“Chivalry” Is Not Dead – It Just May Be Considered Sexual Harassment Now

Last year I authored a post in Above The Law in which I mentioned an interview with Manolo Blahnik. Apparently, the modern workplace left him confused.

“He shared an increasingly common workplace concern: can I still compliment women at work, or could that be considered sexual harassment?”

Manolo bemoaned that “he struggles with knowing what he can say … ‘I cannot say, ‘How wonderful you look.’ I cannot pay compliments … because maybe it can be called sexual harassment.’”

He said that “he was ‘given a list of things he cannot say to people’ for fear of crossing a line.” But he noted that “the list was not given to him specifically, adding ‘somebody gave it to everybody.’”  

As I noted in my ATL post: “Well, there is no bright line, and the words, content, and tone used, as well as facial expressions and posture, must all be taken in context. As in life. ‘Consider how it might sound to a woman.’ So, to Manolo (and to all of us who share his concerns), I say: Sorry, Manolo — life is hard indeed. Better stick to shoes — unless you listen to Amy [you know, my partner – the Notorious AEG – in her many blog posts], leave the compliments to others.”

Now, another creative person, Plácido Domingo, seems similarly bedeviled about the modern workplace. Charged with sexual harassment, which he denies, he was interviewed and defended his actions by bemoaning in a similar vein, how easy one can be miscontrued:

“The Spaniards are warm, affectionate and caring. I have been gallant but always within the limits of chivalry, respect and sensitivity. Behaviours, that in the past could have been considered gallant gestures, are today perceived very differently.”

Yep, the Mad Men era is over, huh Placido? Get over it.

Takeaway

Placido – forget the “gallantry.” You’re not in King Arthur’s Court. It may actually be sexual harassment.

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Richard Cohen

Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]