Tag Archives: Sexual
Alphabet’s “moonshot” unit, X, has lost one of its hotshots. Per Axios and CNBC, director Rich DeVaul left the company yesterday without any exit package, following claims detailed in an extensive New York Times piece last week about rampant sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior at the company.
According to that report, DeVaul told a female engineer who was applying for a position at X that he and his wife were polyamorous. Then he invited her to the Burning Man festival, where he asked her to remove her shirt for a back rub. She agreed only to a neck rub, then discovered later that she didn’t get the job. DeVaul claims X had already decided not to hire her, and he didn’t know she was unaware of this when she came to the festival.
The star of that Times piece was Andy Rubin, Android’s creator, who left Google four years ago with a $ 90 million exit package after allegedly—he denies it—coercing an employee into performing oral sex on him. The company’s protection of Rubin went unreported until last week. There’s also a reference to Alphabet’s now-chief legal officer, David Drummond, who had a child with an employee working in the legal department; when he admitted to the relationship, which was discouraged under company rules, she was the one who got transferred out of the division.
To protest the events that have been revealed, more than 200 Google engineers are planning a “women’s walk” walkout tomorrow. “I feel like there’s a pattern of powerful men getting away with awful behavior towards women at Google‚ or if they don’t get away with it, they get a slap on the wrist, or they get sent away with a golden parachute, like Andy Rubin,” one employee told Buzzfeed.
Sensibly, Google CEO Sundar Pichai is not pushing back against the walkout, telling employees in an email that human resources would “make sure managers are aware of the activities planned for Thursday and that you have the support you need.”
“I understand the anger and disappointment that many of you feel,” Pichai wrote. “I feel it as well, and I am fully committed to making progress on an issue that has persisted for far too long in our society…and, yes, here at Google, too.”
As Pichai noted, Google needs to do more to ensure it takes “a much harder line on inappropriate behavior.” To be meaningful, this will surely have to be a cultural change that involves re-evaluating the consequences for executives who abuse their positions of power, no matter how valuable those individuals are to the company. And whatever the future brings, it’s unfortunate that it took press exposure to bring the company to this point.
A version of this story originally appeared in Fortune’s CEO Daily newsletter. Subscribe here.
Yesterday, another two public officials resigned due to sex scandals and their resignations seem a bit backward. The first, Al Franken (D-Minn) had photos of him inappropriately touching women. He, however, denied that he’d really done anything really wrong, saying,
“I also think it gave some people the false impression that I was admitting to doing things that in fact I haven’t done. Some of the allegations against me are simply not true. Others I remember very differently.”
The second, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) resigned after “discussing surrogacy” with some female staff members. While that doesn’t seem like actual sexual harassment or discrimination to me, he felt that in the current climate he needed to resign. And, of course, we do not know the whole story. We don’t know anyone’s whole story.
While you can’t shake a stick in Washington or Hollywood without hitting someone sleazy, sexual harassment isn’t limited to the rich and famous. And while some of the victims of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Matt Lauer, and Louis C.K. were, themselves, pretty famous, most victims are normal humans. And normal humans have regular jobs. And normal humans with regular jobs may be feeling a bit more stressed with all this focus on sexual assault and harassment. Some may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
[R]ape and sexual assault might actually be the most common cause of PTSD. Data suggests that anywhere from 30 to 80 percent of sexual assault survivors develop PTSD. With so many women exposed to sexual assault, it becomes clear that the disparity between men and women in mental health issues might be closely related to the trauma many women face.
So, there may well be someone suffering from PTSD in your office who is feeling worse in today’s climate. What do you do?
You’re not your employees’ best friend, and you shouldn’t try to act like it. Don’t have big sharing sessions or talk about how some guy smiled at you on the bus and made you feel violated. It’s insensitive and dumb. #MeToo isn’t a competition.
Remind your whole staff about your EAP.
You should have an employee assistance program, and if you don’t consider implementing one today. They are inexpensive and can be life-saving for employees. EAPs are experienced in helping people find mental health support and depending on your plan, visits may be free or at a reduced cost, at least for an initial therapy session.
