on secret recordings?

          And where, exactly, is there a “very public push to condemn men without evidence?”
          Surely you have some particular places and/or men in mind — who? Where? In the culture I live in, even men who’ve acknowledged the accusations against them as substantially correct — Louis C.K., for example — haven’t been condemned. They’ve taken brief periods of time out of the public eye and then returned to work.

          1. Win*

            The support of accusations without evidence does exactly that, condemns the alleged aggressor. There is no right answer other than to prevent these types of situations from being able to happen… which this company has done, but in a really bizarre, discriminatory way.

            Apparently we disagree on the definition of “condemned” in this context. I would say that Louis, being the subject of many national news pieces, articles, etc describing him as a sexual predator, and driving him out of the entertainment business (temporarily) would qualify as condemnation.

          2. Win*

            I obviously do not have stats on who’s secretly recording in the office, but the highly publicized Omarosa deal definitely got it in the spotlight for a while. NPR hosted several employment panelists urging women and minorities in particular to record their 1:1 meetings to protect against discrimination and abuse. I wo

            Several cases since then have come up either at my place of work or nearby.

            1. Batman*

              There’s absolutely no reason to believe that the allegations against Louis are false. You’re assuming they are with no evidence.

              1. Win*

                I did not suggest they were. I was continuing to use the example “pancake” chose. Pancake acknowledged that Louis’ case was not heavily in dispute.

                All I said was that he was condemned for those actions.

                1. pancakes*

                  By “condemned” you seem to mean, “people said negative things about him.” They did, yes, but after just a couple months out of the spotlight he returned to doing stand-up. Your bar for “condemned” is extraordinarily low.

                2. Emily S*

                  You act as those numerous first-hand reports don’t constitute evidence.

                  In what other criminal scenario can multiples, sometimes dozens of people come forward and say, “This person committed a crime against me,” and the response is that all of them must be lying. Do the elderly people who get scammed on the phone need recordings of the calls in order to be believed if they testify in court against the scammer that they were lied to and cheated out of their money?

                  Why should assault allegations treated differently than any other crime where there is no physical evidence? One witness or accuser may be a dubious basis, but in our legal system, there’s absolutely more credibility the more people come forward. “Character witnesses” are a bona fide thing. People get on the stand and say many unprovable things, but are generally treated with the assumption they aren’t perjuring themselves. The more people say the same thing, the more credible those witnesses/accusers become. Witness statements are evidence even if they aren’t backed by actual recordings.

                  In the case of Louis CK, people it was an open not-so-secret what he was doing to those women. Roseanne Barr was talking to interviewers about it years before the scandal “broke” out of the gossip columns and into the legitimate news media. Maybe nobody had any physical evidence or recordings catching him in the act, but the fact that so many people had the same story about him isn’t nothing.

                  Is it “condemning” him to acknowledge that and say it looks pretty likely that he’s a creep and guilty? Even if it is condemnation, it’s certainly not without evidence. Those victim statements are evidence. The statements from witnesses who heard second-hand and third-hand rumors about it for years are evidence. Both in a court of law and the court of public opinion.

            2. pancakes*

              I have no idea where you work or what incidents you’re alluding to, but the existence of Omarosa’s uniquely bizarre employment history and the recommendations of one NPR guest (?) do *not* support the idea that it’s “become much more common for people to secretly record meetings.” They don’t even support the idea that it’s become more common, period.

        2. RUKiddingMe*

          “…there is a very public push to condemn men without evidence…”

          Do you know what this is? It’s a lie.

          1. Pippa*

            Yep. People saying this don’t consider victim or eyewitness testimony to be evidence. Or rather, they don’t consider women’s testimony to be evidence. Unless the woman is speaking in defence of an accused man; then their assessment of her probity goes right up.

            1. Kat in VA*

              This is all so very depressingly true. :(

              People don’t consider victim or eyewitness testimony to be evidence *in these cases*. However, eyewitness or victim testimony to a robbery (for example) is considered acceptable. Why is that, exactly?

    18. Beth*

      If a manager is unable or unwilling to fulfill their managerial duties–including working with all their team members one-on-one as needed and distributing opportunities equally without regard to gender–then they aren’t properly performing as a manager. Managers don’t get to discriminate based on gender, period.

      Also, false accusations are statistically extremely rare. A woman is significantly more likely to be sexually harassed or assaulted by a male coworker than a man is to be sexually accused of sexual harassment or assault by a female coworker, yet I haven’t heard any reports of female managers discriminating against their male team members. I really don’t have any sympathy for this ‘fear’ of potentially being accused; if you’re not behaving in a way that could be interpreted as sexual harassment, I really don’t think you have anything to fear.

    19. Cass*

      You probably need to have a witness present when you’re in a room with a woman. But for their protection, not yours.

    20. Thursday Next*

      Parking lot intern from Letter #1, take note: *this* is what a “(scary!) loon” looks like.

    21. RUKiddingMe*

      What’s your problem with #MeToo? Too many women speaking out about the constant harassment by males bothering you? Feel like you might be ‘falsely accused’ by some evil woman just looking to ‘ruin’ your life?

      The rate of false accusations hovers around 2%…exactly in line with the percentage of false accusations of all other violent crime. If men don’t want to be accused of doing stuff then they need to stop doing stuff.

      Grow up!

    22. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      Why is it that men who define themselves as “conservative” are so convinced that everyone on the planet is absolutely desperate for them to stick it in?

      Dude, no.

      Women do not walk around all day gagging for you.

      This is a false construct you came up with yourselves, which you have perpetuated by assuming that you can read women’s minds, and all women are all thinking the same thing: gagging for you. (So it’s all their fault. How very convenient.)

      In reality, you are “protecting yourself” from yoursself, and your own convenient, sexist, bazoo constructs.

      So, repeat as necessary, until you believe it:

      “They are not all gagging for me.
      They are not all gagging for me.
      Tney are not all gagging for me.”

      Because, dude? We really are not.

  5. Twill*

    I try and be respectful of all religious beliefs, as a rule – though I am a godless heathen myself. But I really do not understand this. Can these men not even trust themselves to set across a table from a woman to say ‘ You’re a team player Susan, but you need to work on your production numbers’ Seriously?

    1. Temperance*

      The idea is that they don’t even want to let potential temptation in the door, and all women are by nature tempting to men. I wish I was kidding, but no.

      A few years ago, I read an article about this where a man had specifically said he wouldn’t even get in a car alone with a woman, so the company needed to make sure that his driver was male.

        1. boo bot*

          I would feel gross too, and I think the grossness is an offshoot problem with this kind of thing. If we’re in a work environment, I don’t assume every man (or woman!) around me is thinking of me in a sexualized way. For one thing, most probably aren’t, and for another, at work, we all maintain the polite fiction that we only see each other as professionals, whether it’s true or not. Because it’s work.

          If a bunch of men in the office are constantly making a big deal about how they can’t be alone with foul temptress women, it completely destroys even the illusion that they see me as a professional person; I’m never going to trust those people to take me, or my work, seriously, and I would find that so incredibly demoralizing.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            If I thought every man or woman was thinking of me in a sexualized way, I’d go live in the woods with the animals.

        2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          Ugh. I think I’d have a hard time biting my tongue and not snapping “No worries Dave, I don’t want to fuck you.”

      1. Kat in VA*

        I work in the Sales department as an executive assistant. While having a cigarette (I know, I know), one of our directors came outside and was chatting with me. When I heard that his Uber was running 20 minutes late to take him to the airport, I offered to drive him to the (nearby) airport without a second thought. Went upstairs, told my coworker and my boss, and drove the director to the airport. On the drive, he remarked on how clean my car was, how his daughter was doing in her move back to our area from Florida, and various other things.

        You know, like a normal conversation between PEOPLE.

        At no point was it anything more than a damned ride to the airport. (I love driving my car, so any excuse is a good excuse). If he had demurred on the grounds of it would have been “improper” to climb into my car with me, I would have been incredibly offended. I saved the company a $20 Uber ride, got to know one of the directors better, and did someone a favor so he didn’t miss his plane.

        This is getting ludicrous.

        Also, said director always nicely asks if he can catch a ride to the airport now because I have a sports car and apparently it’s fun to be a passenger in it. I’ve also given my (male) boss a lift to pick up his car from detailing – we can catch up on stuff he doesn’t have time to yack about while we’re in the car. At no point has anyone ever suggested there was anything weirder going on than me giving him a lift to his detailer which is on my drive home.

        Ludicrous.

    2. Rebecca*

      Especially in a public setting, like a restaurant! I wouldn’t think twice about going to lunch with a male colleague to discuss business issues one on one, it’s not a date, it’s not personal, it’s business. But then, I’m a divorced female – OMG DANGER WILL ROBINSON, DANGER!! Ugh, just ugh.

    3. Hold My Cosmo*

      The arrogance is almost as bad as the intolerance. Nobody is eager to get on you, Bob.

      Jokes aside, it’s actually scary when you think about it. This worldview assumes any woman in the workplace is automatically an option for these men, with no thought given to their willingness or autonomy.

      1. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        Yep. The basic assumption that women are ‘too much temptation’ not only holds women back, it contributes to sexual harassment by assuming that women are receptive to the advances of coworkers.

      2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        My favorite kind of comment. Superb zinger followed by devastatingly true observation. I snorted my coffee and then got real depressed.

    4. teclatrans*

      I refuse to be respectful of religious fundamentalism, especially its most oppressive and repressive aspects, which have to do with women taking a submissive role (and being seen as the root of much evil).

    5. Iden*

      I grew up in a conservative Christian church. Us teenage girls were told to dress modestly, because we “had a duty to protect our Christian brothers, because the female body tempts them.” So, yeah. Try unpacking that.

      My male pastor friend (who is decidedly NOT conservative) finds this whole attitude incredibly insulting to both men (who apparently cannot control their bodily functions or desires) and women (who are all evil temptresses, ready to pounce on an unwitting victim).

      1. Doug Judy*

        When I was 13 my female Sunday School teacher asked me who bought my clothes, I said my mom. She then talked to my mom about buying me more conservative outfits, because I was quite busty for 13 and I could be distracting to the boys in class. My mom basically told her my clothes were just fine and perhaps the boys needed a lesson in self control.

        That teacher’s harassment didn’t stop there. A few years later her son gave me a birthday present. It was an XL t-shirt of an NFL team. I didn’t even weigh 100lbs at that time. I was humiliated and never wore it. That family left our church soon after that because it became “too liberal” for them.

        1. Michaela Westen*

          Hmm, I think I’ll unpack that t-shirt. It shows the inherent disrespect of fundamentalism.
          They think your outfits aren’t conservative enough, and your mom disagreed.
          If they respected you and your mom, they should have dropped it. But no.
          The present was another attempt to force their ways/rules on you when they knew you wouldn’t agree.
          Complete disrespect.

      2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

        Matthew 18:9: “..And if your eye causes you to fall into sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

        Jesus says that if you can’t look at women without being tempted, that’s a you-problem. Cut your eyes out if you can’t help looking – it’s a you-problem.

        1. Lady Phoenix*

          I could picture that on a tshirt… right where I betcha their eyes would be…

          Just to spite them.

          1. Tiny Soprano*

            I think you should sell these. May I also request it across the butt of some shorts for summer, Juicy Couture style.

      1. RUKidding*

        At work, politics, community (unless in a server/helper role), family dynamics and decisions (again unless in a subservient way), and on and on…and on. It’s about keeping women down.

      2. Anonybus*

        Exactly! This! I have a theory that fear of competition is the root of sexism and and a lot of “othering” behaviors. The most convenient excuse to knock as many women out of competition for desireable or personally beneficial work (or out of the workforce entirely) will be jumped on.

        1. Kat in VA*

          Well, that and the unspoken assertion that women are emotional, hysterical, illogical, irrational, less intelligent, and a whole host of other things that makes us entirely unsuited for anything more strenuous than raising children or keeping a household.

          I was a stay-at-home mom for four kids for 20 years. I now work a relatively high-pressure job supporting four executives. Guess which job is more stressful and has more balls in the air, and greater stakes if I screw it up?

          Hint – it isn’t the job that pays me regular paychecks.

    6. Bunny Girl*

      Well obviously if they’re alone with us we’re going to seduce them and lead them out into the woods late at night to sign the Devil’s Book.

    7. RUKidding*

      As a fellow godless hearhen I respect their right to believe as they wish but not necessarily the belief itself. In fact I find these types of beliefs highly offensive to my humanity.

    8. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

      If you work with men who are legit afraid of being alone with women, they are telling you who they are. These men apparently have no self-control and cannot behave like grownups, so they try to force the burden of their bad judgment onto women. Professional boundaries are a two-way street, my friends.

    9. Iris Eyes*

      I’ve heard it framed as adhering to the “avoid all appearance of evil” mandate. So its not that one person or another is seducing but that it might look like something is going on to an outside observer.

      1. Michaela Westen*

        This means they live in a world where no one trusts them to be decent and do the right thing. Either the culture suspects everyone equally of being monsters, or they have history that has led to people suspecting them. Hmm.

  6. Third username*

    Oh my gosh, this is absolutely apalling and unacceptable. I agree that you push back as a group and consult a lawyer. A big reason why there aren’t more women in leadership positions is stuff like this. Gross.

  7. PJH*

    “If there is something going on that’s illegal, like sexual harassment, discrimination, or other illegal activity, it’s in the company’s best interest to find out sooner rather than later.”

    Isn’t some of this ‘not be alone with a member of the opposite sex’ thing to preemptively stop false accusations of some of the things in that list to begin with?

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Considering false accusations are quite rare, no I don’t think so. It’s more to stop those darn women from tempting the men into doing those things. It’s always the woman’s fault, you see.

    2. IEL*

      It’s not. It’s gross and discriminatory, and actively harmful to women. Additionally, men can rape and/or harass men, or falsely claim to have been raped and/or harassed, so I’m not sure where you’re going there.

      1. RUKidding*

        Because all women who ever say a male did anything are lying liars trying to ruin a guys life because women are evil.

    3. Crivens!*

      False accusations are vanishingly rare. That’d be like avoiding ever being out in public lest you get attacked by a lion.

