Why Should I Take Down My Pinup Calendar?

Question:

I am being written up for harassment. I was asked to take down a swimsuit calendar because a secretary could see only the small pictures on the back. I took it down and covered the offending pictures and rehung it. How can I be written up for harassment when the same calendar is hanging on a bulletin board in her department and which she often uses and on which she even posts racy jokes and cartoons. She has said nothing about that one. Help, I need somebody!

Signed,

Written Up


Answer:

Dear Written Up:

You say you are being written up for harassment. If you mean you are getting more than a verbal reprimand and a reminder about hostile work environment concerns for only this one incident that does seem severe. Usually a severe response would indicate that something else has gone on before this–perhaps a conflict with this woman or others? Have you been talked to before about it?

The pictures on the back that could be seen would be a matter for concern, but whether or not someone can see the pictures on the front, they are not appropriate for a work setting. If typical swimsuit pictures are on the side you see, you need to take the entire calendar down. Offices do not belong to employees but rather to the company and the company is liable for what is on the walls. If a lawsuit were filed, such calendars would be considered evidence of a hostile work environment.

If there are no pictures on your side, then any calendar would do as well, and it would not seem so stubborn or hostile on your part as it does to cover up the back and re-hang the calendar as though it is a treasured item you simply cannot do without! If there are pictures on your side you are implying that you cannot be happy without having them to look at. In either case it presents you in a bad light.

You mention a similar calendar that has racy jokes and cartoons on it, but the woman has said nothing about that one. That also indicates to me that there is personal conflict or that something else has happened prior to this. It also indicates that your supervisors and managers need to be more aware of such things. There is no business reason to have such displays–and they consciously or subconsciously have an impact on the thoughts of people who see them. Besides, this is today, not fifty years ago, and things like that belong in a garage, home office or basement, not at work. Fun is fun and work is work.

Consider writing a response about your disciplinary action in which you say you did not realize the calendar would be offensive because another one is in the open and seen by everyone. Take a picture if you think that is needed. Say that it sends a mixed message to have that kind of inconsistency and you would like to ask that a more consistent policy be established so you and others do not inadvertently violate the rules again. If you can say you have voluntarily taken your calendar down, that might help you as well.

Writing the letter may not get you anywhere if you have been talked to already, but it might at least result in the other calendar being removed and a more consistent policy being established. Or, if you do not want to write a letter about it, maybe you could simply discuss it with your boss or with personnel. If you were in a fairly large organization–especially if it has an HR section or a legal department, you can bet someone would want to know about what is on the walls.

At the same time, think about whether or not you should ask for assistance to reduce the conflict between you and the person complaining. It may be that all it will take is for you to be civil and limit your interactions with her as much as possible. It might take more than that. One thing is for sure–if the conflict is not reduced something else will happen to create another issue. The calendar appears to have been an excuse rather than a reason–even though that doesn’t eliminate your responsibility for it. Work to ensure that nothing can be used against you in the future. Think about how you are viewed–and avoid drawing a line in the dirt over things that are not worth a battle.

I hope this gives you some ideas for getting through the situation with as few problems as possible. If you wish and have the time, please let us know how it all works out.

Acting as you would if you owned the workplace is thinking WEGO.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.