Rose Brauchle was 18 and working at the Kmart on Allentown’s South Fourth Street when the cute guy in the tools department offered her a ride home. She declined, knowing her father wouldn’t approve. Her would-be suitor was a gentleman about being turned down, she recalled. When a later shift ended in the middle of a storm, she approached him for a ride.
Tom, the stock clerk, and Brauchle were married two years later and have been together 39 years.
But at the same time that Rose was getting to know her future husband, she was dealing with supervisors who ogled her and made unwanted comments about her body. A creepy supervisor, she said, would run his hand down her back.
“I wish I had been smart like that woman was,” Brauchle said, referring to one of the women who last week leveled sexual misconduct allegations against fired “Today” show host Matt Lauer. “But I was 18, it was my first job and I probably thought this is the way the world works. You need the job. What are you going to say?”
Brauchle’s story highlights the minefield companies must navigate with policies that punish sexual harassment without polarizing men and women in the workplace. Human resources professionals say that with each high-profile accusation, companies are becoming more aware of their liability.
They should already have policies prohibiting supervisors from pressuring subordinates into sexual relationships, which has led to the ousters of Lauer, movie producer Harvey Weinstein, former Fox News executive Roger Ailes and journalist Charlie Rose, among others. But as companies push contracts on dating co-workers or rethink the annual office holiday party, they need to be careful not to encroach on the healthy romances that often blossom between co-workers, human resources experts said.