I get a lot of media inquiries on matters of work law and industrial relations, but the latest caught me off guard. I was busy catching up on emails and listening to voicemails in the background when I heard something like the following:
Professor Doorey, I’m looking for a comment on the growing trend of masturbation at work and how an employer might go about developing a masturbation policy.
I looked up from my computer. At first I thought this might be a gag being played on me by a friend, like one of those crank call morning radio gags. But the reporter then sent a follow up email. It linked to a story from England that cited a psychology professor who argued that masturbation breaks would improve productivity and relieve workplace stress. If true, then does that suggest that employers should consider encouraging masturbation breaks at the office?
Of course, as a lawyer and law prof, I come at the issue through a legal lens, and my first thought was that a “masturbation room” at work would almost certainly result in complaints by employees who find the whole idea icky. Imagine a coworker saying “I’m stepping out for a few minutes to masturbate, be right back”. It’s a short walk from that to complaints about sexual harassment and poisoned work environment.
My advice to the reporter is set out in the resulting article published by VICE. I suggested a gym and encouragement of brief mini-work outs through the day is probably a smarter idea for employers. Similar benefits, without all the messiness.
David Doorey, “A Reporter Asked Me if Employers Should Have Masturbation Rooms” Canadian Law of Work Forum (January 14 2017): https://lawofwork.ca/masturbationrooms