      1. Data point*

        According to the BBC, one study found that 8% of such accusations were unfounded. That is not common, but hardly “vanishingly rare.”

        At any rate, this person seems to be doing this for ill-founded religious reasons, not evidentiary ones.

    4. Alton*

      No, it’s usually because the men believe they’ll be tempted with sexual thoughts if they’re around women. There’s a whole culture in some branches of conservative Christianity where pressure is put on women to avoid causing men to “stumble,” and people who adhere to that thinking don’t always believe that flirting or sexual behavior is even necessary for that to occur. Something like noticing that a woman has breasts could cause a man to “stumble.”

      But even if it was motivated by trying to avoid false accusations of sexual harrassment, that would still be wrong and illegal.

      1. teclatrans*

        Really, women should cover themselves from head to toe and not speak. Of course, we would still be tempting men to wicked thoughts, so maybe we should leave the workforce and stay in our homes, where we belong…

        1. Venus of Willendorf*

          I read a book about living under the Taliban in Afghanistan – the title was My Forbidden Face, iirc – and when women were all forced to be covered head to toe in burkhas, the ‘morality police’ would still harass them for stuff like ‘having sexy hands/feet’, ‘walking sexily’ or ‘letting the wind blow the burkha fabric against their body sexily’

          The whole concept is ridiculous. Every man should be responsible for his own thoughts, feelings, and behaviour. If he isn’t held responsible for his own self, you’re basically saying men are like children or animals, incapable of having or keeping faith or being adults. Which is a helluva position to take, especially if you’re a man applying it to yourself.

          “Hi, I’m Mike, and my faith and my morals are so weak I can’t be trusted to keep to them unless there’s a witness present to stop me sexually harassing every single woman I cone into contact with, because I’m a compulsive rapist and I’m utterly incapable of controlling myself.”

          1. RUKidding*

            And if they incapable then they need to be perpetual minors with adult women guardians for their entire lives. Like Saudi Arabia in reverse.

        2. Jaz*

          When I was 12 I was molested by a doctor, and when I told my church leader what had happened, he told me it was my fault for wearing a revealing outfit—the paper gown the doctor told me to change into. The logical contortions some misogynists will go through to blame a victim are boundless.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            I am so sorry that happened to you, both the doctor and the religious “leader.” I was accused of just “wanting attention.” Also age 12. Yeah getting more attention than I want but thanks for having my back.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            RAGE. The stuff I want to post about that would probably get me banned. Suffice it to say it’s all violent. I am so sorry.

    5. OP*

      Given my experience and context, no, I actually don’t think it’s about false accusations, but genuinely about religious convictions.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Sure, but those convictions are rooted in the idea that people alone with members of the opposite sex will almost certainly do something inappropriate. That’s the crux of the issue, the assumption that one cannot control oneself in the presence of a member of the opposite sex. People sometimes say it’s “out of respect for my spouse”, but the “why” is because temptation lurks in a lot of places, apparently.

            1. JamieS*

              From prior letters, I don’t think there’s a legal requirement to not push aspects of your beliefs on someone so long as by doing so the employer isn’t forcing an employee to violate their own beliefs or forcing them to prescribe to a specific religion. For example, a Jewish employer can require the office to be kosher but can’t require being Jewish, or converting, as a condition of employment.

      2. Harvey 6-3.5*

        There are groups in ultraorthodox Judaism who also wouldn’t be alone with any woman who isn’t there wife, so it is not just conservative Christians whom might do this. Of course, as AAM has said, if you treat women (men, trans, etc.) differently based on gender, it is discrimination even if for a religious reason.

    6. not defending, but...*

      The intent is to prevent “appearances” of impropriety. I worked on a non-denominational church staff for a bit and was told the policy was to avoid “perceptions;” HOWEVER… my performance reviews and such did not require a third party attendee. Our policy applied to working after office hours.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        If it’s really just about the appearance of impropriety, rather than actual impropriety, it seems like it would be better for them to turn their focus on discouraging gossip and judgment instead.

      2. Anne Elliot*

        The problem with the “appearance of impropriety” argument is that there actually is no apparent impropriety even if the one-on-one meeting occurs.

        “Avoiding the appearance of impropriety” means that you avoid doing things that might not BE improper but that LOOK improper. For example, you might not go have a drink with a vendor who is competing for a contract with your company, because even though you might be having a perfectly fine non-work-related conversation, there are outside circumstances that might make having a drink together appear improper — namely, in this example, that your company is looking to do business through a contract, and his company is bidding on that contract.

        But there is nothing that should even APPEAR improper about two people of different genders who work together who are meeting one-on-one for business reasons in the workplace. There’s no “appearance of impropriety” that even needs to be avoided — it’s a perfectly legitimate and perfectly common thing to occur. So the “appearance of impropriety” argument is especially pernicious, in that it assumes that “perceptions” such as this are reasonable and should be honored.

        1. Iris Eyes*

          But in the letter is says that these 1:1s happen outside of the workplace. Lunch at a restaurant is much easier to misconstrue.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            It is, if your worldview is that any man and woman who are meeting outside the office are up to something.

          2. Beth*

            People have lunch all the time, with coworkers and friends and fellow volunteers and random people they’re doing an information interview with and all sorts of people that they’re not sexually or romantically interested in. There’s nothing suspicious about two people having lunch in public.

          3. One of the Sarahs*

            I’m bemused by this – surely if people were having an affair, they’d be doing it in private and NOT being in a public place like a neighbourhood restaurant in the middle of the day?

    7. Beth*

      No. False accusations are rare; false accusations that lead to serious consequences for the accused are even more so. That’s not a valid reason to discriminate against women.

      And if you’re saying that you think this kind of policy would actually prevent sexual harassment…if the only way you can reliably prevent yourself from harassing someone is to refuse to be alone with them under any circumstances, you really shouldn’t be a manager.

    8. some dude*

      Not inviting a team member to your hotel room/bedroom/out for late night drinks/to a strip club? Smart and prudent. Not inviting a team member to dinner or having a one-on-one meeting? Cray-cray.
      In alla the #MeToo stuff, there have been very very few dodgy accusations. Most of them have been corroborated. Most of the accused had been doing it for years. Many had been reported, multiple time, with no consequences. There have also been many public instances where a man is accused of something, there is an investigation, and their company decides the accusations weren’t worth acting on.
      There are people who make false accusations. There are people who pretend to have cancer. People are weird. Most people who say they have cancer aren’t pretending, and most people don’t falsely accuse people of sexual harassment.

      1. RUKidding*

        Some guy (male) accused Kevin Spacey of molesting him. Spacey was chatged right away…as he should have been. FIFTY women, with proof accuse Bill Cosby. Cosby is convicted of stuff that isnt beyond the statute of limitations. ALL those women are (still) lying. ::angry face emoji::

    9. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

      Sexual assault is falsely reported at the same low rate as other crimes. Do you know what crime has a higher false reporting rate? Car theft. I don’t see people screaming that victims of car theft are making it up constantly.

      “False accusations” is the smokescreen the patriarchy uses to keep women held down. Don’t add another boot.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Is there? You know every single case of car theft well enough to know there is always material evidence?

