Monday, August 19, 2013

When CEOs Refuse Sexual Harassment Training

... For the past eight years, California law has required the state’s employers to provide harassment-prevention training to all California-based supervisors within six months of their hiring or election and again every two years.

In Faragher v. City of Boca Raton (524 U.S. 775 [1998]), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that although employers are presumed automatically liable for harassment by a supervisor, training can help organizations escape liability in harassment cases, even if the harassment occurred.

Yet, experts acknowledge that the HR manager can find himself in an awkward position if one of his superiors refuses to participate in harassment training.

“If you have a high-level employee who says ‘I’m not taking this training,’ then you need to go as high up the chain of command as you can,” said Michael Johnson, a former trial attorney in the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and now co-CEO of Brightline Compliance LLC, which provides compliance and ethics training to more than 1 million employees. “Maybe you go to the board. Of course, if the person is the mayor, there may not be anyone else to go to. I would certainly be sending e-mails documenting the fact that they were offered this training and they didn’t attend.”

Recent years are replete with examples of powerful men and women accused of sexual harassment:

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, was accused of sexual harassment by six women. Schwarzenegger did not confess but admitted to previous misconduct before he was elected.

Samuel B. Kent, a former Texas federal district judge, was accused of sexually harassing two female employees, impeached for abusing his authority and imprisoned for 33 months for obstruction of justice.

Herman Cain, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate, suspended his campaign after allegations surfaced that he sexually harassed women while he was the CEO of the National Restaurant Association. While he denied the accusations, he acknowledged that the association made financial settlements to the complainants.  

Suzanne Barr, chief of staff to Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton, resigned after at least three ICE employees alleged she engaged in  inappropriate sexual behavior. Barr called the allegations “unfounded.”

Former Idaho state Sen. John McGee, a Republican, resigned amid sexual harassment charges by a Senate attache. ...