Monday, March 31, 2008

With deepest respect madam, could I order a gin and tonic?

Women and Equalities Minister
and Inquisitor General

For bureaucrats whose business is everyone else's, a day without adding further limitations on people's behavior is a day wasted.

For the moment, this could probably happen only in Mad Human Disease Britain. I don't think I'll classify this under my "Britain self-destructs" heading, though, because in so many similar respects, the U.K. may be only a baby step or two out front of the rest of us free societies.
Bar managers and store owners face large-scale compensation claims if their customers ogle their barmaids, waitresses or check-out staff. …

The regulations say that bosses are responsible for protecting their staff from sexual harassment by customers - and that those who fail to do so can face unlimited compensation claims.
"Sexual harrassment" isn't what you understand by the term, if you are sane. This law (or order or whatever it is — I don't know that officials in Britain have to go through the bother of getting laws passed anymore) means "a pub landlord could be sued if a bar worker complains about being called 'love', or over customers telling each other off-colour jokes." ("Love" or "luv" is, or used to be, a pleasantry addressed to someone of the opposite sex in England, with no erotic connotations.)
The rules allow tribunals to award unlimited damages for injury to feelings if a case is proved.

The burden of proof will lie with employers. There will be no need for workers to show their employer allowed harassment to happen - instead, managers must demonstrate that they were not at fault.

Workers must show they suffered three incidents of harassment before they can make a claim. The incidents can involve different customers, so it will not be enough for a bar manager to ban just one difficult drinker.

Is there any limit to how far the nanny state will go to regulate behavior and interaction between people? The rationale seems to be that no one can be trusted to behave properly unless they are warned and someone is delegated to keep them in line.

Of course there are a minority of unskilled drinkers who make jackasses of themselves, and among them a smaller group that behave crudely toward waitresses. I can't believe that number is very large, although I don't hang out in bars, so maybe I'm mistaken.

But I've known a bartender or two, and there is no doubt that they have techniques for dealing with troublemakers of all sorts, including ones who offer obnoxious, unwanted attentions to women on the premises, whether customers or employees. The ability to handle situations like that with some tact is part of their job qualifications. They certainly do not need a government priesthood to help them cope — nay, to threaten them with loss of livelihood if someone sends a wrong "signal" in the direction of a pub's booze distribution specialist.

Regulations like this throw a wet blanket over social interaction, injecting a dose of fear that you will inadvertently slip over some ill-defined line into what the Busybody Ministry regards as "sexual harassment." They also reinforce the notion that people cannot be trusted to exercise self-control, or settle indiscretions as one individual to another, justifying ever more minute government intervention into daily life.

And here is yet one more opportunity for people to claim compensation — unlimited compensation! — for hurt feelings. Injury or threats ought not to be tolerated. But who is so weak that they can't put up with an occasional offensive remark? If there is any such person, I doubt it's a pub waitress.



YIH said...

I guess they've never heard of the ''Hooters'' chain of sports bars/restraunts.
Wonder if there's any in the UK? ;)

leadpb said...

You know, all I had to see was the photo of that woman and the photo caption and I knew the whole story. A face to curdle milk, and seemingly the disposition to go with. Perhaps there is an oversupply of this type and so the amplification the PC statutes is a natural process, with a ready work force on hand.