    10. Jaz*

      Do you realize that sexual harassment often happens in front of many witnesses? This policy isn’t going to cut down on false accusations or even actual perpetration of sexual harassment. If anything, it will only cut down on valid reports.

    11. RUKiddingMe*

      I keep coming back to this. “Preemptively” stop “false” accusations as if they are just flying all over the place. This stance is sickening. Even if it were that, and it’s not it would still be illegal.

  8. pleaset*

    Nothing to add except that I’m disappointed that when Mike Pence and other prominent people are reported to do this, the same articles don’t point out how illegal and discriminatory this is. I mean, that’s basic info – Pence and others are hurting women’s careers.

    1. Temperance*

      I was raised evangelical, when the “Billy Graham Rule” was pretty popular. It was just seen as this super great thing, and so logical.

      1. OP*

        My original letter actually referenced the Billy Graham rule! Although I was raised evangelical and, even at church, where I was in a leadership position, this didn’t really come up. We were typically trusted to be responsible for ourselves. Maybe that’s why it seems hurtful to me — even when I was more devout, I didn’t encounter this.

      2. Butch Cassidy*

        And even the “Billy Graham Rule,” as practiced by Billy Graham and his colleagues, didn’t preclude meeting with women alone (at least, this is according to my mother who grew up in a community of folks who were aaaaall about Billy Graham back in the day). It just said that if you met with a woman alone in like, a hotel room, you had to keep the door open.

    2. CynicallySweet*

      Are you sure it’s illegal for them though? Not in ANY way condoning this, but I’m wondering. B/c I know the Federal Gov’t doesn’t have to follow some normal wage laws, so do they have to follow the same Title VII laws as other companies?

    3. Peggy*

      I don’t think I have ever read an article about Pence’s practice that did not mention the harm to women’s careers. Do I need to start reading more conservative publications?

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I see plenty. This is just the first few hits on a websearch.
      https://www.latimes.com/local/abcarian/la-me-abcarian-pence-marriage-20170405-story.html
      https://amp.usatoday.com/amp/312576002
      https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/521286/
      https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/31/mike-pence-doesnt-eat-alone-women-speaks-volumes
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2017/03/30/pences-unwillingness-to-be-alone-with-a-woman-is-a-symptom-of-a-bigger-problem/?utm_term=.9a4685abb579
      https://www.tlnt.com/why-the-pence-rule-is-a-bad-business-practice/

    5. Nephron*

      It also limits the access of women to their government. I cannot lobby my Vice President the same way a male citizen can based on his religious beliefs. There are Americans that cannot meet with their representatives in Congress based on the beliefs of the person meant to represent them.

      This is really gross professionally, but it is extremely gross when it is a part of government.

  9. David*

    I would think that if the men in the office wanted to do this, they could and still not make it weird and awkward.

    For work lunches, travel separately. Once everyone is at the restaurant, coffee shop, bar, etc, they’re not alone with the opposite sex.

    Seems like the same could be applied to traveling for work.

    Or if they wanted this policy, couldn’t they just treat everyone the same then? No time alone no matter sex/gender? Super inconvenient, but then, everyone would be treated equally at least.

      1. Bill Walshe*

        Agreed. Its discriminatory and sexist That said, this whole situation is beyond drama and the product of overcompensation and paranoia. It’s great to see bastards like Weinstein get their cumuppence, but men getting fired on the basis of accusations alone is driving this thing into crazytown. And a whole lot of women assuming that the majority of men are sexist monsters is not helping things. The guys afraid to be around women are nervous and overly cautions people, akin to those who are afraid to fly, not gross, sexist ogres.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          You keep saying men get fired based on accusations alone, but I’ve never seen that happen. Can you cite an example? Also, I’ll need a citation for your claim that a whole lot of women think that the majority of men are sexist monsters.

        2. Lissa*

          It’s been said multiple times by the OP that this is about religion – it’s got nothing to do with accusations by the woman or Weinstein at all. I feel like you’re using this letter as a jumping off point to a pet issue here, because the LW’s issue has nothing to do with what you really want to talk about.

        3. Gazebo Slayer*

          My fear of flying isn’t hurting the careers of half the population.

          Also, if you’re concerned about women thinking you’re a “sexist monster” maybe you should examine your own beliefs and behavior that might lead us to draw that conclusion.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      If I understand it correctly, they can’t be alone at the table in the restaurant even if there’s others in the room. They could be having a sexual conversation!

      Basically, men who follow this rule can’t have a 1 on 1 conversation, there must always be a third person.

      It’s actually very ineffective, in addition to being illegal / discriminatory.

        1. CmdrShepard4ever*

          I wonder if they must include a male co-worker in any text to an individual women, so that it is not a private one on one conversation with a member of the opposite sex.

          @David: some companies have policies like that for certain HR things, like raises, reviews, disciplinary actions, etc… but it is usually applied across the board for men and women. At one company I worked I a male, met with my supervisor also male, and he had in the meeting another male supervisor in the meeting when going over my raise. At the same company when other HR stuff came up I also met with two female supervisors or one male and one female supervisor. Requiring a witness for certain things is not an issue its when it is only applied to one sex that it discriminates.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      But if my boss were a man, I wouldn’t be able to knock on his door and request a private meeting, to discuss an issue, or report an incident. You can’t do your job if you’re NEVER allowed to be alone with anyone of the opposite sex. There are times when things need to be kept between a manager and a subordinate. This goes beyond reviews and travel. This affects the entirety of your job.

    3. Beth*

      Sure, if absolutely never being alone with anyone is feasible for their work, then that would be a way to honor these religious convictions without discriminating.

      The problem is, there are a lot of cases where that kind of policy is wildly inconvenient or straight-up impossible. This is especially true in management roles, where you may need to discuss private, sensitive things like performance reviews, accommodations for medical issues, reports of inappropriate behavior, etc. I’m betting a lot of the men at OP’s company who are doing this literally couldn’t do their jobs if they refused to be alone with any coworker ever. So they’re refusing with just women as a ‘compromise’, trying to both honor their religious thing and still be able to do their job…but that’s discriminatory and illegal, so it’s really not an acceptable religious accommodation in the workplace. They have to choose whether it’s more important to them to keep this job in this role, or to keep the religious thing they’ve got–they likely can’t do both.

    4. Sloan Kittering*

      In the employee review context, I believe I’ve seen this “work” (christian summer camp that got burned by having inappropriate relationships in previous years) by having the HR manager sit in on every meeting. Male and female, I mean. In this way, the manager is never alone with the young employee. The business trip situation I can’t think of a good solution though :(

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          it is actually an interesting story. The person who did it was a well beloved staff member that nobody would have suspected, and he tended to pick people that would not be believed (especially people who were having employment issues and ended up being fired). He also created a sick culture with other staff where this type of thing was overlooked, and he had hired or promoted other leaders that tended to go along with him. The organization was basically in trauma about it a few years later and I think what stuck with them the most was that it was not a typical skeevy guy that they would have suspected, so they doubted their ability to spot problems or make good hires. They did a big house cleaning and implemented this policy about HR sit-ins. So, I understand that it’s not the same situation at all, except that I appreciated at the time that the HR sit ins were mandated for all staff of any gender, not just like, the attractive young woman demographic.

