When the floodgates open, expect water at your doorstep

November 13, 2017 0 COMMENTS

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.

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Workplace romances: Do they ‘Suit’ your company?

November 07, 2017 0 COMMENTS

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.

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

May 17, 2017 0 COMMENTS

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.

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Fox News & Bill O’Reilly—best practices for conducting internal workplace investigations

May 01, 2017 0 COMMENTS

Bill O’Reilly’s reign as a Fox News favorite came to an abrupt end amid a series of sexual harassment allegations against him. After the most recent allegations, Fox News hired large law firm Paul Weiss to conduct its internal investigation.    Employment Incident  Investigation Form

Workplace investigations are tough, and if your organization can’t afford (or simply does not want) to hire a legal giant to handle the internal investigation, there are some key steps to ensure the investigation is fair, impartial, and efficient.

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Mila Kunis’ open letter on gender bias at work

November 29, 2016 0 COMMENTS

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.

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Employers haunted by Halloween

October 31, 2016 0 COMMENTS

Happy Halloween! We hope you are getting only treats today and no tricks. But in keeping with the holiday spirit, today’s post highlights some unintended tricks employers may face from Halloween.    Pug dog with Halloween costume sleep on sofa

Many employers will have already hosted a Halloween office party or allowed employees to dress up today to celebrate, but the Halloween festivities, whether work-sponsored or not, can continue to haunt employers long after today. Below are several examples of problems employers encountered because of Halloween activities: read more…

Mad Men ends: What have we learned?

May 19, 2015 1 COMMENTS

The seven-season-long nonstop drink-and-smoke-a-thon that was Mad Men has come to a close. Were you entertained? Were you satisfied? Better yet, did you learn anything?800px-Mad_Men_(logo).svg I will spare you my personal thoughts on the merits of the ending as there are countless commentaries available on the Web. (Really, it’s amazing how many there are.) Suffice it to say that the “ending” appeared to bring more new beginnings than closure: Roger Sterling’s (third) marriage to Marie Calvet; Joan’s new production company; Pete Campbell’s new job at Lear Jet; Ken Cosgrove at Dow Chemical; Peggy and Stan finally admitting they loved each other (though no one makes falling in love more awkward than Peggy Olson); and, last but not least, Don/Dick Draper/Whitman with his back to the California coast dreaming of the most iconic Coca-Cola ad of the 20th Century.

From the perspective of an employment lawyer, one of the most notable developments that occurred in the last few episodes, however, was not one of the evolution (or devolution) of the individual characters, but the constant upheaval at the advertising behemoth, McCann Erickson. The second half of the final season begins with the revelation that McCann’s acquisition of Sterling Cooper was not a partnership but, rather, Jim Hobart’s mastermind plan to fold the old competitor into McCann’s ever-increasing portfolio–even at the expense of several expensive conflicts-of-interest. But, the Titanic of the ad world can’t hold on to it all. And, companies of all sizes and industries can take a few lessons.

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Fire Harry Crane

April 16, 2015 2 COMMENTS

Mad Men can be tough to watch for an employment lawyer. I was thinking of this while watching the show’s most recent episode, “New Business.” In a particularly cringe-worthy scene, Harry Crane propositions Megan under the pretense that he can help get her acting career back on track. Harry is a buffoon and a jackass, and I wondered if he was exposing the firm to potential liability. iStock_000051863008_XXXLarge

There is precedent for the theory that an employee who harasses a third party can expose his employer to vicarious liability. Twenty-five years ago, a New York trial court  famously found that a model was sexually harassed by Penthouse Enterprises, which, among other things, required her to engage in sexual activities for the benefit of the company’s business. In that case the model was quasi-employed by Penthouse, but the court pointed out that the conduct constituted intentional infliction of emotional distress as well as sexual harassment.

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‘We fixed the glitch….’

January 26, 2015 1 COMMENTS

I’m confident in this prediction: If you’ve ever held an office job, you will love Office Space. (If you haven’t seen it, get it now.) Anyone can find something in the movie that resonates. Maybe you connect with the guy who can’t bring himself to do more than 15 minutes of real work a week. Maybe you’re the one locked in a daily standoff with the fax machine. Maybe you’re like everyone in the movie under the thumb of a monotonous, soul-crushing boss.    Excuse me, I believe you have my stapler

I’m a Milton Waddams guy. Now that’s not to say I’m a mumbly guy with no apparent skills or role and a creepy fascination with my stapler (others will be the judge of that), but I can’t get enough of the guy. Milt was useless. When you watch the movie, you can’t figure out why the company hired him in the first place or why it keeps him on the payroll. In fact, some consultants in the movie looked into Milt and discovered that he actually had been laid off years before. No one ever told Milt he’d been downsized, and a “glitch” in the payroll system kept cutting him a paycheck. Therefore, Milt continued to wander aimlessly and mumble, and the company continued to shuffle him around the office with the furniture.

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Skeevy TV raises harassment threshold for sitcom writers

August 12, 2013 1 COMMENTS

Law school will ruin your life in so many ways.

I used to watch television in a state of blissful ignorance. Holes in the plot? Didn’t notice. Inconsistent character behavior week to week? Didn’t care. Offensive, sexually charged dialogue? Didn’t mind at all.

Then I became a lawyer, and now my clients are employers who do mind that last kind of thing when it happens in their conference rooms, around their water coolers, or wherever else their employees congregate to ogle one another. Sexual harassment is a serious thing, the public loves salacious stories, and juries love to punish the wallets of companies that permit drooling, predatory managers to roam the hallways. When the boss whispers all sorts of naughty things to his secretary, it’s a lawsuit. When he does it on my Sony HD during prime time, it’s entertainment!

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