Tag Archives: hostile work environment

One More Reason Not To Watch “Bull”

Harassed and harasser. Guess who stayed employed?

“Bull,” the CBS legal drama starring Michael Weatherly as a roguish, brilliant jury consultant who violates so many ethics rules on behalf of the submissive lawyer who employs him that it actively makes viewers dumber, reached my boycott list almost immediately. It’s a shame, because I could get a lively post, sometimes several, out of virtually any episode, since the show’s respect for ethics, professional and otherwise is non-existent.

Now there’s another good reason to avoid “Bull.” CBS has investigators checking the depth and length of the cultural norms of sexual assault, harassment and cover-ups at CBS, where CEO Les Moonves was recently fired after it was revealed that he was a serial sexual predator. That was odd, too, because the other networks enjoyed painting Fox News as a den of sexism after founder Roger Aisles was exposed as exactly the sort of pig who would make his female talent dye their hair blonde and dress like cocktail hostesses. They also had their news reporters sneering and preaching about evil Candidate Trump boasting about “grabbing them by the pussy” while their execs and stars were actually doing it. (My guess? Every one of the major networks has corrupt, harassment-supporting cultures like Fox and CBS. Every single one.) One of the revelations was that actress Eliza Dushku, the bad vampire slayer on “Buffy,” was harassed repeatedly by “Bull” star Michael Weatherly, and when she complained about it, was fired. To cover-up, Dushku was paid nine million dollars as damages and hush money. As you know, this must have been a campaign financing violation.

The story is disgusting. Read it and retch. to summarize, Weatherly, who apparently is very much like the charming jerks he plays, pet making sexual comments to Dushku, calling her “Legs” on the set, suggesting that she participate in “threesomes” and similar comments. Soon other men on the show were doing the same. Dushku, who had been signed up play a continuing role on the show, complained—as she should have—and Weatherly had her fired. Then CBS paid to cover it up.

Nice.

It is amazing to me that even in the ethics cesspool of show business, this behavior continues to happen, and big corporations continue to allow it, indeed facilitate it. Weatherly says he was misunderstood, that he was joking—like when he said in front of the cast and crew that he would bend her over his leg and spank her, or when he said he would take . Dushku to his “rape van,” which he said was filled with phallic objects and lubricant—that this is just the way he is, that he didn’t mean anything by it and is sorry that he upset anybody.

Bull.

This is classic sexual harassment, and would have been rude, unprofessional and abusive conduct before the term “sexual harassment” was invented.

I have had many female peers and subordinates in my embarrassingly diverse career, including many who were single, attractive, and who caused my heart to skip a beat every time I saw them. I never once made a sexually suggestive comment to any of them; it would not have occurred to me to do so. The reason is that I was raised properly to be respectful to women, and because I instinctively understood that the workplace, even the confusing workplace of show business, was not a locus where basic manners and common sense were suspended. This shouldn’t be hard. That particular ethics alarm should be installed and fully functional by the time a child is 10.

Weatherly, of course, as the star of a successful, popular and lucrative show, assumed that he was immune from discipline, and he was, sadly, right. What should have happened was that the producers should have called him in to grim scene with lawyers present. He should have been told that his conduct was not only stupid and vulgar but illegal. He should have been required to apologize to the actress and to make an appropriate statement to the cast and crew. Finally, he should have been told that a single instance of this kind of conduct, or any hint or retaliation against Dushku, would result in his dismissal for cause.

Disney and ABC, you will recall, fired Roseanne Barr from her own show for a single tweet. Even a CBS show had acted decisively when “Criminal Minds” fired star Thomas Gibson for kicking a writer. Ah, but one instance was racism, and the other was violence. The tragedy is that too many organizations and powerful men, especially in Hollywood and Washington, D.C., still don’t see sexual harassment as all that big a deal. No, it certainly doesn’t help the the President of the United States also doesn’t think it’s a big deal, but you can’t blame CBS’s conduct on him.

There is no excuse for this. There was never any excuse for this.

11 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement

Sunday Ethics Warm-Up, 12/8/18: “Unconscionable, Despicable, And Indefensible”

Good morning!

