Legal Grounds

Illustration for article titled Legal Grounds

Have you heard about the case of Tamara Klopfenstein? She was hired to be a receptionist/data entry clerk. After working for a few weeks, her (male) bosses asked her to get their coffee for them. She declined, and her manager e-mailed her, saying: "This is not open for debate. Please don't make an easy task a big deal." Klopfenstein felt that getting coffee "reinforced outdated gender stereotypes," so the next day, when she was asked to get coffee again, she sent an e-mail that read: "I don't expect to serve and wait on you by making and serving you coffee every day." Nine minutes later, she was fired. Klopfenstein promptly sued the company for sexual discrimination and sexual harassment. The judge ruled: "The act of getting coffee is not, by itself, a gender-specific act," and dismissed the case. But Klopfenstein's attorneys argue that "Some tasks are inherently more offensive to women." As one site points out, "Getting coffee, much like sexualizing women by making them wear short skirts or heels, is undeniably a way that men in male dominated workspaces have demeaned women, putting them in their place as servants or housewives (or sex objects) as opposed to professionals." One one hand, you've got to wonder if a male receptionist would be asked to fetch coffee. On the other hand, don't most jobs include things not listed in the job description? [Classical Values, Feminist Law Professors]

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Dances with Peeps


I agree with you.

I'm a legal secretary (studying for my paralegal certificate). Thankfully, our group is pretty egalitarian, but lawyers are paid by the hour. If they're getting coffee, running errands or picking up lunch, then they're not billing.

Happily, we have a department (made up of mostly men) who make coffee and fill hot pots every morning, but we also have two *bucks machines in the office. The lawyers have been quite happy to get their own coffee, as they want it, from the machines, and it gives them a short break.

Do I like always running out for lunch or shopping for greeting cards or whatever? No. But the lawyers I work for have returned the favor when I've been buried and they have some free time.