Alexandra Petri: How to do workplace discrimination right
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Alexandra Petri: How to do workplace discrimination right

Alexandra Petri

Alexandra Petri

Wow! It sounds as though Elizabeth Warren's past did not get the memo about how gender-based discrimination is supposed to work. This is embarrassing (mostly for HER), but fortunately, I have made some guidelines so this won't happen again! Please, give these to your workplace. If they goof up, it is on you.

Firing a Pregnant Employee

DO NOT simply establish a tacit understanding that no visibly pregnant employees will retain their positions! This is confusing.

DO NOT make eye contact with someone's belly and ask, "What are your priorities in the upcoming nine months?" This is too subtle. Do not line up all the employees in a big row with bells so they can shout, "SHAME, SHAME! YOU ARE FIRED FOR BEING PREGNANT!" and shoot off a cannon ("This cannon was also fired for being pregnant with a cannon ball! I don't understand how cannons or bodies work!").

DO go up to pregnant employees and say, "I see that you are pregnant. I am firing you because you are pregnant. This is sex-based discrimination. Here is a letter that says that I am firing you, not just implying that you should leave, but actually firing you, because you are pregnant, which I have signed and dated. Now, I am going to stand on a chair and shout, 'WE DON'T STAND FOR PREGNANCIES IN THIS OFFICE! THAT'S NOT OUR CULTURE! WE DON'T VALUE PREGNANT EMPLOYEES!' so that you may film it and several people who were here will have contemporaneous recollections of my stating this, directly, out loud."

Forming an Old Boys' Club So Women Can't Network and Advance

DO NOT, casually after work, invite out some colleagues but not others, omitting those you assume might have child-care responsibilities or who might not enjoy a strip club. Do not form bonds with them, naturally, and then offer them more mentoring and opportunities than their female colleagues. When the women are not promoted, do not develop the sense that it is somehow because they are not capable of doing the basically competent job that Martin's Boy, Trevor, is doing in his new role. 

DO put up a big sign that says, "FORMING: OLD BOYS' CLUB (NO GIRLS ALLOWED)." Hang it in the office for several weeks so everyone can see that a club is forming. Have a meeting outside work, and if any female colleagues show up turn them away, stating clearly, "YOU ARE GIRLS, AND WE DON'T WANT GIRLS, WE JUST WANT MARTIN'S BOY, TREVOR." Whenever a female colleague or subordinate asks for mentoring, work or a promotion, sigh and say, "I'm sorry. You are not in the Old Boys' Club. I only promote or mentor members of the Old Boys' Club, and you (as you can see from the name of the club) are not in it. I would be happy to sign a letter to this effect. It is not that your work is bad; it is just that you are not part of this club, and that is how promotions work here. Good luck making partner, though."

Sexual Harassment

DO NOT invite a female colleague with whom you have socialized normally on various occasions (so that she views you as a friend) to another such socialization, this time making an unwanted advance.

DO telephone a female colleague or subordinate and ask, "Pardon me, would you come to my hotel's bar so that I may sexually harass you? I am sitting here with a bucket of champagne and disrespect, and you should feel confident that the interaction we have will not be professional. There is no reason you would come join me except to be sexually harassed. Do not be confused! I have one goal for this evening: sexual harassment! I have written a note to this effect, which I am now signing and dating."

Alexandra Petri is a columnist for The Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter, @petridishes.

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