1. The Hader Gotcha strikes again. Let me be clear: this is unconscionable, despicable, and indefensible. (Aside: Do you like that trio? In “Perry Mason,” the lawyers always objected that a question was “incompetent, irrelevant, and immaterial,” because it sounded nifty. I’ve never heard that objection made in a real trial, or read it in a transcript.) To remind you all, during the baseball season, beginning with young All-Star pitcher Josh Hader, multiple baseball players were embarrassed when someone with ill intent searched their old Twitter feeds to search for tweets that could be deemed racially offensive, hostile to gays, or disrespectful of women. I dubbed this miserable practice as “The Hader Gotcha.“All of the players had to grovel apologies to their team mates and the public, as “woke” sportswriters condemned them and lobbied for MLB to punish them for impulsive social media comments made before they could vote, before they were celebrities, and when their followers consisted of fourteen or so pimply-faced jerks. The same basic principle was employed to smear Brett Kavanaugh, the unfair and factually false preemption that conduct and attitudes displayed by minors indicate what their character is in adulthood.

Well, I guess it’s nice to know that not only whites, baseball players and conservatives are victims of this crap. Mere hours after winning the Heisman Trophy as the nation’s outstanding college football player, Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Kyler Murray had to apologize today for anti-gay tweets he made in 2011-12 , when he was 14 and 15 years old.

In case you are keeping score, because I am, the culprits here are an irresponsible, vicious news media, totalitarian-leaning leftists who want to police thoughts and intimidate the public into ideological conformity, and social media lynch mobs.

2. Sure, Donald Trump is the fear-monger. The increasingly hysterical and hyped warnings and soothsaying by various climate change-promoting bodies are either causing over-sensitive, scientifically ignorant and gullible members of the public to descend into despair, or members  of the news media are deliberately trying to cause fear and panic—at least based on the broadcast lament of MSNBC’s Katie Tur. The anchor told her audience that life was meaningless without a mass effort to combat the horrors of the warming planet. Discussing a New Yorker article on the topic, she said,

“I read that New Yorker article today and I thought gosh, how pointless is my life, and how pointless are the decisions that I make on a day-to-day basis when we are not focused on climate change every day, when it’s not leading every one of our newscasts?”

Unconscionable, despicable, and indefensible? No, just irresponsible, unprofessional, and stupid. And they wonder why so many people can’t take these hysterics seriously…

3. And the winner is…Plan K? Former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy thinks that the sentencing statement on Michael Cohen means that the President is very likely to be indicted on a charge of violating federal campaign finance laws  by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who has openly been pursuing a “get Trump” campaign. The theory would be election law violations in the pay-offs to Stormy Daniels, even though paying off a kiss-and -tell threat is usually legal, and even though election law violations are typically handled with fines, not indictments. McCarthy writes,

When it was discovered that Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was guilty of violations involving nearly $2 million – an amount that dwarfs the $280,000 in Cohen’s case – the Obama Justice Department decided not to prosecute. Instead, the matter was quietly disposed of by a $375,000 fine by the Federal Election Commission.

Yes, but Obama’s Justice Department’s mission was to run interference for the President, and there was not an ongoing effort to find some way to undo a presidential election. Continue reading

28 Comments

Filed under Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Childhood and children, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Social Media, U.S. Society, Workplace

Analysis: Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s #MeToo Accusations And His Response

Oh, great…the Harvey Weinstein Ethics Train Wreck is still making stops and picking up passengers. This time the target is Neil deGrasse Tyson who someone, actually several somones, decided was a powerful man too full of himself who needed to be taken down a peg or sixty, and thus he has been accused–Democratic Senators would say “credibly” accused—of two episodes of sexual harassment and one rape. This is no trivial matter for Tyson, whose carefully constructed image as the new Carl Sagan is now in real danger. So is his job, his celebrity, his reputation and perhaps his marriage.

The three accusations belong in two boxes. The two sexual harassment claims may bolster each other, for harassing is an attitude, a habit, and a form of ethics blindness. Real harassers never do it just once. Rape is something else entirely, and, obviously, far more serious, since it is a crime.

Let’s examine each of the accusations, and Tyson’s defense, which he issued in a long Facebook post over the weekend.

