All the Money in the World: Mark Wahlberg, Michelle Williams, and wage disparity issues

January 22, 2018 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal and the ongoing Hollywood reckoning, Kevin Spacey’s downfall was swift following accusations from Anthony Rapp that Spacey sexually assaulted him at the age of 14.  Since Rapp came forward, several others have joined him in accusing Spacey of sexual misconduct and predatory behavior.  Netflix suspended production of House of Cards, and director Ridley Scott began pursuing rapid reshoots to recast Spacey’s role in the true crime thriller All the Money in the World.  Ironically, efforts to eradicate Spacey’s shadow of sexual harassment allegations inadvertently led to a highly publicized discussion about sex-based pay disparities.

Regarding the reshoots necessary to replace Spacey with Christopher Plummer, Scott stated in interviews that all cast members (with the exception of Plummer) completed the reshoots free of charge.    Michelle Williams, one of the film’s stars, confirmed that she agreed to do the reshoots for free and that “it is our little act of trying to right a wrong.  And it sends a message to predators–you can’t get away with this anymore.  Something will be done.”

However, earlier this month, USA Today reported that another one of the film’s stars, Mark Wahlberg was paid $1.5 million for the reshoots while Williams received an $80 per diem totaling less than $1,000.  The fact both actors were represented by the William Morris Endeavor Agency (WME) added even greater fuel to the ensuing fire.  A social media storm erupted with many condemning the pay disparity between Williams and Wahlberg as yet another example of gender inequality in the workplace.  Just two days earlier, male and female stars (including Williams) had worn black to the Golden Globes as a showing of support for Time’s Up, an anti-harassment and gender equality initiative launched by Hollywood power players like Reece Witherspoon, Eva Longoria, Shonda Rhimes, Ashley Judd, Natalie Portman, and many more.

Mark Wahlberg responded to the film controversy by promising to donate $1.5 million in Williams’ honor to the Time’s Up initiative.  WME promised to donate an additional $500,000 to Time’s Up.  Williams released a statement saying, “If we truly envision an equal world, it takes equal effort and sacrifice.  Today is one of the most indelible days of my life because of Mark Wahlberg, WME, and a community of men and women who share in this accomplishment.  Anthony Rapp, for all the shoulders you stood on, now we stand on yours.”

However, the controversy has not ended there.  The Hollywood Reporter released a story that Williams reportedly was paid $625,000 for her work on All the Money in the World while Wahlberg took home $500 million, despite the fact they had nearly equal screen time in the film.  Renewed public outcry has called for transparency in pay discussions and equality in the workplace.  News outlets and social media are likely to bring us similarly high-profile stories raising pay disparity issues, and it seems that a growing number of actors have been emboldened to discuss pay and alleged inequalities.  Indeed, the National Labor Relations Board has repeatedly reiterated employees’ right to discuss pay, and an executive order issued by then-president Barack Obama extends a similar standard to federal contractors who are not covered by the NLRA.

While so many of these headlines involve Hollywood stars, employers in all industries should take note and embrace the opportunity to evaluate and continue to re-evaluate their own practices to ensure legal compliance and a healthy work environment for employees.  My colleague, Rachel E. Kelly wrote a great piece last week offering employer tips on the importance of transparency and establishing an appropriate workplace culture where qualified diverse candidates can thrive.  As Rhimes stated about the Time’s Up initiative, “It’s very hard for us to speak righteously about the rest of anything if we haven’t cleaned our own house.”  It seems that time is indeed up for those who put off necessary house cleaning.

