Recent trends reveal that employment retaliation claims are on the rise. Further, courts are taking a hard line on offending employers accused of retaliation in employment. A review of United States Supreme Court decisions in retaliation cases reveals a remarkable degree of agreement among the Justices. Even conservative Justices who are considered supportive of business as a matter of judicial philosophy do not take kindly to retaliation against employees who have asserted workplace legal claims.
But not in Japan. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dominique Strauss-Kahn are making headlines they probably wish they had never made. While I’m not a man and can, therefore, only surmise that the root of the problem somehow goes back to The Man Gene, as John Phillips so eloquently calls it, their current woes bring to the forefront issues that some employers – or at least their supervisors – sometimes face but don’t often think about, i.e., what happens when a supervisor either engages in or is accused of sexual harassment. When we are faced with such situations, our focus is usually on the company’s potential liability and what we can do to either prevent or limit such liability. Of course, the best case scenario is to not have such accusations in the first place. And, one of the best preventative measures employers can implement is training. Oddly enough, supervisors tend to think twice about their actions when they are reminded of the consequences, which include not only potential civil liability under some state anti-discrimination statutes and other common law theories, but also the nuclear fallout that often occurs. I’m talking about the hurt caused to their families (even if the accusations prove to be wrong), their reputations, and their jobs (assuming they still have one). Schwarzenegger’s indiscretions may cost him at least two of these things and may now lead to an investigation into whether he used campaign money to pay for women. Strauss-Kahn is on suicide watch, appears to have been dismissed from his high-power position, and may be watching his political career explode. While most of our supervisors may not be in as high-profile positions as these two men, the resulting fallout can be just as devastating. Maybe it’s a good time to remind them. - Karen Smith
At times, I have surmised that one reason women are usually the victims of sexual harassment is that most men can’t resist the power of The Man Gene. A recent case demonstrates that some men can defeat The Man Gene and even be the victims of sex harassment. In EEOC v. Prospect Airport Services, Inc., a male employee filed a harassment claim against his employer and a female co-worker.
Given the media coverage infidelity receives, it’s legitimate for spouses, particularly wives, to worry about straying husbands, particularly those in high-powered jobs. When Eliot Spitzer’s sexual indiscretions forced his resignation as governor of New York, I analyzed his situation in the context of a previously little known medical phenomenon: The Man Gene. With my subsequent Man Gene posts, it seems all I’ve done is make women mad at me and make others conclude that I’m mad. I remain undeterred. The Man Gene exists, and it wreaks havoc everywhere, including the workplace.
An analogy between Macbeth and one of the most bizarre, polarizing, and deeply personal confirmation hearings ever conducted by the U.S. Senate in 1991 on the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Supreme Court may not seem clear. Not the first time my analogies have been off the wall. But there’s a legitimate HR or employment point here.
Having grown up in a small town in middle Tennessee, I wasn’t exposed much to ballet. I can’t remember seeing a ballet, except perhaps on television, until after I was married. Unlike the theatre, to which I also wasn’t exposed much as a boy, I didn’t appreciate ballet for a long time. Men and women jumping around in outfits that would be banned anywhere else. I’m afraid I didn’t get it.
It takes more than an allegation of horseplay to establish sexual harassment, but sometimes, it’s difficult to distinguish between the two. In Cross v. Prairie Meadows Racetrack & Casino, Inc., the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals considered whether alleged conduct was horseplay or sexual harassment.
Last week’s news about the clothing of a female sports reporter named Ines Sainz and the reaction by New York Jets players is still in play. My post on the subject provoked a few mixed comments and several private emails, some agreeing with me, some not. Since it’s still talked and written about, often in the context of sex discrimination or sexual harassment, it seemed to justify a tip of the week.
A sports reporter (formerly Miss Spain) was supposedly harassed at a New York Jets practice. (Here and here.) The reporter says she never felt threatened, but other reporters allege that Jets players acted inappropriately. Because the sports reporter wore a pair of skintight jeans, this incident provides the opportunity to examine whether provocative attire worn by a female has any role to play in a sex harassment case.
