Tag Archives: hostile work environment

Ethics Dunce: Tavis Smiley (Tavis, Please Pay Attention: The Workplace Isn’t Your Dating Bar)

“I’ll consent to your annual raise, if you’ll consent to going out with me…deal?”

(Now this is why companies and organizations that want to avoid sexual harassment problems need effective training sessions, ideally run by me.)

Tavis Smiley, the PBS talk show host suspended from the network and currently in the process of being erased from the culture due to allegations of sexual harassment, was asked by Tucker Carlson on the latter’s Fox News show about the propriety of a supervisor having sexual relationships with subordinates in the workplace. Smiley responded with this jaw dropper:

I certainly understand that there are persons who believe that there is no such thing as a consensual relationship in the workplace. I hear that. I can respect that point of view. But there are other opinions on this. In my employee handbook we do not encourage interoffice relationships but we don’t forbid it either because I don’t know how things are going to turn out in your life and you start hanging out with our company. I don’t know who you’re going to meet. And let’s face it, nobody’s working 40-hour weeks anymore. We are working 40-, 50-, 70-, 80-hour weeks. Where else are you going to meet people in this business?

His answer was self-indicting, deceitful, ignorant, stupid, and redolent of rationalizations.

Carlson didn’t ask about “consensual relationships in the workplace.” He asked about whether relationships between women and the men who have the power to fire them, promote them, give them raises or make their working lives a living hell are appropriate. The answer is no. Of course no. Nor can they possibly be called consensual. Quite apart from that aspect, such relationships, even if they are initiated by the subordinate, constitute per se unethical management. They undermine morale. They undermine respect for and the authority of the manager. They create suspicion and distrust of the staffer. They create a hostile work environment for all the women in that workplace. destroy staffs and organizations. They are the organizational equivalents of incest. They are wrong. Always. This isn’t a new discovery either. It should be obvious.

“Where else are you going to meet people in this business?” Well gee, Tavis, it sounds like you have a choice to make. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 12/18/2017: Life Is An Unethical Cabaret, My Friends…At Least Lately

Good Morning!

1  Really now: What’s the matter with you? How many of these will it take for everyone to agree that it’s intolerable?

Let’s recap, shall we? Last week, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier confidently cited a “rumor” that that the President was going to fire Special Counsel Mueller imminently. (It would not be undeserved.) The rumor was then treated by the mainstream news media as news, which is, you know, supposed to be fact. This “news” then was considered sufficiently alarming that multiple Democrats and “resistance” members, including former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder (disgracefully) advocated an insurrection, as in “taking the streets.”

Asked about this rumor qua news, President Trump said, no, he wasn’t considering firing Mueller. Did uou know that in the old days, when journalists at least pretended to be ethical, the President would have been asked about a rumor involving his intentions before it was published as news, and before assholes on the Left used it to advocate social unrest?

The episode is beyond unethical. How can anyone support 1) this 2) people who act like this 3) journalists who facilitate this,  4) a party that continues to encourage this, or 5) anyone who supports or enables 1)-4) ?

2. He just doesn’t get it…like a lot of people. Tavis Smiley, whose problems were discussed in the previous post, said this morning that while he did engage in sexual relations with his some subordinates, they were all consensual and therefore did not constitute sexual harassment or an abuse of power. He’s oh so wrong.

Subordinates never have complete freedom to reject the sexual overtures of their boss, so they never can truly consent. It is inherently an abuse of power. Moreover, third party harassment is inevitable, as other female employees are sent the message that they work in a harem. Are they required to submit to the sultan’s desires? If they aren’t asked to submit by their Great Alpha Male, does that mean they have displeased him?

That a hostile work environment, Tavis.

3. ‘If you could see her from my eyes’..Smiley’s attitude conforms to that of a lot of sexual harassers, including, in all likelihood, the President’s. It wasn’t sexual harassment, they believe, because who wouldn’t want to receive their sexual advances?