Accusation #1:

Workplace Harassment: Hostile work environment and Unwanted sexual advances (2018)

Ashley Watson, who began a job as Dr. Tyson’s assistant on “Cosmos” in the spring, told an interviewer that on one occasion he asked if she would like to come to his home to share a bottle of wine and “unwind for a couple of hours.” She agreed to come in for one glass, she said, believing that they were going to talk about work and her future assignments.

Once in the astronomer’s apartment, she said, he told her that “as human beings, we all need release,” and asked if there were any “releases” she needed.  (Oh-oh!) As she began to leave a while later,  and he asked if she would let her show her  a Native American handshake.” This required clasping their hands together , finding the pulse on the other person’s wrist, and looking into each other’s eyes. (Super Oh-oh, and also “You’ve got to be kidding me.”) She says that it made her uncomfortable, and she broke it off after about 10 seconds.

As she was again trying to leave, she says Dyson commented, “I want you to know that I want to hug you so bad right now, but I know that if I do I’ll just want more.”

Then, the next day, he told her, “You say you want to be a producer, but it’s always going to be an uphill battle for you because you’re too distracting.”

She says told a supervisor ,a line producer,about what had happened, and that she was quitting.. The supervisor, asked Watson if she wanted to file a complaint. She said no. The supervisor suggested she tell her co-workers that she was leaving because of a family emergency, which she did.

Comment: If accurately described, this is slam dunk sexual harassment. The apartment visit is an extension of the workplace. If it is a veiled “date,” Tyson has crossed a line because he is the woman’s supervisor with hiring and firing power. She cannot consent meaningfully. The release comment, depending on the delivery and context, is creepy and plausibly sexual in intent, unless he also said, “Me? I like to watch baseball. How about you?” The “Native American handshake” sounds like a nifty version of the old “shoulder rub.” Now there has been touching, and forced eye-gazing. Ew. The last comment at the apartment  is also a sexual advance, especially in context with the rest.

Tyson’s Explanation: Not good. In his Facebook post,  Tyson described the handshake as one he uses “in appreciation of people with whom I’ve developed new friendships.” He said that at work, Ms. Watson freely offered hugs, which he typically rejected, but that on a few occasions, he “clumsily declared, ‘If I hug you I might just want more.’”

“My intent was to express restrained but genuine affection,” he wrote.

He also wrote that . Watson had come into his office after the incident in his apartment and told him she had been “creeped out.” He said he had “apologized profusely” and that she had accepted the apology.

Comment: Tyson’s defense is essentially “I didn’t mean anything by it, she construed it the wrong way, and anyway, she accepted my apology.” Those are three excuses, none of which carried any weight in sexual harassment cases. It’s what the harasser did, and how the harassed felt about it. His apology and her acceptance of it, even if true, doesn’t undo the event. The encounter and his words  made her uncomfortable working with him, and objectively, anyone can see why. It is also interesting that Tyson doesn’t deny the “release” conversation, or his later comment about her being a distraction.

Since Watson had to leave her job, this episode could justify a lawsuit for sexual harassment.

Accusation #2: Sexual assault (2009)

Continue reading

31 Comments

Filed under Arts & Entertainment, Character, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Facebook, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Romance and Relationships, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up. 11/27/18: Unethical Perry Mason, Icky Science, Race Card-Playing Democrats, Intrusive Bosses And Slanted History

Good morning…

1. They are showing “Perry Mason” reruns again on cable TV. That was the show that made my generation want to be lawyers, under the delusion that a defense attorney could regularly prove a criminal defendant innocent. (Pssst! They are almost all guilty.) The show holds up, but boy, Perry was sleazy. In an episode I watched while I was sick, he had his investigator tell the hapless prosecutor, Hamilton Burger (Ham Burger to his friends) that he had found an incriminating piece of evidence that proved someone other than Perry’s client had committed murder. Ham relied on the information and got the killer to confess once he was faced with the production of the “smoking gun.” But Perry’s investigator hadn’t really found anything.

Having one’s agent lie to the state prosecutor is a serious ethics breach. Perry also caused the DA to tell a falsehood to get the confession, though Burger wasn’t lying, since he believed Perry’s contrivance. Prosecutors are no more allowed to lie than other lawyers, but when they do lie “in the public interest,” they seldom get more than a slap on the wrist from courts and bar ethics committees, if that. Burger didn’t seem very upset that Perry conned him, because the real killer was caught. The ends justifies the means, or did in “Perry Mason.”