          It did remind me of how they bring in the nurse at the doctor’s office if the ob-gyn is male, in that it’s kind of weird and awkward to have this other person just sitting there watching.

          1. Anne Elliot*

            FWIW, my doctor brings a female nurse in for my pelvic exam, and the doctor is a woman as well. Once the medical practice made that a rule for the male doctors, they made it a rule for all the doctors in order to avoid this exact problem of having different expectations of the same class of employee, based solely on gender.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Interestingly enough, at my doctor’s office I’ve seen both a male and female gyne. The female one asked me if I wanted a nurse in (I declined, didn’t even think about it tbh), but the male had one in automatically – there was no option.

            1. Peggy*

              I guess maybe I’m too untrusting of a person, but it seems like there is a theme of these predators being good at ingratiating themselves with everyone, so it seems to me that it takes some real hubris to think that one is so good at hiring and judging character that a company is inoculated from possible problems.

              1. Sloan Kittering*

                Yes I think most people are overconfident of their ability to spot bad actors. It’s better to be create objective systems to catch issues rather than “trust your gut” in these cases.

              2. Gazebo Slayer*

                I think the really “successful” predators are often the ones who are good at ingratiating themselves. There are lots of obviously skeevy ones out there, but they’re more likely to be caught early on – or never to get into a position of power in the first place and just end up getting their sick thrills grabbing asses on the subway or something.

                That being said, there are also obviously awful people who somehow get into positions of power and stay there preying on people for years. Weinstein was a screaming bully to most people, even aside from all the women he harassed and assaulted. I’ve always wondered how people like that get powerful in the first place, besides cases of nepotism or considerable inherited wealth.

            2. Lissa*

              Hmm, your comment seems to imply that it’s wrong for them to not be absolutely sure of making good hires and spotting problems, but that’s a huge part of the problem – being convinced they are great judges of character and “he would never do something like that”.

        2. YouGottaThrowtheWholeJobAway*

          @Blue yes “everyone not being disgusting at work” seems to be the most efficient answer, but apparently that’s not an option for these men.

    5. AMT*

      Yeah, why not inconvenience everyone, not just the women? Two men alone in a restaurant could be having a dirty conversation! And who knows what they could get up to behind the closed door of an office or during an unchaperoned car ride.

      Really, though, if they did make it universal, I imagine there would be a ton of pushback from the men. I imagine that the only reason they’re okay with it now is that it doesn’t unnecessarily inconvenience them. Hell, they can just choose to work on projects with men rather than women so they don’t have to go through the inconvenience of finding a chaperone! They can hire men for their teams so they don’t have to worry about being alone with them! How could this possibly go wrong?

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah, if a company is afraid to shut down this type of thing / fire people who believe this due to some kind of fear over religious discrimination, they need to clamp down on solutions that put this back on the shoulders of men.

      2. pleaset*

        Only by inconviencing everyone, and not just lower-power groups, can we have just policies. So yes, roll it out for everyone. Really. And then think about it again.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          Exactly! For the men in the office who are thinking this is no big deal and the women are just complaining – let them experience how it plays out in practice.

      3. Tiny Soprano*

        Maybe a few rounds of bad fan-fic featuring the boss and a male employee? They need a witness or everyone will assume it’s falling cherry blossoms and declarations of forbidden love in the performance review!

    6. Koala dreams*

      Yes, if only. The 1 on 1:s are allegedly super important when it’s a manager and a direct report of the same gender, and totally not important if they are of different genders. If the company treated everyone equally, it would maybe be inefficient, but it wouldn’t break the laws.

  10. Bee Eye Ill*

    Beyond not making a man and woman share a hotel room on a work trip, this is pretty silly, but it doesn’t surprise me at all.

  11. Shark Whisperer*

    Are there any female managers? I can’t imagine a male employee saying he won’t go to a performance review with his female manager because he can’t be alone with women. And if there aren’t any female higher-ups, I feel like that’s definitely indicative of the fact that this workplace is discriminatory against women.

    1. OP*

      There are, though I think any of the men who have this issue don’t report to any of the female managers (not sure if that’s coincidence or deliberate).

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        You can probably figure out which – start counting. Count how many men you’ve heard with this attitude (I’m going to call them Fergi, plural of Fergus), list their roles. Count how many managers there are, and how many are female.
        1) What % of managers are female? If it’s under 20%, well, US average is 40% of managers are female. Tells you something right there.
        2) Count the % of Fergi. If everything is random, you’d expect that % of Fergi under a female manager. Look at whether any female managers have enough men under them that they’d ever be likely to get a Fergus.

        It’s probably not as explicitely deliberate as ‘don’t assign Fergus to a female manager’. The most likely reason is that the company is siloing women into the ‘traditional’ female management roles (HR, Cust Service), and the men with this attitude are choosing the more ‘traditional’ male roles (IT, sales). Do the female managers mostly manage other women?

        That doesn’t say good things about the company either.

        Definitely take a step back and think about whether this is a symptom of more deeply held discrimination. The ‘Fergi acceptance’ alone is a big red flag, and ‘no female managers for Fergi’ is an even bigger one, to me.

        Unfortunately, if you’re in an area where Fergi are accepted, you may not have a ton of options, but you can at least see the symptoms, and maybe find someplace that doesn’t have them.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Note for “Sales as traditionally male”: person to person sales / clerks split pretty much by value of the product – ‘traditionally’ men sell more expensive stuff like cars, appliances, women sell smaller soft / consumable goods. Most business to business sales are still dominated by men, while business to consumer sales are dominated by women. So I’m assuming ‘sales’ here is B2B, but if it’s B2C, then it moves out of the ‘traditional male’ role, so factor that assumption into your analysis.

          The key is whether the female managers manage teams of ‘mainly women’ vs ‘pretty even’ vs ‘mostly men’. If they’re managing teams that are ‘pretty even’, that’s an indication it’s not discriminatory.

        2. Anastasia Beaverhousen*

          That and – the Fergi are probably less likely to think of this as A Very Important Rule they Must Follow if they sense it could hurt THEIR OWN careers, rather than *only* the careers of their female employees.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            You mean the female employees who should be at home raising 20 or 30 kids and making sandwiches instead of taking jobs away from men?

            I know that sounds like pure snark (it is a little) but the reality is that the males get travel opportunities, 1:1 lunches with the bosses, thereby getting to know and be known more intimately on a personal level so then jobs and opportunities will go to the males while the women are swept aside…per usual.

            Ergo, the idea that they might think that women are taking jobs from men, but they *know* they can’t blatantly not ever hire any women (just way too obvious) they hire a percentage they can live with but still don’t give them coaching, courses, etc. that helps with career growth, is not that far fetched.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        I don’t want to fantasize here, but… do you think that might be because a man with these beliefs would say, “I cannot move to Jane’s team because I will not be alone in a room with a woman, even if she is my manager, and I know Jane doesn’t approve of that”? Do you think your company would accept that and place the male employee somewhere else?

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          Well, OP’s not part of those discussions, but seems to think it’s possible. That is how ‘deliberate’ would happen, or even just ‘We know Fergus can’t be alone with a woman, so we’ll move him to Joe’s team instead of Jane’s.’

