Tavis Smiley: If You Can't Date At Work, Where Can You Date

As PBS investigates Tavis Smiley amid allegations of sexual misconduct with former employees, Smiley wonders: if you can’t date your coworkers, who can you date

Smiley raised his very important question on Monday night on Fox’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

“Do you think the rule ought to be that you’re not allowed to date your subordinates Should that be allowed” host Tucker Carlson asked Smiley.

“I certainly understand that there are persons who believe there is no such thing as a consensual relationship in the workplace, I hear that,” Smiley began.

“But there are other opinions on that,” he continued. “In my employee handbook we do not encourage inter-office relationships, but we don’t forbid it either, because I don’t know how things are gonna turn out in your life. When you start hanging out with our company, I don’t know who you’re gonna meet.”

“And let’s face it, nobody is working 40 hour weeks anymore, we’re working 40-, 50-, 70-, 80-hour weeks. Where else are you going to meet people in this business”

Smiley appeared earlier on Monday on “Good Morning America” and made similar arguments. He also admitted to dating several women he worked with over the years, including one who still works with him.

PBS responded within hours.

“Tavis Smiley needs to get his story straight,” the network said in a statement.

“First, today on ‘Good Morning America,’ Mr. Smiley acknowledged he has had multiple sexual encounters with his employees… This contradicts his Facebook post from last week, where he cited only one previous relationship with an employee.”

Meanwhile, Smiley also criticized PBS for not sharing with him who his accusers were.

“Witnesses who have bravely come forward to speak with the independent investigators retained by PBS report a fear of retribution for speaking out,” a spokesperson for the network said. “PBS stands by its decision to respect the anonymity of those who are afraid to come forward publicly. Additional allegations are continuing to come to light since last week’s announcement.”

More accusers have come forward since PBS announced its investigation, the network added.

PBS announced earlier in the month that an investigation “uncovered multiple, credible allegations of conduct that is inconsistent with the values and standards of PBS.” The network therefore suspended syndication of Smiley’s show. Smiley owns his own media company, and PBS had been airing the “Tavis Smiley” show since 2004.

In his defense on Monday Smiley pointed to the “millions of Americans who met their spouse at work.”

“The problem is we’re starting to criminalize legitimate relationships between consenting adults, and that’s a real problem for me,” Smiley said.

Studies point to a much more pressing problem than Smiley not being able to get a date. According to research from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “anywhere from 25% to 85% of women report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.”

One factor the report noted is that if examples and/or a definition of sexual harassment was provided, more women were likely to say they had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace:

“Based on this consistent result, researchers have concluded that many individuals do not label certain forms of unwelcome sexually based behaviors — even if they view them as problematic or offensive — as ‘sexual harassment.'”

Similarly, statistics from Cosmopolitan found that 1 in 3 women ages 18 to 34 have been sexually harassed at work, and some of them didn’t even know it. Sixteen percent of women surveyed said “no” when asked if they had ever been sexually harassed at work but then said “yes” when asked if they had experienced sexually explicit or sexist remarks.

Not labeling their experiences as “sexual harassment” has no bearing on the damaging side effects, the EEOC also noted. “As one group of researchers pointed out, data from three organizations ‘demonstrate that whether or not a woman considers her experience to constitute sexual harassment, she experiences similar negative psychological, work, and health consequences.'”

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