Tag Archives: hostile work environment

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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Sexual Harassment, Victim Blaming, Toxic Corporate Cultures, President Trump’s Defense and Other Ethics Notes On Bill O’Reilly’s Fall (Part II))

The Ethics Alarms audit of the Bill O’Reilly canning by Fox (okay, technically it wasn’t a firing, but it was) continues…

9. One problem with the Left’s thinly veiled joy at getting O’Reilly is that it encourages the Right’s narrative that O’Reilly’s only crime was being conservative. Also not helping were President Trump’s interview statements about O’Reilly to the New York Times, in which he said in part,

“I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person… I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”

Stupid, stupid, stupid; irresponsible. Maybe two stupids and two irresponsibles. Do otherwise good people engage in sexual harassment? Of course: good people do bad things. But when a prominent individual says publicly that a sexual harasser is a good person, it sends a message that sexual harassment, like all abuse, doesn’t create a rebuttable presumption that someone is not a good person. Add to that Trump’s last statement, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” and the toxic messaging is complete. Either that statement means that the President is, based on nothing, claiming that the allegations against O’Reilly are untrue, or worse, he is saying that there is nothing wrong with sexual harassment. Based on his infamous exchange with Bill Bush, there is good reason to believe that this is exactly what he means.

10. That interview, in turn, led inevitably to this fatuous and offensive article by conservative blogger Roger Simon. Sure, Roger, you dummy, O’Reilly did nothing wrong except support Donald Trump. Count the rationalizations in this piece of offal by one of the shimmering stars in the Pajama Media firmament of conservative thought-leaders.

The sad truth is the many conservatives—most?—really don’t think sexual harassment is a big deal. It is one of many ethics blind spots.

11. One conservative who lacks that blind spot—though she has lots of others—is Sarah Palin, who had this exchange yesterday with CNN’s Jake Tapper: Continue reading

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Sexual Harassment, Victim Blaming, Toxic Corporate Cultures, President Trump’s Defense and Other Ethics Notes On Bill O’Reilly’s Fall (Part I)

As you probably know by now, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc ended its relationship with Bill O’Reilly at Fox News following what are being called allegations of sexual harassment, the revelation of them in the news media despite Fox’s pay-out of over $13,000,000 to the women who were involved, and a subsequent wide-spread boycott of his high-rated show “The O’Reilly Factor.”

Ethics Observations:

1. Good. Long, long overdue, but good. Fox News should have fired O’Reilly after the first sexual harassment episode which was years ago; it is a firing offense in ethical organizations for most employees, and the fact that Fox allowed its most influential and most profitable star to skirt accountability and survive to harass again was a classic example of the rationalization known as The King’s Pass, or The Star Syndrome.

2. The fact that Fox News creator, leader, and boss Roger Ailes was also jettisoned after a sexual harassment scandal showed at the time that the organization had developed an unethical culture that was hostile to women….as Ethics Alarms pointed out last July. (“There seems to be a culture of sexual harassment at Fox, coming down from the rotting fish head in charge, Roger Ailes.”)  This was the other shoe dropping.

3. O’Reilly issued a carefully crafted statement composed with the assistance of a “crisis consultant”:

“Over the past 20 years at Fox News, I have been extremely proud to launch and lead one of the most successful news programs in history, which has consistently informed and entertained millions of Americans and significantly contributed to building Fox into the dominant news network in television,” O’Reilly said in a statement. “It is tremendously disheartening that we part ways due to completely unfounded claims. But that is the unfortunate reality many of us in the public eye must live with today. I will always look back on my time at Fox with great pride in the unprecedented success we achieved and with my deepest gratitude to all my dedicated viewers. I wish only the best for Fox News Channel.”

I would say the Bill is lying through his teeth with the “unfounded” part, but sexual harassers often don’t think they have done anything wrong. They think they were just being “nice,” or they think their advances were misunderstood, or they believe that the harassment accusations are a cover for something else. Ailes also denies that he did anything wrong. This is typical. It would have been a wonderful thing if O’Reilly could admit that his conduct was wrong and apologize to the victims while sincerely promising to change, but like most harassers, he couldn’t mount the character and the acknowledgement of hard reality to do it.

4. What is more damaging, perhaps, is that so many of O’Reilly’s fans and followers will believe his self-delusion because they also don’t “get” sexual harassment, and think the whole issue is manufactured feminist nonsense and political correctness. Boys will be boys! Everybody does it! 

5. If there is anyone who is informed and intelligent and still followed Bill O’Reilly without constant cognitive dissonance, they should be ashamed of themselves. If one was alert, Bill constantly revealed himself as a blowhard who was convinced he was smarter than he was, or perhaps more accurately, knew he was faking it and adopted a assertive, intimidating and self-righteous persona as cover for his own insecurities.  Continue reading

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Unethical Quote Of The Month: President Trump

“I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong. I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person.”

President Trump to the New York Times , speaking of the sexual harassment allegations intensifying around star Fox News Bloviator Bill O’Reilly.

Now President Trump is acting like President Obama. The President of the United States abuses his power and position by ever commenting upon or registering an opinion about matters that do not involve the national welfare or his direct responsibilities. These include local law enforcement episodes (Trayvon Martin, the arrest of an African-American professor in Cambridge by a white cop), employment matters, private lawsuits, pending criminal trials, TV shows (Saturday Night Live), media coverage (don’t get me started), legal business decisions and sports controversies (Colin Kaepernick). Obama never learned this (among other leadership basics, a problem fagged as “flat learning curve” on Ethics Alarms), and, not surprisingly, Trump is going to be even worse. Continue reading

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O’Reilly, Fox News, And Sexual Harassment…AGAIN

Bill O’Reilly’s five accusers…so far.

I saw an online article that called Bill O’Reilly the “Bill Cosby of Fox News.” That’s not entirely fair: O’Reilly is likely just a serial sexual harasser, whereas Cosby is a rapist. Then again, they are both named “Bill,” and there are other similarities. Both have paid hush money to accusers, both have had a series of accusations made against them by women, the watermark of the sexual harasser (though Bill Cosby, so far, is way ahead in that category), both angrily deny the charges against them, and both have indignant defenders.

Both also are probably sociopaths.

Is it possible that Cosby has been wrongly maligned? Let me think…NO. Of course not. Over 50 women (what is the current count now?) do not accuse the same innocent man of sexual assault. Is it possible that the other Bill is a victim, not a predator? My “no” here isn’t quite as emphatic, perhaps, but…no. The New York Times piece yesterday thoroughly covers the evidence, and the odds against  all this being meaningless boggles the mind: Continue reading

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