By C. Michael Forsyth
NEW BRUNSWICK, Conn. — All the female employees at a large New England manufacturing firm are suing their boss for sexual harassment — because the lecherous creep makes them work bending over!
Accusers charge that the bizarre office policy of Milton Hamberby, owner of Hamberby Office Products, is “degrading” and reduces them to sex objects.
“This isn’t a matter of keeping some ‘important files’ in a bottom drawer so a boss can leer at a secretary’s derriere,” says feminist attorney Courtney Wakenfall. “This is an official, company-wide policy that affects everyone from the receptionist to the female factory workers on the assembly line.”
Hamberby, a 65-year-old grandfather of eight, angrily rejects the claim and cites studies that show employees are far more productive when they work bent over.
“I’ve been manufacturing ergonomically designed products for the past 35 years — but hey, maybe these women’s lib lawyers know more than me,” he told reporters bitterly.
One long-term worker, who asks that her name not be used, says that when she took the job in 2002 and read about the unconventional policy in the employee handbook, she initially thought it was a joke.
“Then I noticed that every woman in the office was bent over at the waist, whether it was to type at a computer terminal, talk to customers on the phone or lay out advertising materials.”
At first the new hire was a bit uncomfortable abiding by the office policy.
“Mr. Hamberby’s desk is positioned so he can see you wherever you are. It was embarrassing being bent over all the time because he got an eyeful of your caboose. I often had the creepy feeling that he was staring at me — but whenever I glanced back, he’d give this enthusiastic grin and a big thumbs up, like I was doing a good job.
“After a few months I just got used to it and working with my rear end pointing skyward became second nature.”
But for years, women grumbled among themselves about the policy. The straw that broke the camel’s back came last July when the boss loudly chewed out a 22-year-old proofreader in full view of her colleagues, for not bending over “far enough” while checking over ad copy. The humiliated worker was reduced to tears, and by week’s end the women had banded together to file the $8 million suit.
Among the charges in the 11-page lawsuit, it is alleged that the women risk back injury by toiling eight hours a day in the awkward position. Hamberby’s retort is to point out that women who “are over 45, pregnant or obese” are exempt from the rule — as are all males.
To the women’s attorney, that just proves her point.
“This sleazy, unreconstructed male chauvinist pig is interested in only one thing,” Wakenfall says. “That is feasting his eyes on as much young, female backside as humanly possible.”
Copyright C. Michael Forsyth
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