Well, Hewlett-Packard apparently regards Mark Hurd more highly than we thought. HP fired Mark Hurd, its CEO, for filing false expense reports. (Here and here.) This decision resulted from a sexual harassment claim against Hurd, although HP ’s investigation turned up no evidence of harassment.
My thanks to Philip Miles at lawffice space for bringing this case to my attention. It’s one of those “just when you thought you’d seen everything” cases. It has been recently filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, so it’ll take a while to see how the case unfolds and reaches climax. Sorry about that.
Already plenty strange (see previous post), Hewlett Packard’s firing of CEO Mark Hurd has become more strange. As it turns out, HP’s board of directors asked a public relaltions firm to tell HP what to do. I’m not making this up. One of the oldest and most respected technology firms in the U.S. decided on the future of its CEO based on snake oil.
A revered CEO is forced to resign as a result of a sexual harassment complaint filed by a marketing consultant/event planner who has starred in a number of steamy films and and has the pictures to prove it. (Here, here, here, and here.) The company employing the CEO and sexy consultant turns up nothing to support the sex harassment claim. But it does turn up CEO expense reports seemingly designed to cover up his relationship with the consultant. The CEO’s ethical lapse irreparably damages his integrity. Both the CEO and marketing consultant deny a sexual relationship.
There’s been much commotion over Debrahlee Lorenzana’s claim she was sexually harassed at Citibank for being too sexy. (Here, here, and here.) It brought to mind Right Said Fred’s 1991 hit I’m Too Sexy. The tongue-in-cheek song is about a model, and, though sung by a male, one could surmise that he’s actually singing about a female whose so sexy, she won’t give him the time of day. “I’m too sexy for my love . . . shirt . . . shirts . . . Milan . . . New York . . . Japan . . . your party . . . my car . . . hat . . . cat . . . this song.”
A male professor at the University of Cork in Ireland has been disciplined with two years of intensive monitoring and counseling after discussing a scientific paper with a female colleague. The paper titled “Fellatio in fruit bats prolongs copulation” offended the female professor, who was also given a copy. She claimed sexual harassment. Though an investigation found that no sexual harassment had occurred, the university’s president censured the male professor by imposing the two-year discipline, which has the effect of preventing the male professor from obtaining tenure.
I’ve felt at times like a lone voice crying in the wilderness as I post information intended to be helpful to employers in thwarting sexual harassment in the workplace. I refer, of course, to my series of posts about The Man Gene. In an eye-popping article in the New York Times, we’re told by Tara Parker-Pope, author of For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage, that my theory is gaining scientific acceptance, though science still doesn’t quite get it.
Regular readers know that I occasionally post about The Man Gene. I do so, not out prurient interest of course, but to help employers prevent sexual harassment. Sex harassment claims haven’t entered a state of decline or even leveled off in the 21st century. They increase every year. Most are filed by women because of what men say or do. Men say and do these things because of The Man Gene.
According to a female TV reporter in New York, she was sexually harassed by male co-workers and then fired because she complained about it. There was no dispute that a picture of the reporter had been doctored to portray her with cartoonishly blown up, large breasts. The reporter also said she was called “Big Butt Booty” and was on the receiving end of sex jokes. The trial against her employer, a Time Warner-owned cable news channel, lasted two weeks.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has reported an increase in the number of sexual harassment charges filed by men. In fact, between 1992 and 2008, the percentage of such charges doubled from 8% to 16%. The media has analyzed this development, opining that it results from the recession, more women in positions of power, more men willing to come forward with the charges, and mysteries yet unsolved (here and here). Fellow bloggers have also weighed in: Molly DiBianca, Workplace Prof Blog, Employment Law Post, Business Insider, and HealthChapter.
My posts on The Man Gene could lead one to conclude that the gene has a heterosexual preference. Most of these posts involve men who use their positions to sexually harass female subordinates or co-workers. As an article in the Washington Post makes clear, however, The Man Gene has no sexual preference.