UCI professor defies law on awareness training

UCI may lose a research professor who garners millions of dollars in grants for the university, thanks to a California law that requires him to undergo sexual harrassment prevention training.  Alexander McPherson considers the requirement a “sham” and a personal insult, and now says he’d rather lose his job than acquiesce:

A prominent UC Irvine biologist who generates millions in research funding might be placed on an unpaid leave for refusing to take sexual harassment prevention training he calls a “sham” that offends his sensibilities and casts suspicion on his reputation.

UCI has already relieved Alexander McPherson of his duties supervising scientists in his lab, where he studies proteins, the “building blocks of life.” The campus also ordered that his teaching responsibilities be reassigned, but the order was rescinded.

Campus officials say McPherson, 64, could be placed on leave if he doesn’t attend a training course Nov. 12 to comply with Assembly Bill 1825. The state law, passed in 2004, requires businesses that regularly employ 50 or more people to have supervisors undergo sexual harassment prevention training.

The state passed the law in 2004.  It applies to all businesses, in the private and the public sector, which overreaches.  Why should the state dictate to private enterprise how they conduct their supervisory training?  Does California propose requirements on training supervisors on other aspects of their jobs?

I’m not necessarily arguing that such training wouldn’t be beneficial, but that’s for the private businesses to decide on their own.  Most of the sexual-harassment avoidance training I’ve seen in the corporate world has been a complete waste of time.  Done well, it can be helpful to supervisors who aren’t inclined to abuse their authority already — but again, the business owners themselves should judge that, not the state.

McPherson has a different problem, however.  He works for the state of California; UCI is a state university.  I understand his objections, but as his employer, the state has the right to set the terms of his employment.  If he finds that objectionable, McPherson should find a position elsewhere.