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

A “Saint’s Excuse” Classic: Athletes Forced To Endorse Positions They May Not Support

The United States Soccer Federation (USSF), aka U.S. Soccer, announced last week that the U.S. Men’s National Team and the U.S. Women’s National Team will wear rainbow-colored numbers during June, LGBT pride month, saying in part,

“In recognition of LGBTQ Pride month in June, U.S. Soccer will activate a number of initiatives in partnership with the You Can Play Project”…As the highlight, the U.S. Men’s and Women’s National Teams will wear pride-inspired rainbow numbers during the June friendlies. The MNT will debut the look for the World Cup Qualifying tune-up against Venezuela on June 3 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The WNT will wear the kits in away friendlies against Sweden on June 8, and Norway three days later.”

The league, in short, is forcing players to make a political statement and support a cause they may, in fact, not support. Ethics foul. This is an abuse of the players’ autonomy and freedom of though.and speech. It is also unfair, and disrespectful of them as individuals. Other professional sports are equally abusive. Over Memorial Day weekend, for example, all Major League Baseball teams are wearing military-themed uniforms, caps and equipment, with stars symbolizing the five branches of the armed services on the sleeves. The uniforms will be auctioned off with the proceeds donated to veterans’ charities. It is a lovely gesture by MLB, but what if a player doesn’t want to support the military? What if he’s a pacifist? What if he objects to American militarism or the defense budget? Apparently none of this  matters to the teams or their sport.

This abuse of power, which is exactly what it is, is fueled by The Saint’s Excuse, #13 on the Rationalizations List, also known as “It’s for a good cause.”
Continue reading

Now THIS Is Sexual Harassment!

Meet your new boss...

Meet your new boss…

In Chicago, “A Cook County highway boss asked a woman who worked for him ‘to come into his office every day at around 4 o’clock while he watched porn and masturbated,’ the woman claims in court.”

There’s really no ethics controversy in stories like this, other than the same three questions I have after all of them:

1. How can someone be in a position of authority in the 21st Century and not know this kind of conduct toward an employee is not only horribly wrong, but illegal?

2. Why would any woman put up with this for so long…16 months, according to the complaint? Shouldn’t the first episode be the last one? Would you say to such a creature, “Now, that’s enough. I don’t want you calling me into your office to watch you masturbate ever again. Okay?”

3. What the hell is  the matter with men, anyway? Continue reading

The University of Illinois Law School Statistics Scam and the Responsibility of Being a Corporate “Person”

The scandal itself is self-explanatory. The ethical issue I am most concerned with is not, but it is more important than the scandals.

The University of Illinois has confessed that its law school reported and published inaccurate admissions data in six of the last ten years. An investigation determined that the law school reported false LSAT and GPA data for the class of 2008 and the classes of 2010 through 2014, and fabricated the acceptance rate data for the classes of 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2014, as a result of  both overcounting the number of applicants and undercounting the number of admissions offers the law school made. The purpose of all this, of course, was to enhance the school’s rankings to bring it better applicants, which translate into more successful alumni and bigger gifts.

Solely responsible for the deceptions, the school says, was Paul Pless, the law school’s assistant dean for admissions and financial aid during that period, who resigned last week. Naturally, the 114-page report concludes with recommendations to improve the school’s oversight and controls and ensure a “culture of integrity and ethical conduct.”  This will help persuade the American Bar Association, which is looking into the matter, not to punish the law school, since it has now seen the light…having been caught. Pless, you see, was most of the problem. Continue reading