 

Time’s Up: I am woman, hear me roar

January 17, 2018 - by: Rachel E. Kelly 0 COMMENTS
Rachel E. Kelly

“So I want all the girls watching here, now, to know that a new day is on the horizon! And when that new day finally dawns, it will be because of a lot of magnificent women, many of whom are right here in this room tonight, and some pretty phenomenal men, fighting hard to make sure that they become the leaders who take us to the time when nobody ever has to say ‘Me too’ again.” – Oprah Winfrey at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards

Let’s be clear, 2017 was the year of the woman. From Wonder Woman becoming a blockbuster hit grossing over $100 million in its first weekend, women in the entertainment industry speaking out about sexual harassment and unsolicited advances in the workplace, to abiout 600 sister marches held across the country and the world to coincide with the Women’s March on Washington. One thing is for certain: Women and their stories dominated 2017. So much so that major news outlets devoted countless headlines and primetime news segments taking a closer look at these women’s stories and causing companies to become brutally aware of their own sexual harassment policies (see Matt’s post here: http://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com/2018/01/04/48033/ ).

There is no doubt that the rush of sexual harassment claims came to a head earlier this month during the blackout 75th Golden Globe Awards ceremony. Dressed in an embellished all black gown, Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Oprah Winfrey, gave a riveting speech that demanded for time to be up on the old way of doing business. Winfrey’s acceptance speech highlighted women who have endured years of sexual harassment on their jobs and called for a change in the gender disparities in representation, hiring, and pay in and outside of the entertainment industry.

In the age of #Metoo and Time’s Up, what are some things that companies can do to correct pay and gender leadership disparities in their organizations?

1) Transparency – Don’t’ just talk the talk, do the walk. Take a look at the data (examples: the number of women in leadership positions, promotion of women as compared to men, and compensation comparisons) and be honest with the executive team and the organization as whole. This not only gets down to the truth, but it also enables accountability. If the organization admits its shortcomings to its employees, it’s more likely to make some systemic changes. But don’t stop there. Salaries and promotions should be evaluated on a regular basis to ensure equal treatment.

2) Give women a seat at the table – This is an easy one, but ensuring that women are part of diversified hiring panels intrinsically ensures that women are selected for positions at a much higher rate. In 2015 study (http://time.com/4087813/female-directors-study/) of the entertainment industry, results showed that when women directors and executive producers were at the helm of hiring decisions, they served as entryway for more women to be selected for behind-the-scenes roles. Additionally, a diverse slate of candidates should purposefully be presented to the hiring panel. Of course, the goal is not to present women candidates just for the sake of presenting them, but to make sure there is access for the most qualified and diverse candidate pool.

3) Make gender equality part of training and education – All employees should feel equally supported in choosing jobs that support their talents and challenges them to learn new skills. These jobs should have clearly demonstrable goals, be future-oriented, and lead to long, promising careers.

4) Culture – This starts with reviewing the employee handbook and company policies. Make flexibility and work-life balance a part of the company culture. Oftentimes, though a company’s policies indicate that flexible work schedules are available, women employees are forced to specifically ask to work part-time or from home, which can lead to an uncomfortable conversation. Be proactive about welcoming women and supporting their career goals.

When the floodgates open, expect water at your doorstep

November 13, 2017 - by: David Kim 0 COMMENTS
David Kim

About a month ago, my colleague Kristin Gray wrote about the breaking Harvey Weinstein scandal and best practices for employers to prevent harassment and discrimination from invading the workplace. And while I have no intention of reiterating any of the excellent points Kristin covered in her piece, it would be ignoring the obvious not to say that a lot has transpired since that breaking news story.

Virtually every day since then, additional allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct have been made against prominent public figures. Not just individuals in Hollywood (which include everyone from executives, producers, writers and actors), but also against politicians, publishers, and editors from various media organizations, news contributors, restaurateurs, and a slew of others. On top of these serious allegations, numerous individuals (both public figures and “regular” individuals like you and me) have used social media to share their own stories or harassment, not only sexually based but also other forms of harassment and bullying within the workplace.

Trending hashtag Metoo on concrete wallIt is not an exaggeration to say that this topic has quite literally been part of our daily news cycle for the past month. And it isn’t hyperbolic to state that employers need to be aware that, as a result, this topic is something they need to be able to address and address properly as harassment claims are likely to increase. There’s a reason why statistics demonstrate that Fair Labor Standards Act litigation increases after changes to wage and hour regulations are debated in the public realm, whether they are implemented or not. Sure, noncompliance is certainly a factor, but so is awareness, which results in empowerment, which results in action.

Now I am not comparing the clearly invidious acts of sexual harassment and other forms of harassment, which should be taken seriously at all times, with general wage and hour law. The reality, however, is that public awareness of these types of harassment allegations has undoubtedly increased the conversation regarding misconduct in the workplace. When celebrities talk about struggling with drug addiction, recovering from a severe medical prognosis, or dealing with another tragedy in their lives, they often want to share their story to motivate or inspire those with a similar struggle. While many hear these stories and are moved by the message, they might not be technically inspired to act since they didn’t experience what the person sharing their message did. But even if it’s not you, there is someone out there who has been motivated by that story in one way or another, whether it’s to kick their habit, resolve to overcome the disease they’ve been diagnosed with, or to simply fight harder despite the tragedy in their lives.

The same goes harassment allegations. It is no coincidence that the floodgates have opened since the Weinstein allegations came to light. People who have experienced similar forms of mistreatment have felt empowered to come forward with their own stories and the sheer number of allegations that have been levied make clear what we already know, that sexually based and other forms of harassment continue to exist in all forms of the workplace.

In March of this year, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota introduced a bill known as the Arbitration Fairness Act of 2017, which seeks to prohibit predispute arbitration agreements of employment, consumer, antitrust or civil rights disputes. Due to the recent spate of allegations regarding sexual harassment, those in favor of the bill have now specifically highlighted how victims of harassment in the workplace would benefit if they were not forced to go to arbitration, but rather could have the benefit of a trial by jury. While there are certainly contrasting arguments regarding the benefits to both parties in arbitrating claims, recent events of the last month demonstrate how social consciousness can affect the discussion of lawmaking.

But social consciousness also affects our everyday lives and workplaces. There can be no doubt that the social discussion surrounding sexual harassment will inspire and empower those in the workplace to also come forward with their stories, as it should. Employers, for their part, must be aware that they must be fully prepared to address any such allegations. Large companies throughout the country have instituted or fast-tracked mandatory harassment training in a direct response to the high-profile allegations in the news. All employers should consider these steps as well. As stated, the floodgates are open and employers must ensure that they timely treat these allegations completely and appropriately, or else risk drowning.

Workplace romances: Do they ‘Suit’ your company?

November 07, 2017 - by: Angela Cummings 0 COMMENTS
Angela Cummings

Like almost everyone I know, I love the ability to binge-watch television series these days. In fact, it is a rare occurrence that I ever watch any show at the time it actually airs. (This Is Us is a notable exception for me.) Instead, I enjoy delving into these characters’ lives several hours at a time. One such show that I am currently gorging on is Suits, which is in its 7th season and airs on the USA NetwBusinesswoman Receiving Red Rosesork. A fellow attorney recommended this show to me, but I was reluctant at first, as I often shy away from legal programsI have practiced law for almost 20 years and television should be an escape for me, right?!

For those who have yet to watch Suits, the premise is as follows: Harvey Specter is a Harvard-educated attorney at a top Manhattan corporate law firm where every case is high-stakes. He hires a brilliant associate, Mike Ross, who had falsified his background to state that he has graduated from Harvard Law School. The truth is, Mike never even graduated from college, much less law school. However, Mike possesses such a talented legal mind that Harvey keeps him on at the firm anyway. (This “falsification of workplace documents” issue involving Mike could certainly be a topic of a future blog….) While working at the firm, Mike falls for a co-worker, Rachel Zane, who is a paralegal. In her role as a paralegal, Rachel “reports” to Mike on many of the cases they handle. Mike and Rachel begin a relationship, secretly at first. Then, other co-workers at various levels learn about the relationship. While this all makes for great television, workplace romances can create headaches when they pop up in our real workplaces.

So, what can we learn from Mike and Rachel’s steamy relationship on Suits? Workplace romances, especially between persons at different levels in a company, can lead to HR nightmares. Notably, some polls reflect that more than 80% of employees have been involved in, or know about co-workers who have been involved in, workplace dating. So, what’s the issue? The biggest fear (and it is a legitimate one) is that a sexual harassment lawsuit will arise at some point in the relationship cycle, usually after one of the employees ends it. Of course, a valid sexual harassment claim requires the conduct to be “unwelcome.” Accordingly, if the employer can show that the relationship is truly consensual, no harassment claim will succeed. The difficulty, though, is proving that the relationship was truly consensual. That is even trickier when, as is the case with Mike and Rachel, one of the employees is a supervisor and the other is a subordinate. If the relationship goes sour for any reason, the subordinate employee may claim that it was never really consensual to begin with. Further, the employer may also be on the hook for a retaliation claim if the supervisor takes any adverse employment action against the subordinate later.

What can employers do to avoid this drama?

1. Consider adopting an anti-fraternization/“no dating” policy. Some employers fight Cupid’s arrow at work by having a policy in place that prohibits workplace romances, especially in a chain of command situation. These policies are tricky to enforce, though, and some companies simply do not want to invade the private lives of their employees any more than they absolutely have to. Of course, employers can also rely on their sexual harassment policies for assistance: If an employee brings information to HR that a workplace relationship has ended and the employee needs help navigating the fall-out with the co-worker/supervisor, then HR should rely on the harassment policy and remind all involved of the company’s rules and reporting procedures.

2. Consider utilizing “Love Contracts.” Such agreements, executed by the employees involved in the relationship as well as management, confirm that the relationship is consensual, and that the parties agree that the relationship will not negatively impact their performance or the workplace in any manner. Companies often attach their harassment policy to the agreement as an addendum, which makes it difficult for an employee to later claim that he or she did not know how to report conduct that allegedly violates the harassment policy.

Keep in mind, though, that the most important tool (which is already in your toolbox) is the company’s harassment policy. Possessing an effective harassment policy and procedurethat is sufficiently communicated to employees through trainingoften helps to avoid costly litigation when a workplace romance dissolves. For now, I will just keep holding my breath that Mike and Rachel can work through their difficulties and stay together (at least through Season 3, which I am currently watching).

Harvey Weinstein: beauty and the beastly mogul

October 12, 2017 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Over the last week, the fallout from a New York Times article regarding Harvey Weinstein has been swift and significant. On October 5, the Times published an explosive story about Hollywood producer and media mogul Weinstein’s alleged sexual harassment spanning decades. More and more women have been coming forward since the story broke to accuse Weinstein of unwelcome sexual advances and sexual assault during his time at Miramax and the Weinstein Company. The Times quoted Weinstein as stating, “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it. Though I’m trying to do better, I know that I have a long way to go.”  Stop Sexual Harassment red stop sign held by a female

According to the Times, Weinstein has reached settlements with at least eight women over the years, and his former attorney, Lisa Bloom, has described him as “an old dinosaur learning new ways.” The growing list of allegations stands in stark contrast against Weinstein’s public image as a liberal, humanitarian, and champion of women. The Times quoted Ashley Judd as saying, “Women have been talking about Harvey amongst ourselves for a long time, and it’s simply beyond time to have the conversation publicly.”

Since the story first broke, the Weinstein Company has terminated Weinstein’s employment, board members and legal advisers have resigned, and Weinstein’s wife has announced she is leaving him. Meanwhile, the accusations have continued to mount. Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, and Cara Delevingne have come forward with additional allegations of sexual harassment. The New Yorker also published a story alleging that Weinstein has raped several women over the years.

Weinstein is reportedly entering a treatment program for sex addiction and has denied any accusations of nonconsensual sex. From former temporary employees to Hollywood A-listers, the accusers’ accounts have a similar narrative: young women hoping to find success in the industry but instead facing unwanted sexual advances from a top power player promoting a culture of fear. It sounds like a Hollywood film plot in the vein of 9 to 5, but this is far more serious and with real-life consequences.

Best practices for employers

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law that prohibits sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, though there are many state and local laws prohibiting the same. To maintain a sexual harassment claim, the plaintiff must generally establish that he/she was harassed based on sex, the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment, and there is some basis for holding the employer liable.

If the harassment is perpetrated by a supervisor but does not culminate in a tangible employment action, a defending employer may avoid liability if it proves the employer exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any sexually harassing behavior and the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities.

Best practices for employers to maintain healthy working environments and prevent harassment and discrimination from invading the workplace include:

  • Implementing strong policies prohibiting discrimination, outlining various avenues for employees to complain (taking into account the possibility that complaints may be against the person at the top of the chain of command), and prohibiting retaliation;
  • Training employees on the available avenues for complaints;
  • Training supervisors and managers on how to respond to a complaint;
  • Immediately investigating complaints; and
  • Taking prompt corrective action when complaints are substantiated.

Bottom line. Employers must practice commitment, communication, and credibility. It is their responsibility to ensure that potential complainants understand they will not be subjected to retaliation, the complaints will be taken seriously and investigated appropriately (regardless of the position of the accused harasser), and they have nothing to fear from using the complaint procedure. Let us know your thoughts on this developing story in the comments below.

Magnum, SMH

September 20, 2017 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

Who could possibly sully the sainted memory of Thomas Magnum, fictional private investigator and iconic 1980s bon vivant? All 45 of these guys, apparentlyMan partying

Here’s a quick hit in case you don’t want to follow the link: Bachelor partygoers decided they would take in a baseball game in Detroit between the Tigers and the Chicago White Sox. All 45 partiers (if only I were so well-liked) dressed as television’s best-known Detroit Tigers fan, Magnum, P.I. The fellows must have left their Higginses behind because they weren’t on their best behavior (hijinks during a bachelor partyperish the thought!). Eventually, the Tigers brass kicked all 45 Tom Selleck doppelgängers from Comerica Park.

Their sins? One of them was smoking and others were catcalling women in the crowd (no mention whether all those red Hawaiian shirts also crossed a line). One member of the party despaired that the Tigers ruined everyone’s fun because of a few bad pineapples, but, honestly, who could possibly separate one naughty Magnum from the other 44 angels?

You may be asking, “Matt, this is amusing and all, but what does this possibly have to do with HR?” That’s a fair question. The HR intersection is that employers need to be watching their patrons’ behaviornot just their employees’to avoid a hostile work environment. Employers can be liable for the harassing conduct of visitors, vendors, and customers just as they can be liable for the actions of supervisors and co-workers. If you are aware that a third partyor third parties, like four dozen Thomas Magnum lookalikesmay be harassing your employees or causing a hostile environment, you have a duty to take prompt remedial action to correct the problem.

So bravo to the Tigers. We don’t know whether the revelry was directed at any team employees, but the team had a problem on its hands and immediately corrected it. Sure, it probably cost them some concession revenueafter all, 45 guys could drink a lot of Old Dusseldorf. Still, you should heed the team’s example and be vigilant of your patrons’ behavior for the benefit of your employees.

In fact, you’ll probably have to be more vigilant. Potential harassers are rarely this loud and in-your-face, and they almost never wear identical, splashy tropical shirts.

 

10-step plan for fair and balanced approach to preventing workplace harassment

May 17, 2017 - by: Robin Kallor 0 COMMENTS
Robin Kallor

In less than a year, Fox News has lost its founder and one of its most well-known anchors due to widespread sexual harassment allegations. Fox News recently reported that 20th Century Fox paid $10 million in sexual harassment settlements in the first quarter of 2017 alone. How can Fox News be proactive in avoiding harassment claims in the future? Prevention is the best tool to avoiding claims. Here are some essential steps to prevent and correct unlawful harassment.  Stop Sexual Harassment red stop sign held by a female

1. Disseminate a workplace harassment policy that complies with state and federal anti-discrimination laws. The policy should encompass all forms of unlawful harassment based upon all protected classes, not just sexual harassment; although sexual harassment should be separately discussed within the policy.

2. The policy must be communicated to all employees at the time of their hire and should also be posted in the workplace. Employees should be given an acknowledgement to sign so that they acknowledge that they have read and that they understand the policy.

3. The policy must contain an effective complaint procedure that affords the employee bringing the complaint the opportunity to bypass the alleged harasser; however, the complaint procedure should not be too broad so as to encompass everyone at the organization.

4. The policy must contain an anti-retaliation provision, ensuring that the employees are aware that they will not be retaliated against for complaining internally, filing lawsuits/charges, or participating in an investigation.

5. The policy must not guarantee confidentiality; rather, it should state that, to the extent possible, complaints will be kept confidential. Obviously, an employer can’t keep a complaint confidential to the extent it must share the allegations during the course of an investigation. An employer, however, can guarantee that it won’t share the allegations with those who don’t have a reason to know them.

6. Employees (both managers and employers) should be trained on preventing sexual harassment and other forms of harassment at the time of hire and every two years.

7. Don’t require employees to put their harassment complaints in writing.

8. Respond to complaints immediately by conducting thorough and unbiased investigations.

9. Take appropriate remedial action following substantiated complaints of unlawful harassment by issuing disciplinary action commensurate with the substantiated conduct and continuing to monitor the relationship and the alleged harasser’s conduct toward others.

10. Keep your eyes and ears open and mandate that your supervisors do the same–if they see something, they must say something. Moreover, rumored allegations also should be explored.

Baseball purists

December 13, 2016 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

-H.L. Mencken

This post may not be the usual finger-wagging scold you may have come to expect from an employment lawyer. I’m confident, though, that this blog’s audience of fellow practitioners and human resource professionals will take a little solace in it. After all, it’s no fun to be a killjoy and we are thrust into that role more often than we’d like.  Young male baseball referee blowing a whistle

Why? Because potential liability under the employment laws too often compels us to manage to the lowest common denominator.

That frustrating fact claims its share of fun as casualties because you never know when some yahoo is going to take the fun well beyond harmless. Witness the latest casualty, as reported by the Washington Post: Major League Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement will prohibit (well, curtail) the time-honored practice of rookie hazing.

As reported by the Post (quoting the Associated Press), the new CBA “bans players from ‘requiring, coercing or encouraging’ other players to engage in ‘dressing up as women or wearing costumes that may be offensive to individuals based on their race, sex, nationality, age, sexual orientation, gender identify or other characteristic.’” Gone are the days, the Post mentions, when the Washington Nationals dressed their rookies as gymnasts and ballerinas, or when the Dodgers outfitted Yasiel Puig as Gumby. In other words, grizzled MLB veterans can’t poke some good-natured fun at rookies by putting them in a Marilyn Monroe wig because there’s probably some perverted vet out there who’s going to torment a rookie until he streaks the field wearing who-knows-what.

Now, I don’t blame you a bit if you read that last paragraph and decided that Major League Baseball and the players’ union have done us all a very big favor. On the other hand, friendly ribbing and joking can go a long way to develop chemistry and camaraderie among a teamwhether it’s a baseball team or a business unit. The trick, of course, is knowing when it’s crossed the line, and that’s a terribly difficult line to draw (“good-natured” and “fun” being in the eye of the beholder and all). Unfortunately for us, the easiest way to navigate safely among Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the National Labor Relations Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and all of the other employment statutes is to put the kibosh on as much of it as you can.

