The picture of Mary Lowry, wife of the governor of Washington, stayed with us most of the day. In her eyes, the stress of the past year shows. What hell she’s been through. Her husband has become an example of how not to behave in the workplace. And the $97,500 settlement of sexual harassment allegations was Lowry family money - money that could have gone for a new car, a trip, retirement.
We thought of Mike Lowry’s daughter, too. A young woman who must live with jokes about a father who allegedly played kissy-face with the hired help. What a legacy for her future children.
Mostly, though, we thought of former press aide Susanne Albright. She has a new job and is trying to patch together a private life. But the past follows her. Strangers query: “Oh, are you her?”
The rules have changed in the workplace. A man (or woman) no longer can tell off-color jokes, rub, kiss, fondle or harass without consequences. Might get away with it for a while. But eventually, someone will blow the whistle, sue.
The rules have changed, in part, because of high-profile cases such as the one involving Lowry and Albright. These cases - Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas also come to mind - are helping to set the standards by which we judge acceptable workplace behavior.
So, a young woman might remember Albright, and that might give her courage to speak up before a nervous breakdown hits, before a compelling job becomes a public relations nightmare.
And maybe some boss will remember Lowry and keep his hands to himself.
These incidents also might help teach us that respect must be the language of the modern workplace. In the long run, this will be better for society.
But no one should gloss over the human toll of these cases. Mike Lowry’s political career is on life support. Albright will be tagged for a long time as the woman who charged the governor with sexual harassment and got $97,500. And just look into Mary Lowry’s eyes.
There are no victors here. Only sad, and we hope, wiser human beings.
, DataTimes MEMO: See also John Webster’s view under headline “Leadership means backing off in ‘96”