DEAR ABBY: I am writing regarding the letter from "Grossed Out in Florida," the 18-year-old waitress who is subject to lewd remarks and repeatedly asked out by much older men at her workplace. Please urge her to inform her supervisors that she's being sexually harassed, because her employer has a responsibility to stop the harassment. If possible, she should put her concerns in writing and keep a copy of the letter. If management refuses to address her concerns, she should contact an attorney or legal organization for more information about her rights.
Young women and girls in the hospitality industries are often targets of sexual harassment that is believed to be "just part of the job." These situations may escalate into stalking and other forms of violence. Being "friendly," "polite," and telling a harasser that he reminds you of "someone very special" -- even if it is her grandfather -- is NOT a way to stop sexual harassment in the workplace.
Please encourage your readers to identify sexual harassment and to understand that they have legal rights. Equal Rights Advocates (ERA) provides free legal advice and information about gender discrimination concerns in employment and education, including sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, family medical leave, pay equity and retaliation for complaining about these issues. ERA's Legal Advice and Counseling Hotline can be reached at (800) 839-4372. -- IRMA D. HERRERA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SAN FRANCISCO
DEAR IRMA: Thank you for sharing this important resource. I predict your hotline will be inundated. And I apologize for making light of the problem. Sexual harassment isn't a laughing matter, especially to the target. Readers, ERa also has a Web site: www.equalrights.org. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: "Grossed Out in Florida" asked where older men "get the idea" they can date much younger women. For the answer to that question one need only look at the nearest movie theater marquee:
Harrison Ford (61) with Michelle Pfeiffer (45), Kristin Scott Thomas (43) or Anne Heche (34) -- a 16- to 27-year age gap.
Michael Douglas (59) with Famke Janssen (38), Frances McDormand (46) or Gwyneth Paltrow (31) -- a 13- to 28-year age gap.
Steve Martin (58) with Bonnie Hunt (39), Jean Smart (44) or Helena Bonham Carter (37) -- a 14- to 21-year age gap.
All of these relationships are presented as perfectly normal. Also, consider the fuss that was made about Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton in "Something's Gotta Give." How NICE it was to see contemporaries as a love interest! In reality, Diane is nine years younger than Jack. It's no wonder these men think that young girls will be interested because, hey, if it can happen in the movies, it can happen in real life, right? -- REALITY CHECKER, GURNEE, ILL.
DEAR REALITY CHECKER: Not only can it happen in real life -- it has: Humphrey Bogart married Lauren Bacall, Michael Douglas married Catherine Zeta-Jones, Warren Beatty married Annette Bening, Kevin Costner just married Christine Baumgartner, Harrison Ford is dating Calista Flockhart. And the reverse can be true: Let's not forget Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher!