A co-worker’s seedy past

It was recently discovered that a “Team Lead” at my business has an extensive past in the adult porn video business, starring in videos and producing. Many of the female staff are uncomfortable taking direction from her now. I spoke with a female Vice President and advised that the whole floor knows of this woman’s past and the VP was more concerned about how this information got out. There has been no investigation that I am aware of, and it appears that management is condoning her not so distant past. Is there a possibility of filing a sexual harassment lawsuit?

What is her job? If it’s as the Youth Counselor at a church, yeah, probably not the best past career. Otherwise, can we just let this go, please? Why would there be a sexual harassment lawsuit? Because she had a former career in porn?

I’m absolutely opposed to the pornography industry.  It’s damaging in so many ways, but that is irrelevant in this discussion. This woman did something in her past. She’s not doing it now. It was legal (presumably) behavior. Does it affect her ability to do her job? No. The only problem she has is because her co-workers are clutching their pearls.

And here’s my question: While you’re all running around condemning her, are you condemning the person who “discovered” this? Because I’m betting that the person who discovered her didn’t just stumble across her name on IMDB but found her while watching porn. If you’re going to condemn the actor, you better condemn the consumer at the same time. Not practical? Much easier to blame the woman who made a living doing this than to blame the men who consumed the end product? If you want her gone for making the videos, do you want to fire all the people at your office who watch the videos?

If anyone is concerned about sexual harassment, it would be this particular employee–as the victim. Isn’t your staff treating her differently because of her gender and not because of her skills? Are they uncomfortable taking direction from the man who watched the videos? I just don’t see a big difference in morality between producers and consumers. If your staff is not willing to take direction from her because of her past, then you need new staff. If she’s bragging about it, sending people clips, or going on television saying, “I’m a porn star and I work at Anvils R Us!” then it’s problematic, and the business would be within their rights to deal with it. If she’s simply doing her job, knock it off.

Here’s what you do. Ignore it. Tell your co-workers that her past is her past and their pasts are their pasts. The female vice president is right to be concerned about gossip. Gossip should not be tolerated in the workplace. If I were her, I’d be telling people to knock off the discussion. I’d also pull aside the former actress and ask her to let me know if anyone is harassing her and I’d take care of it.

I love the internet. I love Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn. I use these things all the time to look people up to gather background information. But, we need to be careful to allow people their pasts. Were you perfect? Should everyone who has ever done something less than wholesome be condemned to live under a bridge for the rest of their lives? No? Then let it go. She did.

We should hire people to do jobs. We should let people overcome their pasts. We should stop mean girl gossip. Period.

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42 thoughts on “A co-worker’s seedy past

  1. I agree that the coworkers should all drop it, but don’t agree with the assumption that a man was the one who found it, whilst watching porn. There are a number of ways that one, male or female, may have come across this information, including a woman watching porn, or a man being particularly adept at internet research. Bottom line, however: you are right. The office gossip is far more damaging to morale than her former career. Why on earth the women in the office would be uncomfortable under this woman’s direction is beyond me; people need to grow up.

    1. Sure, it’s possible that someone stumbled upon it while preparing their Sunday School lesson, but given the high percentage of people who watch porn, even if this info was found innocently, other people (male and female) in the office are watching porn.

      1. If one is looking to change industries, I’m guessing “porn industry” should be left off the linked in profile?


  2. Another point: this was in the woman’s past. She has moved beyond it. She has climbed out of that industry and found a mainstream job, something that may not be easy to do. (Kudos to whoever hired her for looking past the past and to her current goals and abilities!)

    Rather than condemn her for her past, they should be admiring her for her initiative.

    Has it occurred to any of these judgmental prudes that, if they were successful and got her fired, she might feel compelled to return to that industry?

    1. A lot of people preach change but don’t actually want anyone to change. We MUST PULL THEM BACK DOWN.

      You make an excellent point. If you’re opposed to and offended by porn, you should be thrilled that she’s left the industry.

    2. THIS. If I found something like that out about a coworker, I’d feel compassion that, for whatever reason, she found herself involved in that horrid industry at some point and, heck yes, admiration that she turned it all around. Some women are just delighted to shame other women when it comes to anything to do with sex, so everyone engaging in immature and mean-spirited gossip in that office needs to look at themselves.