This made me reflect on this hard-edged number from the film version of “Cabaret,” sung by Joel Grey’s evil MC as sly anti-Semitism for laughs. (I did not know that the number at one point was cut from the stage version because audiences didn’t get the satire until I saw a documentary about Jewish-themed musicals on PBS last night)

If the chilling last line of the song were altered to “It wouldn’t be harassment at all!,” with the “gorilla” representing the way so many women are treated in the workplace, the M.C. would be accurately expressing  Matt’s, Al’s, Harvey’s, Bill’s, Ben’s, Dustin’s, and Tavis’s creed.

4. Is Al Gore next? Not if the New York Times can help it. In a story detailing the rampant sexual abuse and harassment of hotel employees by guests, Al Gore’s name never comes up. The story includes the stunning results of  union survey of hotel workers in Chicago found that 58% of them had been sexually harassed by a guest. Yet in 2010, when three hotel masseuses claimed that Gore sexually harassed him, his denials were sufficient to make the episode quickly discounted and forgotten. What would happen if the same allegations were made today? If Gore had been elected President last years, would Senator Gillibrand be calling for his resignation?

Plan J would seem to demand it.

5. Why sexual harassment allegations are not necessarily credible. From The Hill: Continue reading

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Questions And Observations On A Fascinating Sexual Harassment Episode I Can’t Even Think Of The Right Word To Describe…

 

From the Washington Post today:

While debating a land-use bill at a committee meeting on Tuesday night, Pennsylvania state Rep. Matt Bradford laid his hand — for just a moment — on the left forearm of the colleague sitting next to him.

That colleague was conservative Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who interrupted Bradford mid-sentence with a personal bit of information.

“Look, I’m a heterosexual. I have a wife, I love my wife, I don’t like men — as you might. But stop touching me all the time,” Metcalfe told Bradford, who then began laughing.

Several other members of the committee, which Metcalfe chairs, giggled and smirked.

“Keep your hands to yourself,” said Metcalfe, a Republican from Butler County. “If you want to touch somebody, you have people on your side of the aisle who might like it.

“I don’t.”

Questions and Observations:

  • I love this story!

I wish I had made it up as an ethics hypothetical!

  • What difference does it make that Metcalfe is a conservative?

Would a liberal legislator who felt uncomfortable by an unwelcome touch have his complaint reported in the same way? Continue reading

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The Rep. Kihuen Matter And The Trouble With Witch Hunts

Accused Congressman with unidentified woman…

After last week’s appearance on an NPR panel on sexual harassment, hosted by Michel Martin, I posted some important aspects of the topic that I felt needed to be covered, but were not because of time constraints. I wrote in part…

[T]hese accusations can be weaponized, just like rape accusations on campus. Sexual harassment law can be used as a sword as well as a shield, and if provided the chance, I can explain how and give real life examples. One is Anita Hill…

The fact that sexual harassment has to be unwelcome sexual attention in the workplace is not generally understood. It also is unique: what other acts are deemed unlawful, regardless of intent, based on how the object of those acts chooses to react? This feature is why sexual harassment law is viewed by many women and men as inherently unfair. It literally means—I have a skit I use in training that illustrates this—that if actors George Clooney and Steve Buscemi behave exactly the same toward an object of their affections in a workplace setting, and the woman involved finds George attractive and Steve not so much, Steve has engaged in sexual harassment, but George hasn’t.

“When ethics fail the law steps in,” and this is a case where the law is a terrible substitute for ethics. Men like George, and, yes, Trump and even Harvey, are convinced that their touches, hugs, gropes and kisses won’t be unwelcome, and so they don’t think of themselves as harassers. For poor Steve, Al, Louis and other homely non-billionaires, it’s worth a shot, in their mind.