Make reasonable accommodations.
The Americans with Disabilities Act covers many cases of PTSD, which means that (as long as you have 15 or more employees), you are required to provide reasonable accommodations for an employee who qualifies. Encourage someone who brings up any stress from these recent events to see their physician and have the paperwork filled out.
Then, be willing to make accommodations for your employee. What is reasonable depends on the job and the company. Work with your employee to come to a solution. (This is called an interactive process and is required by law.) For instance, if you work in an office, it might be reasonable to move someone’s desk so that her back is against the wall, which means no one can sneak up on her. If the same employee is a cashier at the grocery store, it may not be reasonable to have her in a location where no one can come up behind her.
Never excuse bad behavior.
One thing we’ve found out during this time of sexual harassment revelations is that perpetrators need accomplices. The Harvey Weinsteins and Matt Lauers of the world wouldn’t have been successful in their longtime harassment had many people, men and women, not allowed it.
There is no employee so valuable that you should tolerate bad behavior. If you want your employees to feel safe at work, investigate every claim, and fire anyone who deserves to be fired. Period. Even if that person is your top salesperson. Shut that behavior down.
Chances are, you know someone who is dealing with raw feelings, so remember, above all, be kind.
Virgin Group head Richard Branson has offered a soft-focus denial of allegations that he sexually harassed a backup singer for English singer-songwriter Joss Stone. In statements published by The Telegraph, Branson said he had “no recollection of the incident” described by singer Antonia Jenae.
The allegations are suddenly in the headlines, but were initially aired in an October 16th Facebook post by Jenae. Jenae describes Branson “trying to convince me to show him my boobs” at an island party. Then, Jenae claimed, Branson “proceeded to ‘motorboard’ my breasts with his face” as the party was breaking up.
According to the Telegraph, the island referenced by Jenae is Necker Island, a Caribbean which Branson owns. The alleged incident would have taken place in June 2010, after Stone and her band played a nearby festival.
Jenae has since told The Sun that “his behaviour was disgusting. I feel like it was sexual assault . . . Everyone was wondering why I wasn’t angry because I’m usually a firebrand. But I was just too shocked.”
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A Virgin Management spokeswoman also stated, according to the Telegraph, that “everyone appeared to enjoy their time on the island. Richard has no recollection of this matter and neither do his family and friends, who were with him on the island at the time . . . there would never have been any intention to offend or make anyone feel uncomfortable in any way and Richard apologizes if anyone felt that way during their time on the island.”
Joss Stone’s father, Richard Stoker, also contributed to the Virgin statement to the Telegraph, saying that “Joss and the group had a wonderful afternoon on Necker Island, everybody entered into the party spirit and it was wonderful getting to know Richard and his family.”
There are elements of the statements that were once standard in such situations, but which the latest round of harassment allegations seems to have rendered insufficient. Senator Al Franken was roundly lambasted earlier this month for saying “I certainly don’t remember” what broadcaster Leeann Tweeden described as a coerced kiss, and for dismissing a picture of him pretending to grab her breasts as “clearly intended to be funny.”
Franken quickly amended his statement to something more genuinely contrite, and Branson may find himself having to do the same. In addition to the weakness of the ‘I don’t remember’ defense, Stoker’s claim that “everybody entered into the party spirit” seems to subtly imply that Branson’s forgotten behavior might have been acceptable under the circumstances, a sentiment unlikely to be received well in the post-Weinstein era.
A New York man says he was laughed at by an operator at Uber’s emergency hotline after reporting that he was sexually assaulted by an Uber driver this month. The operator later hung up after refusing to refer the man to her manager. The driver has since been banned from the platform.
More than a dozen women have stepped forward to accuse Fox News CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment in the days since a former host for the channel filed a related lawsuit against Ailes, according to New York magazine.
Gretchen Carlson, who hosted “The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson” until last month, alleged that Ailes subjected her to “severe and persistent” sexual harassment. She also claims that Ailes fired her in June in a retaliatory move after she rejected his sexual advances. Ailes has called Carlson’s accusations “false.” Read more…