Tasting Breast Milk And Other Alleged Misdeeds in the Library of Congress

I’ve written on lactation and sexual harassment policies – I didn’t anticipate the opportunity to discuss both in the same article. As reported in the Washington Post, the Library of Congress recently settled a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by one of its librarians. The librarian alleged that the former Chief of the Law Library for the Library of Congress sexually harassed her and other librarians. Among the specific allegations were that he made remarks about female staffers’ bodies and informed some he’d tasted human breast milk.

So much material here, where to start . . . Let’s get the HR lesson out of the way: According to her complaint, the Library of Congress conducted an investigation, found him responsible for inappropriate behavior in 2007, but did nothing about it – after which he escalated his behavior. NEVER EVER conduct an internal investigation, conclude that sexual harassment occurred, and do nothing about it. It’s worse than not investigating at all.

Now, for other interesting pieces of this story. If true, his actions would be inappropriate in any workplace. Context does matter, though, and some industries and workplaces have different environments than others. The alleged harasser has to know, or have reason to know, his behavior was unwelcome. Take Hooters, for example. It may be harder for a waitress at Hooters to show that harassing conduct was unwelcome. Although on Undercover Boss, we learned that Hooters’ CEO was shocked to find that his waitresses were treated in a degrading fashion, I, for one, was not.

If I were to pick any workplace, in which I would assume such comments were NOT welcome, it would be a library. The LIBRARY OF CONGRESS more than any other library, in THE LAW LIBRARY. I’ve spent time in that library and can tell you that you get looked at sideways for turning the newspaper pages too loudly. The very thought of the Library Chief making sexually inappropriate comments in that environment is wrong on so many levels.

And as far as tasting human breast milk? I read in People Magazine (in between reading law review articles and scholarly blogs…) about this guy who makes cheese and other tasty recipes with his wife’s breast milk. Somehow, I imagine when Mr. Library Chief said he’d tasted breast milk, it wasn’t in Chef Dan’s cheese.