Meanwhile, what is “welcome”? … Is the conduct by a man with a grope or a kiss sexual harassment whenever the woman decides she would have rather it hadn’t happened? That is the issue raised by these late allegations. Let’s say a woman was [ spontaneously ] kissed by Donald Trump, and afterwards, she said to her friends, “That was cool! Donald Trump kissed me, just like that!” Then he’s running for President, and everyone she knows hates the guy, and now she thinks, “Yuck! That creep kissed me! I was one of those women he was bragging to Billy Bush about! He harassed me!”

Is that fair? Is that right? Can a man be retroactively guilty of sexual harassment because a woman’s perception of what happened changes over time?

These and other issues were just raised in one of the latest witch hunt accusations, the claim by a former 2016 campaign staffer of Rep. Ruben J. Kihuen (D-Nev), once a rising Democratic Party star,that he harassed her.

Unlike many of the other notable men who have been run down by the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck, Kihuen, at least so far, has been accused of the most common and least horrible form of sexual harassment. The allegations would support the case that Kihuen created a hostile work environment for his subordinate by unwelcome sexual advances.  “Samantha” says that she rejected multiple sexual overtures by Kihuen, including once when when he suggested they get a room together in a hotel. She also says that in two instances he began touching her thigh, and asked if she was open to cheating on  her boyfriend. She says these attentions made her  so uncomfortable—that’s a hostile work environment!—that she quit as his campaign finance director after only five months on the job.

If an employee made these complaints to a business’s HR department, there would be an investigation. No job action could be taken against a supervisor based on her word alone. If there was no substantiation,  the supervisor denied it and no similar accusations had been made by other employees, no company could or should fire the accused individual. Moreover, until an investigation is complete, the position must be that the supervisor is innocent, and will not be penalized pending an investigation. Any other handling of such an episode is unethical: unfair, harmful, and wrong.

Kihuen denies that he engaged in harassment. Yet Nancy Pelosi, she who insisted less than a week ago that “due process” must play out before Rep. John Conyers should have to resign after multiple accusations from women, now says that Kihuen must resign based on one woman’s allegation, before any investigation.

This is true witch hunt stuff. Nothing has been proven. By this standard, a woman can kill a man’s career with an accusation. That is a lot of power. Power corrupts. Pelosi wrote, Continue reading

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A Kevin Spacey Update, The Sexual Harassment Feeding Frenzy, And A Guide To Sexual Harassers In The Workplace

This photo seemed appropriate somehow…

Kevin Spacey, it is now fair to say, has been a habitual sexual harasser.

We did not know that when Anthony Rapp made his accusation against the actor in a Buzzfeed interview. I would be very interested in knowing whether Rapp knew that. The posts here (this, and this) began with the assumption that Rapp’s motivations were as he stated them, and he did not say or suggest that Spacey was, like Harvey Weinstein, an active predator.

But in the ensuing days,  the pattern typical of accused harassers who really are harassers has emerged regarding Spacey. Other alleged victims came forward with their accounts.  Next  the employees on Spacey’s hit Netflix series “House of Cards” expanded the narrative…from CNNMoney:

Spacey made the set of Netflix’s “House of Cards” into a “toxic” work environment through a pattern of sexual harassment, eight people who currently work on the show or worked on it in the past tell CNN. One former employee told CNN that Spacey sexually assaulted him.

That, as they say, is the ball game for Spacey. He has even followed the hackneyed script for so many celebrities caught in misconduct: he’s getting “treatment.” Well, he doesn’t have many options. His show has been cancelled; his agency has dropped him. Spacey is very talented, but it will take him a long, long time to even partially recover from this, if he can.

I am going to write this anyway even though it won’t register on most people: the fact that Spacey turned out to be a lot more than a guy who got drunk and treated a 14-year old actor inappropriately at a party three decades ago doesn’t retroactively make the way Rapp’s ambush accusation fair or right. If he knew that Spacey was a present day harasser and made the accusation to break the dam, that’s something else, but again, he didn’t suggest that.

I’d guess that he’ll say that now, whether it is true or not.