2. Ick or ethics? A Chinese scientist claims that he had successfully employed embryonic gene editing to help protect twin baby girls from infection with HIV. We are told that bioethicists in China and elsewhere are reacting with “horror.” Writes the Times,

“Ever since scientists created the powerful gene editing technique Crispr, they have braced apprehensively for the day when it would be used to create a genetically altered human being. Many nations banned such work, fearing it could be misused to alter everything from eye color to I.Q….If human embryos can be routinely edited, many scientists, ethicists and policymakers fear a slippery slope to a future in which babies are genetically engineered for traits — like athletic or intellectual prowess — that have nothing to do with preventing devastating medical conditions.”

As with cloning, my view on this controversy is that a new technology does not become unethical because of how it might be used. That unethical use will be unethical, and that is what needs to be addressed when and if the problem arises. (Airplanes could be used to drop atom bombs!) The fear of “designer babies” also seems to be an example of “ick”—it’s strange and creepy!—being mistaken for unethical. Making stronger, smarter, more talented and healthier human beings is not in itself unethical, even if it is the stuff of science fiction horror novels and Josef Mengele’s dreams. Continue reading

37 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Arts & Entertainment, Bioethics, Childhood and children, Education, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Government & Politics, History, Law & Law Enforcement, Popular Culture, Professions, Race, Rights, Science & Technology, U.S. Society, Workplace

Now THIS Is Ethics Zugzwang! The Unfixable Catch-22 Of Sexual Harassment Law

A recent question to the New York Times workplace column “The Workologist” perfectly illustrates a permanent flaw in sexual harassment law. Believe it or not, I have no recommendation regarding how to fix it. I don’t think it can be fixed.

Here was the question:

I work at a blue-collar job, and I am one of four women in a crew of 40. The guys never touch or harass me, or any of the women, as far as I know.They do, however, constantly hug and grab and bump each other in a friendly way. It’s not unusual for one of the guys to go through a whole short meeting (a stand-up “huddle”) with an arm around another guy’s shoulder. No one ever touches me, and it’s not that I want them to. That would be weird. But I almost feel left out. Should I let this “bro contact” bother me?

I love it. Perfect. This is what using the law to dictate ethics can result in, and does result in frequently: hypocrisy, confusion, and a double-bind.

Let’s begin with the last sentence: “Should I let this “bro contact” bother me?” The whole point of “hostile work environment” sexual harassment law is to make sure no woman has to ask this question. A boss who responds to a female employee’s complaint of a hostile work environment-creating unwanted sexual attention in the office with “Don’t let it bother you!” has breached his or her duty under the law.

So what’s going on here? The men in the company have adopted the current fad (Yechhh.) of hugging each other to express a range of things—support, congratulation, sympathy, platonic affection—and quite properly do not hug the few women in their midst, lest one of the females, reasonably or not (or perhaps intentionally, to grab some power or cash) be made “uncomfortable,” take the physical contact as unwanted and sexual in intent, complain, and perhaps sue. By not hugging them, however, the men isolate the women, exclude them from the social fabric of the “team,” and, in essence, discriminate against them by signalling that they are “the other,” thus creating a hostile work environment.

Even if some of the women announced their consent to be treated as “one of the guys,” it would not solve the dilemma. One of those bro-hugs could still turn into a copped feel, or be perceived as crossing lines by the female huggee. Then there is the looming  third party harassment problem: a woman who has not consented to being hugged might see her female colleagues being man-handled (but completely innocently, of course) and assume that consenting to unwanted physical contact was a condition of employment, or that they would be adversely affected if they did not agree to participate enthusiastically in the hug-fest. Not treating the women in the company like the men is discrimination; treating them the same is an open invitation to a sexual harassment lawsuit. Continue reading

20 Comments

Filed under Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Law & Law Enforcement, Rights, Romance and Relationships, U.S. Society, Workplace

Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 6/13/2018: Everybody’s A Critic!

Good morning!

