A&F Staff Writer
Editor’s note: If you are at all triggered by sexual assault, please use caution when reading this piece. In addition, opinions expressed in this article only represent those of the individual writer and not the editorial staff as a whole.
For 20 plus years Matt Lauer treated me better than my own husband. He was there every morning during my coffee-time, a break I held dear to my heart as an overworked homemaker. OK, it lasted longer than your average break but that is beside the point.
Matt had qualities my husband did not. He was always funny first thing in the morning, always knew everything going on in the world at any given moment, which made him a fantastic conversationalist. Technically, not with me but still. And that smile. Can we ever forget that smile? Apparently, The Today Show wants to forget the mistake they made hiring him in the first place and wiped the smile right off of Matt’s face when he lost the sweet $25 million gig he had going.
One minute Matt was on the sofa next to me, the next he was gone. You could almost see his smoke trail, like a jet piercing the sky. That is how Rochelle Clement, Highsmith food court cashier, felt. Although not a long time follower of Matt like I was, she also felt how fast his presence left the room.
“I’m all for the women if they have proof,” Clement said. “I would say something right then.”
The accusations have flown through the air faster than a comet. But are they true? Have any been proven beyond a shadow of doubt? Call me a skeptic, but I only hear one side of the story coming out.
Lauer, excuse the name shift here, he was Matt when we were all cozy on the sofa. Now he is just Lauer to me. His wife uses a different name now too, I heard.
Lauer publicly admitted there is enough truth to the statements that he is embarrassed and ashamed. But is he guilty? And of what? Did his contract include a morals clause? One woman at least has admitted to their affair being consensual. How many more were looking to perhaps become the next Mrs. $25 million? Also, weren’t these adult women? Were they not capable of simply saying no or reporting him? Plenty of lawyers would have jumped at the opportunity, pro bono no less. At the risk of sounding as if I am taking the side of Satan himself, was not Lauer in essence hired for this job based on his charisma? Is NBC really all that surprised that the man they hired to charm the masses turned that talent on women closest to him?
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances. I do not know about you, but I sure would have welcomed some attention from old Matty Boy. Oh there’s that name shift again. See, he’s back on the sofa with me.
His wife sure did have a morals clause and now she is hurrying up divorce proceedings. Damn, 19 years and three kids, she is done with sharing.
Lauer has not disclosed if his activities were in legal terms, quid pro quo. But I bet he is getting familiar with a lot of legal terms now.
According to Shelby Burleson, a junior senior political science student, that is how it should be.
“I think even though he’s a very prominent face in media, it is important to set a precedent and say that is not going to happen in this company,” Burleson said.
Quid pro quo basically means when he said, “Hurry it up darlin’” he added, “or you’ll lose your job.” It only takes one instance of that, according to the EEOC, to file legal action. The actual numbers of people, not just women, who have experienced workplace sexual harassment are all over the board. Some surveys list one in three workers, others report finding higher statistics. But to the person it happens to, none of that matters. They are the only statistic that counts. Should they report it? Will they lose their job if they report it?
Guilty parties need to be held accountable and victims may have to decide whether the job or potentially walking away is worth more.
Determining if you are being sexually harassed is not always so black and white. Is it one too many sexual jokes bantered around the office, but purportedly not intended for you?
Is it when your boss comes to your desk and announces he’s a player, like what happened to me? I simply said, “Well, I’m not,” and turned away, thinking, “Did he just say what I think he really meant?”
I never filed a complaint. Well, who would I have filed it with? The company was a publisher with only a few employees, just us and the boss. No one to act as a buffer there in that chain of command.
What I did not know is how easy it is to file a discrimination complaint with the EEOC. They will not take complaints over the phone, but you can speed up the process by calling 1-800-669-4000 to submit the information. They will then forward your complaint to the local field office, which will schedule an appointment with you. Supporting documentation, such as copies of harassing emails and poor performance evaluations (did Lauer give any of those?) are suggested. Making a complaint in a timely manner could help.