Since Spacey was accused, several other celebrities, including Dustin Hoffman, have been fingered. The latest development is that several female members of Congress have said that they have been sexually harassed by their male colleagues, and of that I have no doubts whatsoever. Nonetheless, we are still in the witch hunt yellow zone, creeping into the red.

Here is part of a cautionary LA Times op-ed  by Cathy Young:

The fallout from the Harvey Weinstein scandals and the ripples from the “#MeToo” movement are having indubitably positive effects — above all, exposing and bringing to account predators who have enjoyed impunity due to their power and status. But there are some pitfalls. Many people — not just men with skeletons in the closet — fear that careers may be destroyed over minor misconduct and ambiguous transgressions. Troubling rhetoric abounds, condemning all sexually tinged dynamics in the workplace, stereotyping men as abusers and women as perpetual victims in need of quasi-Victorian protections.…Concerns that the post-Weinstein climate may lead to witch hunts against any man who flirts with a female colleague have been met with angry comments along the lines of “flirting in the workplace IS HARASSMENT.” A tweet by singer/songwriter Marian Call that got more than 2,000 retweets and nearly 6,500 “likes” asked, “dudes are you aware how happy women would be if strangers & coworkers never ‘flirted’ with us again … this is the world we want.”

But is it? It’s certainly not the world I want: Except in college, nearly every man I have ever dated was either a co-worker or, once I switched entirely to free-lancing, someone I met through work. This is not unusual, even in the age of dating websites and apps.

This has always been the aspect of sexual harassment law that renders it inherently unfair and to many, incomprehensible. In many cases the exact same conduct is harassment if unwelcome, and successful mating strategy if welcome.  Don’t bite my head off, but this was what Donal Trump was alluding to in his repulsive conversation with Billy Bush. He was claiming  that women like being sexually assaulted by the rich and powerful. In many cases, he may be right. Legally, when he’s right, it may not be sexual harassment. Ethically, it is still wrong. If the women feels compelled not to object to the sexual overtures because of an inequality of power, it is very wrong, and illegal. Continue reading

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Morning Ethics Warm-Up: 7/27/17

Good Morning!

1. Explain to me, Oh Ye Defenders of the Biased and Incompetent Media, why it’s unfair to call this “fake news.”

A Facebook friend whose entire output of late is posting links to anti-Trump screeds posted this one, which appeared on the feed as “Donald Trump’s behavior is abnormal”—ah, I see the “resistance” is transitioning again to the 25th Amendment approach to overturning the election, because the news on the impeachment front isn’t good–with a cut-line that referenced him “calling immigrants ‘animals'” at yesterday’s rally in Ohio.

No, Trump didn’t refer to immigrants as animals. Unlike most of those in my friend’s left-wing, Trump-hating echo chamber (she’s an artist and arts organization executive), I checked the speech. Indeed, it’s an ugly, undignified, over-heated, un-presidential mess that makes Trump’s Boy Scout speech look like Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. BUT HE DID NOT SAY THAT IMMIGRANTS WERE ANIMALS! He did say this;

“One by one we are finding the illegal gang members, drug dealers, thieves, robbers, criminals and killers. And we are sending them the hell back home where they came from. And once they are gone, we will never let them back in. Believe me. The predators and criminal aliens who poison our communities with drugs and prey on innocent young people, these beautiful, beautiful,innocent young people will, will find no safe haven anywhere in our country. And you’ve seen the stories about some of these animals. They don’t want to use guns, because it’s too fast and it’s not painful enough. So they’ll take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15, and others and they slice them and dice them with a knife because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die. And these are the animals that we’ve been protecting for so long. Well, they’re not being protected any longer,folks.”

Now, I don’t like that rhetoric. It is typical of  President Trump, but inexcusable in a public appearance. However, as muddled and incoherent as he often is, this section could not be clearer: he is calling violent and criminal ILLEGAL ALIENS animals, meaning that they lack respect for human life, are uncivilized, and dangerous. I hate that terminology, but violent illegal immigrants are not the same as illegal immigrants generally, and illegal immigrants are not the same as legal immigrants, aka, immigrants.