I wish I had some more cheering news. No one enjoys telling a good employee that they can’t pull a harmless prank because a real-world Bluto Blutarsky may stalk among us, primed and ready to take that inch and go 100 miles more. Until we all grow up, though, we may just have to accept the unwanted mantle of the Puritan crusading against fun. And there’s one thing we know about adult humans: we don’t always act like adults.

Mila Kunis’ open letter on gender bias at work

November 29, 2016 - by: Katie O'Shea 0 COMMENTS
Katie O'Shea

Many people know actor Mila Kunis for her role in the TV series “That ’70s Show” and her film roles in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and the drama Black Swan. Kunis has recently been in the headlines for her open letter on sexism in Hollywood and the workplace entitled, “You’ll Never Work in This Town Again…” originally posted here.Accusation. Sad woman looking down fingers pointing at her

In the letter, Kunis discusses some of her personal experiences, including being told by a producer that she would never work in Hollywood again after she refused to pose semi-naked on the cover of a men’s magazine to promote a film. Kunis explained that she felt objectified and that the threat that her career would suffer because of her refusal embodied the fear that many women face with gender bias in the workplace. She explained her view about how many women feel–that if they speak up against gender bias, their livelihoods will be threatened. Because of her career success and financial ability, Kunis explained she is fortunate to be in a position where she can stand up against gender bias and bring it to light when she experiences it, but recognized that many women may not be able to do so.

The letter also discusses the fact that a pay gap still exists between women and men. In Kunis’ view, this is one of the ways women’s contributions are undervalued in the workplace. She also highlighted that subtle gender bias can be imperceptible or undetectable to those who share the bias and that women may face “microaggressions” that devalue their contributions at work. For example, Kunis cited a time when a big producer referred to her as “[o]ne of the biggest actors in Hollywood and soon to be Ashton’s wife and baby momma!!!” Kunis wrote that describing her in relationship to a successful man and her ability to bear children reduced her value and ignored her contributions.

It’s important to recognize blind biases that may occur in the workplace, just as employers also must recognize overt sexual harassment or sexism. As Kunis highlights in her letter, however, many people may be unaware of their blind biases and it’s important to address them and educate people on their biases. If employers don’t adapt and address sexist microaggressions, they risk losing talented women in the workplace. As Kunis concludes her letter, “I will work in this town again, but I will not work with you.”

Headline news: Policies, procedures essential tools in fight against sexual harassment

July 12, 2016 - by: Ed Carlstedt 0 COMMENTS
Ed Carlstedt

Last week, former Fox News Anchor Gretchen Carlson slapped Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes with a wrongful termination and sexual harassment lawsuit in New Jersey Superior Court. The lawsuit alleges that Ailes made “sexually charged comments” to Carlson, including comments about her body and requests for what could be considered quid pro quo sex. According to the allegations, Ailes stated that Carlson and he “should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago . . . .”  Sexual harassment in the office

Carlson’s complaint also attributes numerous other sexually charged statements to Ailes, including comments about her legs and posterior and requests that she wear certain clothes to enhance her figure. Carlson claims that, following her rejection of Ailes’ advances, her contract with Fox News was terminated. Ailes claims that Carlson’s allegations are false and that her contract was terminated due to her television show’s poor ratings.

Irrespective of where the truth lies in this Carlson vs. Ailes matter, it is important for employers to ensure proper coworker conduct in the workplace and to implement thoughtful harassment and discrimination policies to address alleged workplace discrimination. In the coming months, it will be interesting to see what complaints Carlson made to the human resources department at Fox News, whether Fox News investigated Carlson’s complaints, to what extent the complaints were investigated, and the outcome of such investigation.

Companies should have well-defined sexual harassment and discrimination policies that identify inappropriate behavior and the mechanisms for complaining, including to whom the aggrieved employee should complain. Once a complaint is received, employers should thoroughly investigate the complaint, interview the relevant witnesses, and determine whether any remedial action is warranted. Companies in general should discourage employees (both management and non-management) from making improper, sexually charged comments, including many of the types of comments Carlson imputes to Ailes in her lawsuit.

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