July 11, 2016

Of course, you already know that sexually harassing an underling can create big problems for you, your organization, your family and your shareholders, right? 
You also know that it's a violation of the law, your policy and, we hope, your values.  We would hope you know that it dates you, making you look like some cartoon out of the 80s, something that everyone should know by now shouldn't happen, even though our phone continues to ring every week with people who just didn't seem to get that particular memo.
But did you know that if someone accuses you or someone even higher up in your organization of harassment that your obligation is to: 1) remain neutral; 2) conduct a full and fair investigation; and 3) come to a reasonable conclusion based on the facts? If it is someone higher up in the organization, such as Ailes, you certainly should retain an outside, independent investigator.
Remarkably, when Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News, was accused last week of forcing out Gretchen Carlson, a longtime female anchor after she allegedly refused his sexual advances and complained to him about persistent harassment in the newsroom, the parent company of Fox, 21st Century Fox, initiated an internal review of Ms. Carlson's charges.  "We take these matters seriously," the company said.  http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/07/business/media/gretchen-carlson-fox-news-roger-ailes-sexual-harassment-lawsuit.html?_r=0
Ailes, might be the most powerful man in television news, as the head of Fox, the most watched cable news network , and a former prominent Republican consultant. He allegedly told Carlson last fall in a meeting where she asked to discuss her concerns that she was being treated unfairly that: "I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you'd be good and better and I'd be good and better." 
Carlson goes on to claim that she spurned him and Ailes retaliated by reducing her salary, curtailing her on-air appearances and then declined the renewal of her contract last month. She also claims that her co-anchors made jokes about women and that Ailes made other harassing comments including calling her a "man-hater" and asking her to "turn around so that he could see her posterior."

While there have been rumors of other Fox news harassment episodes, this is the first one I'm aware of where Fox had indicated that they are conducting an internal investigation, even though Carlson no longer works for the network.
What Should You Do?
If you or another manager or executive is accused of harassment you do have a duty - as the employer - to remain neutral. (Fox didn't quite meet this test, maintaining that they had "full confidence" in Ailes.). You should conduct an investigation immediately, even if the claimant no longer works for the company, since the respondent may still be engaging in the behavior with other people. Similarly, even if the respondent no longer works for the company, if you learn of harassment after they leave, you should still interview the complainants and possibly any witnesses since there may be a culture of harassment that allowed this behavior to continue - as is alleged in the Carlson case.

Did You Know?

In addition to harassment training, we also conduct investigations as well as team rebuilding after investigations have concluded. In our experience, there may be many times when a team cannot work well together after an investigation concludes and they may need some help being able to rebuild.
For more information, call or write us at: 303-216-1020 or 

Be sure to read Lynne's helpful books on sexual harassment and how to handle tough conversations.

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