    1. I stole that from someone. Miss Manners maybe? I certainly didn’t make it up, but I love the visual.

      1. Maybe from Men on Film in “in Living Color”? (On finding out that Glenn Close is actually a woman: “Clutch the pearls–what a sneaky thing to do!”)

      2. Slut shaming is real. And women are sometimes the biggest culprits. Shame on the women in this office for not wanting to work for this woman. And filing a sexual harassment lawsuit? Unbelievable.

  3. Hear hear!

    The way I understand sexual harassment, it’s the former pron worker who would have a case..

    This is firmly in the ‘mind your own beeswax’ zone, additionally, anybody pulling that stuff up on company computers or e-mailing links using company e-mails should be disciplined. The workplace is a no porn zone. It sounds like the former porn worker keeps it that way and the rest of the office should too.

    1. Yep. Maybe I misread the email, but it seems like they are accusing her of sexually harassing them by what-existing? (And it’s possible that the letter writer was afraid that the former actress would claim sexual harassment and I read it wrong).

      Can you imagine going to court on that?
      “You’re honor, I’ve been sexually harassed by that woman!”
      “By being in porn!”
      “Is she showing these films at work?”
      “No! I had to spend 3 hours researching this to find the videos. Then I watched them to ensure I’d be offended!”

      Yeah, that’s going over well.

  4. I agree. I am a conservative Christian and I would not be offended. Heck, my past is just as shady as hers. Let the past be in the past.

  5. Perhaps add a fainting couch for the inevitable swooning after being overcome by the vapors.
    Once again, the Business Sisters, “Nunya and Mindya,” rear their heads. The only thing the OP should be concerned with is, “Can this person do her job effectively?” What she did in the past is irrelevant because whether or not HR and/or the hiring manager knew, they deemed this person able to fulfill the duties of the job. End of discussion.
    What did the person who revealed this information hope to achieve by outing this employee’s past? Was it retaliation? Was it satisfaction about finding out about someone’s past that doesn’t meet one’s expectations for the present? Regardless, OP, how would you want to be treated should someone find out something about you from your past that you may not wanted known? Start there and give this person a break . . . you appear to have no idea why she did it and frankly, it is none of your business. The ONLY thing you should be concerned with is the here and now. Can she do her job effectively, yes or no? If yes, then check yourself.
    Ain’t office gossip grand?

  6. Would they still be “clutching their pearls” if she were Kim Kardashian, whose initial claim to fame was a sex tape?

  7. I agree that the only relevant question should be current job performance. However, in what situations could this persons past employment become an issue. When is an employer justified in removing an individual because of a “past employment” that “could be” damaging to its current business policy or public perception? Should public opinion factor into this conversation? Does working in “porn” rule out teaching Sunday school? Should it?

    1. “Does working in “porn” rule out teaching Sunday school? Should it?”

      Redemption, Mary Magdelene.

      No to both.

  8. This response was so well written. I was pretty well horrified when I read the OP’s question…are you kidding me right now!?
    I was also very happy to see that the comments on this article had the same thoughts and feelings that I did. Heaven forbid someone earn a living, whether you agree with it or not. If it doesn’t effect her current job, leave the poor thing alone! It drives me insane how judgemental and cruel some people can be (coming from someone who is an HR professional, but is covered in tattoos – I luckily have an amazing employer in the Health Care industry who looks past the ink to the person I am inside – because it does not, in any way, effect how I do my job).

    1. I am also a tattooed HR professional. And *gasp* I used to have purple hair!!! It’s amazing how differently I was treated when my hair was purple even though I behaved exactly the same as before. I have no tolerance for ignorant people (except at work where I have to tolerate them to the appropriate extent)

  9. You stated that someone must have discovered her while watching porn. I say someone was looking for dirt on this person. This was a purposeful “discovery”. I imagine someone had it in for this poor woman. The office gossip is by far the worst problem.

    1. This is what I assumed. Someone researched this woman thoroughly. Maybe she was hired over an internal candidate who is now jealous?