          Usually stuff like this is well known enough Fergus wouldn’t have to ask or discuss explicitly.

      3. Indie*

        If you think about it, they are better placed to be proactive than you are because they know their own deal and were able to say ‘Oh no, I can only apply for teams led by men’; whereas you had no such rules about the gender of your manager and had to guess what the deal was clue by clue.

        I’m judging them hard for putting you in that situation. It is one thing for an individual to prioritise their own set of marriage rules over their available job opportunities. It is quite another to accept managerial responsibilities and not live up to them; or to make your marriage any concern of your direct reports.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          It’d be discriminatory if a manager of either gender had a rule insisting on chaperones for only one gender, but the point is that this company has it arranged so that the only people insisting on chaperones are some male managers, who require only female direct reports bring a chaperone if they meet 1:1.

  12. Observer*

    I find this very interesting. Jewish law (halacha) forbids a individual to be alone with a person of the opposite gender if they are not married or related to each other. However, something like an off site lunch at an eatery would be acceptable because even though it’s just the two of you, you’re in public. So would windows / glass walls in the office, or the ability of someone to walk into the office (eg if a secretary could walk in at any time).

    The assumption being that while reasonable people could forget themselves or abuse their position in private setting, it’s a far different thing in a public setting.

    1. Grapey*

      No, reasonable people don’t “forget themselves” or abuse their position in ANY setting, regardless of what your religion taught you.

      1. Win*

        The point I think many people are coming from is to avoid a he said/she said situation. Many women have been abused in private one on one situations, and are going to have a difficult time proving it. Many men have been accused of such actions. Office romance happens, affairs happen, assault happens. These are all inappropriate, and all complex, and all are going to fall on two peoples word which may conflict.

        It seems reasonable to me to try to avoid this problem from occurring (for the benefit of men and women) but most people find that clear windows/public places/ open office doors are sufficient.

        I would not like a woman to come into my office and shut the door and close the blinds. Does not look good. Come in, close the door if necessary, but the blinds are not going to close.

        My eyes really bugged out when reading the post at the “bring a spouse to your review” ?! What could be more bizarre than that? How about another manager if someone has to be there. Goodness…

        1. Observer*

          but most people find that clear windows/public places/ open office doors are sufficient.

          Yes. If someone is an uncontrolled lunatic, then it doesn’t really matter one way or another. But most people will do things where they believe they can’t be seen that they won’t do when they can be seen. That’s especially true of abusers.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          It goes way beyond activities actually — in some belief systems, just thinking a sexual thought is a sin.
          Now for us old-timers, think back to Jimmy Carter’s 1970s interview where he admitted to “lusting in his heart”… not funny with the new perspective is it?

        3. pancakes*

          “Many men have been accused of such actions.”

          That’s not true. I see why you want it to be, but it isn’t.

          1. Win*

            I am not sure how you can dispute a statement as broad as that…

            Maybe you can get a few recent news articles in my hometown redacted!

            1. pancakes*

              It’s the broadness that’s the problem. I don’t know how to get you to see that “many” isn’t a precise or credible figure in this context. It isn’t even a figure at all.

              1. Win*

                In the same way that I said “Many women have been abused in private 1:1 situations” I was referring to the fact that the privacy of these situations can be a problem. Eliminating the privacy is good for all parties. That is all. I did not use a specific number because there was no need to be specific.

                The line you had a problem with one one in a series describing the broad number of issues that can come out of a truly private 1:1 session. I did not emphasize or rank men’s problems to women’s problems in this scenario. My point is that both can be victims, or regardless of gender the boss and employee can both be victims, so eliminating the privacy can help both.

                1. pancakes*

                  Say whatever you like, but one of the reasons you didn’t use any figures is because the number of men targeted by false accusations is in fact very small. It’s not as if no one keeps track of such things. They do, and the number of men targeted by false accusations is extremely small, particularly in comparison to women who’ve been targeted for harassment and abuse. You aren’t obliged to pretend they’re comparable numbers, and eliminating the actual numbers and speaking broadly doesn’t make them at all comparable.

      2. Observer*

        It depends on what you mean by reasonable. I’m not talking about good or moral. I’m talking about someone with the capacity to control their behavior and the capacity to understand consequences.

    2. xarcady*

      I think the idea is that if a married man were seen in public eating with a woman that is not his wife, it might lead others to think he is having an affair with that woman. They are trying to avoid even the appearance of wrong-doing.

      To my mind, that’s still creepy–that you would instantly think a man having lunch publicly in a restaurant with a random woman is having an affair implies that you are thinking about such things all the time.

      1. AMT*

        I think the way Allison has phrased it when questions like this have come up was something like, “It brings sex into a situation where sex shouldn’t even be a thought.”

      2. PepperVL*

        It also ignores the fact that queer people exist. Like, if I’m going to assume that a man and a woman having dinner together are in a romantic relationship, why shouldn’t I also assume the same about two men or two women are also in a romantic relationship? (I mean, obviously I’m not going to assume any of that, but I could if I wanted to.)

    3. Close Bracket*

      Can you tell me more about this? I had an Orthodox Jewish man as a coworker, and it was just the two of us in one or the other of our offices all the time. I think the door was always open. Was that enough for us not to be alone?

      1. Observer*

        Yes, it would be assuming that the rest of the place was not shut down. So, if the entice office space were closed for the day and just the two of you came in that, could present a problem (depending on a number of factors.) But, if you are sitting in a shared office with the door open and people in the next room? No problem.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          There was a scene like this in the Netflix series Russian Doll. Nadia wanted to talk to a rabbi, but the secretary wouldn’t let her in by herself; she had to get a man to do it for her (she called her ex). They didn’t mention the door being left open, so I assumed that they were very Orthodox.

          Also, the secretary was wearing a sheitel, which I learned about here from the commentariat. :)

            1. Someone Else*

              It’s a short-run series but the description above omits the part where Nadia was acting erratically. I think the secretary was blocking her from talking directly to the rabbi as much because secretary thought she was unstable as because she was a woman alone, so it’s not an ideal example.

        2. Close Bracket*

          We did not share an office, either with each other or anyone else. But it sounds like as long as other people were in the building and the door was open, no religious restrictions would have been violated.
          How interesting. We had a lot of conversations, and he was quite open about Orthodox restrictions. This one never came up.

      2. Old Admin*

        I actually once was the voluntary “shabbes goy” for an Orthodox Jewish man at a conference, and I’m a lady. :-)
        The task entailed handling money (restaurant, souvenir purchase, maybe carry a small bag or turn on a light switch) during Sabbath when Orthodox Jews may do no work or conduct business. He was totally fine with sitting in the restaurant with me, happily chatting about conference topics, his family, and *gasp* religion. ;-)

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Not necessarily. Work is defined very specifically and includes plenty of things that you wouldn’t think would count and doesn’t include some things that would usually be thought of as work in the secular sense.

      3. Liz T*

        Well it depends on what kind of Orthodox he was. If he was Modern Orthodox (as opposed to Ultra-Orthodox/Haredi), he probably believed in balancing halacha with engaging constructively with the secular world–Modern Orthodoxy has as a core belief that both of those things are positive and valuable. So you live by Jewish law, but not to the exclusion of the outside world. What you describe–not disrupting the working relationship, but keeping the door open so there’s a feeling that you’re not in private together–would strike that balance pretty well.

