Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Is Fetching Coffee Sexist?

Apparently it is if your name is Tamara Klopfenstein. The afore-mentioned Ms. Klopfenstein actually brought a lawsuit complaining that being asked to bring coffee for her superiors was a sexist act.

According to the report on the Philadelphia Inquirer's website,
Nine minutes after receptionist Tamara Klopfenstein complained - for the second time - about getting her bosses coffee, she was fired.

"I don't expect to serve and wait on you by making and serving you coffee every day," Klopfenstein e-mailed to her boss at National Sales & Supply L.L.C., of Bensalem.

Manager Jason Shrager told her the issue wasn't "open for debate."

Naturally, Klopfenstein sued the company, where according the notes in reporter Jane Von Bergen's story, "she had been employed as a part-time receptionist and data entry clerk for six weeks." So let's recap:

Part-time receptionist and data entry clerk is requested to get coffee for her managers. She complains in an email not once but twice. After the second complaint, an email where she essentially told her managers that she considered bringing them coffee beneath her dignity (part-time receptionist, remember), she was fired- essentially on the spot.

Fortunately, there are sane judges even in Philadelphia. The presiding justice, one Berle Schiller, threw out her complaint.
"The act of getting coffee is not, by itself, a gender-specific act," Schiller wrote. The fact that a vice president wrote "looks nice, dresses well," on notes when she was hired also doesn't add up to discrimination, the judge wrote.

This cannot be more true. It is just one more sad result of a world whee people are convinced that they are too good for this or that task. Ms. Klopfenstein was a part-time receptionist and data entry clerk. This is not exactly a highly skilled position, and her tenure with the firm was a mere six weeks. Where exactly did she decide that it was acceptable to dictate to her superiors what tasks she would and would not perform for the company? I am entirely in agreement with the judge in this case- the only negative is that her lawyers have said they will appeal, and their chances of finding an agreeable judge who will decide that somehow this incredibly silly woman's 'rights' were violated are regrettably high considering this country's legal profession.

However, this is not the only issue. According to the blog Classical Values, Klopfenstein's attorneys are planning to make the argument that "some tasks are inhernetly more offensive to women". Classical Values very properly skewers THAT idea, writing,
To see this out, let's assume getting coffee is less offensive to men than women. Does that mean it should become "men's work," and that only men should be asked to fetch coffee, lest women be offended by being asked? Can anyone tell me how that wouldn't be sexist? If a man worked somewhere and could show that only men were tasked with getting coffee, couldn't he sue?

And why couldn't women also sue? If we adopt the plaintiff's position, and the company were to show more sensitivity by defering to women, what would stop a woman from turning around and claiming that the company was preventing her from doing what had become "men's work"?

Essentially we have here a very silly individual who somehow believes that she- a very unimportant and low-ranking cog in the firm- has the right to dictate to her superiors what she will and will not do. And when her superiors very correctly determine that this type of person is not an asset and terminate her employment, she runs off to court to try to somehow punish them for making that decision. I applaud Judge Schiller, but unfortunately, our court system tends to allow people like Klopfenstein multiple chances to win, no matter how bereft of logic and value their cases may be.

Hat tip to Glenn Reynolds.

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