  10. Wow. Maybe the chickens, and probably a few roosters, don’t have enough to do if they are spending so much time clucking away about their superior’s previous employment status so in depthly. In my office we use to call it a “whip up”. When the group of ” gossipers” latched on to something they thought was their business and got all “whipped up” about it. They would also suck in other Team Members along with all the energy in the office, small children and farm animals in their wake…like a tornado.
    Bravo! What a fabulous response! As a Senior Manager my response to this kind of thing was also “…and this is relevant to the work how?”. Great post!

  11. I love your response. I find it far more disturbing that someone was either a) looking up detailed information on coworkers on the internet (creepy!!) or b) watched the video and then proceeded to share this information with coworkers. This coworker did nothing wrong other than have a job with a bunch of gossiping losers. Get of your high horse and stop making judgments about people’s pasts. If they do find out who started the rumor, they should be written up for inappropriate workplace behavior and possibly sexual harassment. I really don’t get how anyone could think that THEY could file a sexual harassment charge against this woman for previously being in the porn industry. SMH

  12. Not to sound like an expert or anything but two things consistent in that industry.
    First, they rarely, if ever, use their actual name.
    Second, dress and appearance in her 1st career is very different than her current. I doubt she’d be recognized in a professional setting.

  13. Am I the only one who currently has “Pick a Little, Talk a Little” from “The Music Man” running through their head?

    I agree that the other office workers need to learn to mind their own business.

  14. “the VP was more concerned about how this information got out.”

    Yea! Good to hear about professional management.

  15. I always assume that some percentage of my coworkers are living their private lives in a way I would not agree with. I don’t ask those kind of questions and as coworkers they don’t volunteer that information. It really is none of my business.

    I was stunned the letter writer jumped to sexual harrassment. They seem to really want her fired now that they know this. Horrible.

  16. I had something similar happen in a well-known northeastern city that has lots of colleges & recently had record snowfalls. A co-worker of mine pointed out that my primary care physician had *quite* an internet presence, especially for 1997.

    Since this well-known northeastern city has an remarkably vicious, virulent gossip culture, I didn’t say a word (I worked in the hospital) and swore my co-worker to secrecy – it would’ve been career-ending.

    My PCP probably wasn’t smart to post what he did but google didn’t exist and apparently it was a special-interest BBS. What’s most galling to me about the OP’s office is that I can just picture the malignant glee as the info was passed around.

    Great response, Suzanne, thanks.

  17. It has been my experience that women who are most highly offended by association with or reference to pornography are women that I would pay to keep their clothes on.

  18. Sadly, the letter writer doesn’t sound like she is going to back down and will probably be foolishly indignant until she can find that vocal section of people that would side with her. Likely we are all just immoral idiots as bad as the company’s VP, so I don’t hold out much hope she will see reason as obviously wants this woman gone.

    I sincerely doubt she will see that people pressing this are the ones risking the company’s reputation, the lawsuit, and being canned. If they start being hostile to this woman, and it sounds like they have, I bet she would be the one with a legitimate grievance as it’s the other employees being insubordinate and interfering with this woman’s job.

    There probably IS an investigation going on as to who is starting this ruckus.

  19. Someone with an extensive past in porn–not only acting but also producing–would likely have enough money in savings so they wouldn’t have to work in an office job which makes me question the validity. Since people don’t use their real names in porn (and if she was behind the camera as a producer you wouldn’t even be able to see her face), perhaps this is actually a mistaken identity issue. Which begs the question…can someone sue for sexual harassment if the issue they are being harassed about isn’t true? Would it still be sexual harassment if she wasn’t a former porn star and was just “gossiped” about? Or, as another example, can a person sue for racial discrimination if they look black but aren’t? Off topic a little, but in theory I could see this issue coming up.

  20. When an issue about your past surfaces, I suggest being upfront about it, but overcoming the questions and concerns about your ability with hard work and adding value to the company. Valuable contribution will nearly always overshadow any mistakes you have made in the past.

  21. Seriously? This woman has managed to get out of that seedy industry and get a respectable job, is earning her own way and you all are uncomfortable? Why? The main question should be is how good is she at her job? That is all that should matter instead of your own messed up logic or judgement.

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