I think it is fair to say that there is a degree of confusion associated with the #metoo movement. While the egregious behavior of people like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey is clear and definitive, what is less clear is where are all of the lines are inside a society that is moving toward a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment.
It is customary for many people, especially Latinos, to greet their family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances with a hug and sometimes a kiss on the cheek. This custom is even more accepted in parts of Europe and Latin America. However, in a recent conversation I had with an attorney who specializes in harassment in the workplace, it was conveyed to me that there are definite risks associated with this custom in a professional environment. If someone does not feel comfortable being greeted in such a manner, it could create liability for individuals and possibly employers who don’t set clear policies to address this. I think this is unfortunate. One of the things that makes NAHREP special is the warmth newcomers feel when they first attend an event. But as our society evolves, it is necessary for us to evolve as well.
When I was a teen, my parents taught me how to greet people, especially adults, correctly. One of the things I remember them saying was that it was appropriate to extend my hand first to offer to shake another man’s hand. On the other hand, when greeting a woman, I should follow her lead and stand there with my hands to my side until she extends her hand, or chooses to greet me in another way. I am not sure that I have always adhered to this advice, but it always stuck with me. At the risk of sounding a little sexist, I think this may be a good policy for men when greeting a woman in a professional environment – especially when encountering a woman who you don’t know well. Wait for her to initiate contact, and follow her lead from there. Make sure and err on the side of caution and consideration.