        1. Observer*

          Not really. Most Modern Orthodox Jews do actually believe in the primacy of Halacha, and follow it even when it interferes with engaging with the world. Furthermore, this way of handling things doesn’t require “balancing” – it’s pretty much the standard for the vast majority of situations, assuming there are others in the shared space.

        2. Close Bracket*

          Oh, I don’t know. He was modern enough to have a full time job in the secular world but Hassidic enough that he never ate with coworkers, wouldn’t even sit in a restaurant and drink water in case someone saw him and thought he was eating and told his rabbi. He frequently invited me to shop at Costco and use his membership, but emphasized that we would have to keep our baskets separate so nobody thought he was mixing kosher and non-kosher food.

      4. Data point*

        El Al Israel Airlines has had repeated cases of haredim refusing to sit next to female passengers. On at least one occasion the airline (outrageously) asked the female passenger to move.

        1. Meyers and Briggs are not real doctors*

          Yes. Was just talking about this the other day, here is a link from NYT June 2017

    4. A person*

      You are giving good examples of how an organization that wants to treat people equally could do that while still being observant of an individual’s religious beliefs.

      I think the key is wanting to treat everyone equally and finding ways to do that like the ones you mention.

      However, it seems like some men use their religion as a shield to hide behind while they treat one gender unfairly because they don’t want to treat them like equals.

      I guess the OP is soon going to discover which kind of person prevails at this company.

    5. OlympiasEpiriot*

      Something I have found interesting about this is that I suspect there is some kind of argument made around business — at least for some — because I am in a place where there are a significant number of Chasidim of various sects and I have had Chasidic clients in my work. I am a woman. While usually I am not alone with a Chasidic man, I am definitely almost always the only woman present. This is construction. Women are somewhat thin on the ground to start with, even more so in that environment. We have always found a way to work this out. (I don’t expect to shake hands, for example.) My firm certainly doesn’t make assignments to jobs like that based on gender.

      I am not a close student of Torah, but, I have made the assumption based on this experience that perhaps I’m coded “male” in the context of the work given (1) how I’m usually dressed for the meetings/site visits and (2) they need me for my knowledge. This is, of course, completely a guess because I haven’t had a situation where I felt I could ask “how”. I just go with it as long as it works.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Well, if there’s 2 men present + you, it wouldn’t come into play – I wonder if your Chasidic clients usually show up in pairs?

        1. OlympiasEpiriot*

          I italicised “usually” on purpose. Occasionally, I am alone in an office or cellar or job trailer or apartment in an adjacent building looking at something someone has reported as damage due to construction.

      2. Anne Elliot*

        “I have made the assumption based on this experience that perhaps I’m coded “male” in the context of the work given (1) how I’m usually dressed for the meetings/site visits and (2) they need me for my knowledge. ”

        But this is even more offensive to me, insofar as it appears that these men can elect to break their own rules when it’s in their own best interests but we can assume they would not break those rules if it was in yours.

        1. Liz T*

          Ha I thought you were going to say it was offensive because it was an assumption. Please remember that Olympias doesn’t actually know for sure! It might actually have more to do with Modern Orthodoxy’s core values of not segregating oneself from the secular world.

          1. OlympiasEpiriot*

            It is my understanding that Modern Orthodoxy is not part of Chasidism. That said, some sects seem more open (?for lack of a better term) than others. I am not always perfect at recognizing which sect a client may be from.

        2. OlympiasEpiriot*

          Well, I don’t exactly know what their rules are. I gather the various sects have different rules and philosophies around many things and I am the first to acknowledge that I’m pretty ignorant on this topic.

      1. Tristan Callan*

        No, because unlike actual religions my comments stop at snarky comments. Which, while intemperate, are not especially harmful.
        I don’t fund anti-gay conversion camps or openly carry water for sexists and racists. I don’t spend my time intimidating people outside of abortion clinics or campaigning for bigoted presidential candidates the way large swaths of certain mainstream religions do.
        So I’d say I’m a good bit more reasonable. But that’s just me.

        1. Observer*

          Sure – because calling people stupid is a reasoned and polite thing to do. And conflating ALL actions of ALL religions is supremely sensible.

          OK

          Enough said.

        1. Observer*

          I explained how Orthodox Jews deal with this, to which Tristan replied that this proves that following religion is stupid.

          That’s hardly a reasonable or smart response.

      2. mark132*

        In reality this whole post would have better framed talking about how sexist some religions are, rather than calling out men, call out the sexist religions.

        All the behavior complained in the post can easily be justified by reading the primary scriptures of the Abrahamic religions. So Tristan while overly snarky is largely right. Giving special deference to rules simply because they are thousands of years old is dumb.

        1. Observer*

          In other words, what I actually said isn’t relevant. The religion is thousands of years old and some people follow it in ways you don’t like so all of it and anyone who follows it is dumb. Of course we should SAY it but that’s what we mean.

          Thanks for clarifying.

          1. mark132*

            With respect I’ve read the bible cover to cover, and the amount brutality committed supposedly by God’s command or by God personally is mind blowing. And literally following many of the commandments in the old testament today would see you put in jail. So quite honestly I’m grateful it isn’t followed as written. See Leviticus 20:10 for an example.

            And I thought the whole point of this article and the comments is most (nearly all?) here are unhappy with how some people have chosen to live their religion.

    6. Troutwaxer*

      I was thinking about the glass walls issue as well. For probably a tenth of what it would cost to defend any kind of suit/complaint against a discrimination issue, and not much more than the OP’s workplace would pay to replace a couple good employees who left rather than sue, the place could have a 2-3 glassed-in conference rooms of varying sizes, maybe an outdoor patio with a couple isolated tables, or possibly put some inward-facing windows on a manager’s office wall… I don’t think these are a perfect solution for all kinds of obvious reasons, including the fact that the office would still be at least a little discriminatory, but the “not being alone with a woman” is definitely a hill some people are willing to die on…

      1. Win*

        Agreed. There is no real need for a windowless office IMO (for a supervisor anyway). Especially one that would be used for 1:1 meetings with employees.

        If people can see in, that solves the problem.

        1. pancakes*

          In theory it solves the problem of groping, but it doesn’t solve the problem of spoken harassment. People can see in, yes, but unless they’re expert lip-readers they can’t see what’s being said.

  13. Mystery Bookworm*

    I might be betraying some ignorance around more conservative branches of religion here (so other commentors, feel free to educate me) but my knee-jerk reaction is that I would be deeply creeped out by a coworker who suggested he couldn’t be alone with me (in a work context) because I am a woman.

    To me, that’s like explicitly stating that he can’t interact with me without seeing me as a possible sexual partner, and needs other people around to quell those impulses. That’s creepy!

    1. Magenta*

      That is exactly how I feel, it is gross, and objectifying, it suggests that these men really only see women as being useful for one thing.
      I want to be seen as a person, not a sexual object who might tempt men to sin.