(That almost came out “good monging”…not a propitious sign)

1.  Diversity ethics:  The concept that somehow there are sinister motives and undesirable results any time an occupation settles into a demographic mix that isn’t four-square with that of the general population is one more bit of ideological cant. In London, U.K, the mayor has decreed it a crisis that the population using bicycles is disproportionately white, and has  said he is considering setting diversity targets for London’s cycling population to ensure that “progress was achieved.” I liked Amy Alkon’s disgusted reaction to this whole issue, as she asked how  gender equality would be achieved in fields where women show little interest in participating for a variety of reasons, including a greater interest in a work-life balance. How is this artificial PC “diversity goal” going to be achieved, she asks…” Force women at gunpoint to become cardiologists, oil rig workers, and garbagepersons? Force men at gunpoint to become veterinarians and kindergarten teachers?”

Reader (and volunteer Ethics Alarms proof-reading czar) Pennagain just sent me an article about the relative lack of female movie critics (minority movie critics are also under-represented among Hispanics, blacks and Asians. (I would also bet that they are disproportionately gay, but the study discussed didn’t check that, apparently.) Now unlike, say, female  “garbagepersons,” female movie critics predictably have a point of view that would make a substantive difference in film reviews, so I cannot brush aside this particular imbalance with “So what?” Instead I will ask, “What’s stopping them?” Anyone can be a movie critic now: all you need is a website, some dedication, and, one hopes, some understanding of film and culture. Now, being paid as a film critic is a little trickier.

Here is the Wikipedia entry on the New Yorker’s Pauline Kael, still perhaps the most famous U.S. film critic, whose long-lasting prominence, success and influence (I hated her reviews most of the time–overly political and biased, with whole genres she didn’t understand—“guy movies” like Westerns and horror films, that she sniffed at as beneath her) should have inspired more women to enter the field, but didn’t. I presume there is a reason for that, such as that spending your life watching multiple movies a day including many you wouldn’t be caught dead at if it wasn’t mandatory isn’t an attractive career choice, especially if you want a family.

2. From my sexual harassment files...I just rediscovered this, a sexual harassment case I discussed in program for a construction company in the 90’s. An attractive woman who worked in construction (Diversity!) was walking to work with a co-worker when some boor from an apartment window shouted at her, “Hey, show me your tits!” The women misheard the remark, and shouted back, “Sorry, I don’t have any kids!” Her colleague thought th exchange was hilarious, and told her what the guy really said, He also told everyone on the construction site about the incident, and the woman was pestered from then on with men smirking as they made comments like, “Hey, can I see pictures of your kids?” I hear you have two beautiful kids!” “Why don’t you let your kids out more?”  “Boy, I bet you’re proud of those kids of yours.” The women tried to laugh it off, but the joke never died, even though she started telling everyone to knock it off. Finally, she complained to management, and was told that she was being silly and hyper-sensitive. She sued.

Was using the word “kids”  in a coded joke creating a hostile work environment, or did the court find that since the language itself was inoffensive and not sex-related, it couldn’t be sexual harassment? Continue reading

36 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Around the World, Arts & Entertainment, Business & Commercial, Ethics Train Wrecks, Etiquette and manners, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Humor and Satire, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, Popular Culture, Professions, This Helps Explain Why Trump Is President, U.S. Society, Workplace

Don’t Anyone Dare Tell Me They Are Surprised Bill Clinton Thinks Like This…

“I think the norms have really changed in terms of, what you can do to somebody against their will, how much you can crowd their space, make them miserable at work. You don’t have to physically assault somebody to make them, you know, uncomfortable at work or at home or in their other — just walking around. That, I think, is good.”

Former President Bill Clinton in a clip posted by RealClearPolitics.

No, Mr. President. It was never acceptable to do things to people in your power against their will that made them uncomfortable in the workplace. Never. It was just common and legal for a long, long time, and powerful men like yourself reveled in exploiting and abusing women because they could. And nothing has changed about what was legal and what was not since you were President. The major change in sexual harassment law occurred while you were President, in fact. You just didn’t think the rules and laws applied to you, that’s all. Based on your recent comments, you still don’t think they applied to you.

What an astounding thing for this man to say. Continue reading

8 Comments

Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Character, Ethics Train Wrecks, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, History, Journalism & Media, Law & Law Enforcement, Leadership, U.S. Society, Workplace