The column in question does quote the passage from the speech I just did, so the Chicago Tribune’s summary isn’t even accurate about the article it describes, though the pundit still writes,

“The intent of the tale that Trump told his rabid fans in Ohio was simple: foment hatred for immigrants. You present the innocent characters who are part of the “us,” and you have them ravaged and destroyed by the murderous “them.” You call them animals, something peddlers of hate have done for ages.”

False, and unquestionably false. An editor on a fair and ethical paper wouldn’t permit this to get into print. Trump’s intent is to demonstrate how dangerous and irresponsible it is to allow illegal immigrants to cross our borders confident that they can stay here. He’s not fomenting hate for violent criminals: who needs assistance hating violent criminals, whether they are illegal immigrants or not? He was, in a particularly inflammatory way, pointing out how irresponsible it is to allow illegal immigrants easy access to our streets, especially since some of them—the “animals”— are dangerous. That’s clear as a bell, and intentionally misrepresented by the Tribune, the columnist and my friend to foment more hatred for the President of the United States.

THAT’S perfectly all right, though.

2 I point out this blatant misrepresentation to my friend, who responds, “Argue with your friends on your own page; I have no intention of arguing with you on mine.” Oh, no you don’t. You post your virtue-signaling fake news as a substitute for making your own argument—appealing to authority, and the authority, Rex Huppke, is a partisan hack by the evidence of his column—making your little echo-chamber erupt in “likes” and seal flipper applause. Then this lazy excuse for an argument  it shows up in my Facebook feed, polluting it, and I’m not permitted to point out that the linked story is dishonest, misleading crap?

This is the epitome my dad’s favorite rejoinder to such people: “My mind’s made up, don’t confuse me with facts.” Then she went off on the President’s “using lies to obscure the truth”—you know, like the column she posted just did. Yet she could write this with no sense of the irony and hypocrisy at all. This is smart woman, and The Anti-Trump Hate Virus has her IQ points and integrity dripping out of her ears.

I don’t aspire to being the Facebook police, but if you just want echo-chamber cheers for dishonest and biased assertions, keep them off of my Facebook feed.

You are warned.

3.  The criticism of John McCain’s plea for a return to comity, compromise and bi-partisanship in Congress  was met with embarrassing criticism from the Right, some of it appearing on Ethics Alarms, authored  by people who should know better. Criticizing that speech is criticizing ethical government and a functioning democracy, and embracing  the “Everybody Does It,” “They are just as bad,” “They started it,” “They have it coming,” “It can’t get any worse,” “It’s for a good cause,” “These are not ordinary times,” “Ethics is a luxury we can’t afford right now” rationalizations for wrongful conduct rather than agreeing that it’s time to start reforming the culture to reward responsible and professional conduct. This is, in short, adopting the state of war mentality promoted by the Ace of Spades in this revolting post, which I have condemned more than once. Continue reading

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From The “The Fish Rots From The Head Down” Files: The Uber CEO’s “Miami Letter”

You wonder why Uber has ethics problems?

This is why Uber has ethics problems.

Uber is being investigated by two law firms hired to make assessments regarding the corporate practices and culture at the ride-sharing giant, determine what created the toxic environment that led to sexism, sexual harassment, other unethical management conduct, and recommend remedial measures. Usually in such situations, the problem stems from unethical leadership. Guess what? Uber’s unethical conduct stems from not merely unethical leadership, but a leader with ethics alarms that have rotted into dust and rust.

The two law firms recently uncovered a 2013 e-mail sent to Uber’s staff by  CEO Travis Kalanick before a company outing in Miami.  Internally referred to as the “Miami letter,” this thing screams “What was he thinking?”, “Where were the lawyers?” and “This guy might get elected President of the United States!”

Here is the e-mail; I’m going to bold some important features: Continue reading

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