      1. Dragoning*

        Also, the idea that all women are tempting all men…

        What an ego, it requires, to think all women would want you…

    2. xarcady*

      I am equally creeped out by this every time I hear about stuff like this. It also sort of implies that they think any woman left alone with them will immediately fling herself on them and demand . . . I don’t know . . . sex, a clandestine relationship, a passionate office romance?

    3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      It also implies that any self-control the man may have completely disappears in the presence of any woman-not-his-wife (except maybe his mother/sister/daughter).

      Which is not a good character trait for anyone, much less a manager.

      (Plus, gross and illegal, as covered elsewhere.)

      1. xarcady*

        I once had lunch with my married brother and two of his under 5 year old kids at a restaurant at a mall.

        Would you believe someone called my sister-in-law that very day to inform her that her husband was having an affair with a younger woman? SIL apparently burst into laughter at the caller–the whole reason my brother and I were out with the kids was to give SIL a day to herself. (And I’m one year younger than my brother and five years older than SIL, so we had no idea what that was about.)

        The idea that my brother was conducting an affair over a lunch filled with wiping noses and changing diapers was just absurd.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          My grandmother is still hugely entertained by an incident some decades back, when she had two young boys under the age of 6, and her best friend also had two youngin’s around the same age. She and her friend’s husband worked the same shift (different companies). Grandpa and the best friend worked the same shift (different companies), and a different shift than Grandma and Friend Husband. They were all pretty close, and often watched each other’s kids.

          She once got a phone call that her husband and her two boys were out with this other woman and her two kids at the local fair, and the HUMANITY!!!!!!!!! How DARE!!!! Well, yeah, those two worked the night shift and were off in time to take the kids to the fair, whereas the other two adults worked the day shift and were working at the time. But uh, thanks for the information on the affair, where they were just so audacious to bring their own children in a very public place to do….something nefarious, I guess.

          1. pancakes*

            Yikes. I wouldn’t want to live in a place like that. I wouldn’t want to spend even a day there.

        2. Mary Dempster*

          This happened to my uncle who went out to lunch with his daughter, my cousin. Someone called my aunt! Younger woman – yeah, his daughter!

    4. Win*

      For me a lot of it is perception. People talk, people assume. I find it hard to blame them, because there have been several affairs that have taken place in my place of work throughout the years. However! There are reasonable limits to this… All of our offices have windows. Some have blinds. I would get real uncomfortable real quick if the blinds were closed… just because of the unintended implication it could create.

      I would hate to think I am viewed as creepy because I do not want there to be any chance that people could assume anything about me and a coworker. This is obviously not enough for the OP’s place of work… which is the problem. If I was THAT paranoid… I would just openly record all private conversations with any employee.

      1. Mystery Bookworm*

        See, I’m so confused by this. We closed the blinds in my office today, not because anything inappropriate was going on, but because of the glare of the sun in the afternoon.

        It never occurs to me to assume that people have closed their curtains or blinds because they’re having affairs.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          It is now occuring to me that you may have meant windows that face INTO the office, rather than external windows, in which case the blinds thing makes a little more sense. My office doesn’t have those, so I sort of blanked that they are a thing.

          I still think it’s a little odd though. I mean, when people close the door to their offices, my first thought is that they are navigating a sensitive or private issue (we deal with a lot of those in my workplace). It honestly would never occur to me that someone was having an affair in the middle of the workday.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            Even with windows/glass walls that face into the office there are many reasons to close the blinds when having a private meeting. Letting someone go, informing a supervisor of the need to take bereavement leave, needing to use FMLA, etc…

            1. Win*

              Yes sorry! Meaning internal windows….

              Of course this may not be the case all the time, I had a physical in my office once for life insurance and closed the blinds then.

              But beyond that I cant imagine why I would need to close the blinds for a meeting unless I was hiding who was in my office, or what we were doing. Which gets back to assumptions/accusations/office gossips etc.

      2. CmdrShepard4ever*

        In my office I have blinds on an outside window (the rest of the walls or solid opaque) that I keep closed most of the time due to glare from the sun on my computer screen, a lot of time I have co-workers come to my office and talk with me. Most of the time the door is open because we don’t discuss such secretive and sensitive topics. But I would find it a bit weird if a co-worker (male or female) needed to talk to me in private closed the door and asked me to open the blinds to avoid any perception of an affair going on.

        If I saw two people go into a room and meet privately I would not assume they were having an affair unless I was hearing loud moaning or other sexual noises. It probably doesn’t even need to be loud moaning, our office walls are pretty thin. I can usually hear that people are talking to each other, or on the phone through the walls with the door closed, but I can’t understand what they are specifically saying.

        1. Washi*

          Right, all of this “I would hate for people to assume…” brings sexuality into work in a completely unnecessary way. When men say things like this, it makes me feel like I as a woman am always seen in a sexual light, as if my mere presence turns a simple meeting into a suspected sexual encounter. Win, if a man came in your office visibly upset and wanted to close the door and blinds for privacy, would you have the same thought?

          I understand you’re not on the side of OP’s company here, and it’s fine if you have a policy to keep your blinds open. But I think you should give the idea of closed blinds = potential affair some thought.

          1. Win*

            I would love if no one ever thought that again. However… I know people talk and certain people have significant imaginations. I don’t consider myself to be “worried” about a rumor like that involving me however I don’t want to give anyone a chance at it. Has nothing to do with viewing women in a sexual light, and has everything to do with knowing that those things do actually happen in workplaces. Not all the time, not in every workplace, but it happens. Every workplace is different, and every person is different. This to me just seems like a good standard to employ for many reasons.

            If a man came in very upset and wanted to close the blinds I would be very interested to know why. If getting into the conversation I realized there was not a specific need for the blinds to be closed, I would open them again. Same if it were a woman.

          2. Southern Yankee*

            The “people talk, people assume” is an interesting point. Shouldn’t matter – I agree with 99.9% of the comments on this thread, and the base assumption of Jezebel women is abhorrent. However, I had one work location that was a seething hotbed of coworker affairs in a local culture were marriage vows were largely ignored. In that particular location, any male/female pair for lunch created rumors that were out of control within 10 minutes. It was crazy, infuriating, and really creepy. In that situation, I was more aware than normal of who I went to lunch with even though it was stupid because it could potentially impact my reputation and I wasn’t going to change 100+ years of local culture. Oddly perhaps, it was actually a very female friendly workplace and one of my favorite jobs ever.
            Still, to be clear, the OP’s workplace with no 1:1 meetings is discriminatory and just no.

      3. Anne Elliot*

        “People talk, people assume. I find it hard to blame them, because there have been several affairs that have taken place in my place of work throughout the years.”

        This confuses me. I don’t see how bad behavior by other people makes it more likely your current coworkers are ripping each other’s clothes off if and when the blinds are closed. And if your coworkers would leap to that assumption, then shame on them.

        1. a1*

          If 9 out of 10 times when you see A it means B, it’s very easy to assume that on the 10th time it’s B again. Even if it’s not.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Yeah, but…. 9 out of 10 times, coworkers are not ripping each others’ clothes off when they go into an office and close the door. So it’s very easy to assume that a closed door does *not* mean anything inappropriate is happening.

            Unless you work at Duck Club office.