What if Judge Kavanaugh, Dr. Ford, and Senator Feinstein Were Your Employees?

Unless you’ve been living on a tropical island, with no internet access and an unlimited supply of refreshing drinks, you’re aware of Christina Blasey Ford’s accusations against Supreme Court Nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

Regardless of what you think of these accusations, Kavanaugh’s nomination, or the general state of the political world, this debacle reminds business leaders of what can happen if we don’t take sexual harassment claims very seriously. So, set your politics aside and let’s learn from this.

Imagine that this isn’t political and instead, that this is a corporation where you are the CEO. If Senator Feinstein were a manager, and Ford and Kavanaugh were both your employees, how would you react? What would you need to do differently?

As the CEO, these are the actions you should take:

To keep reading, click here: What if Judge Kavanaugh, Dr. Ford, and Senator Feinstein Were Your Employees?

NOTE: Please keep comments to policies surrounding sexual harassment and stay away from politics. I will delete political posts.

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27 thoughts on “What if Judge Kavanaugh, Dr. Ford, and Senator Feinstein Were Your Employees?

  1. This is exactly what I was saying to my husband as we watched the highlights on the news – that if this was a corporate setting, it wouldn’t have gotten this far because the hiring managers would have told Kavanaugh “hey, you look great on paper, but we’re getting too much bad press so we’re going to have to pass you over and consider other candidates.” It may be unfair, but corporations and non-profits cut ties with people that give them bad press all the time. No one wants their good organization to get caught up in someone’s personal scandal. I didn’t think of the Feinstein angle, but that’s a great point, too, about management just sitting on an accusation.

  2. One of the NPR commentators said something I agreed with today: if I were a hiring manager, Kavanaugh were a job candidate, he comported himself as he has in the past few days, and I had records of the same sorts of accusations against him by Dr. Ford and others, I wouldn’t hire him.

    His attitude sucks, he’s playing to an audience of one (Trump) as though Trump is the sole decision maker, and it’s too big a risk.

    1. Perhaps the EvilHR lady can opine in a future column about what the proper demeanor is when one is accused of being a serial gang rapist during the interview process.

      I can’t imagine this has ever happened in a business setting, but it would be good to know the protocol just in case.

      1. ‘what the proper demeanor is when one is accused of being a serial gang rapist during the interview process.’

        Great question. Nothing would have satisfied the interrogators.

        1. You are wrong. The proper demeanor is humility instead of hubris. Calm, matter-of-fact, admission of the things he actually did (e.g., “I was drunk at most of these parties, and I may not remember every detail of them, but I’m certain I never did X.”), regret for what poor judgment he had at the time. Gratitude for his legacy status at college. Angry defensiveness is not in his favor.

      2. No one in the hearing has accused his Honor of rape. Dr. Ford did not accuse him of rape, she accused him of sexual assault. Inflating her accusations to an extreme , “serial gang rape”allows you to call them lies – but they are lies YOU made up.

  3. One thing not covered in the article is if the accusations relate to things that happened (well) before either accuser and accused were employed by the company.

    Would that make a difference in a business setting?

  4. If I were evaluating someone for a lifetime position – which you can’t find anywhere except for an appointment to the Supreme Court, which is where this whole comparison breaks down – you can be sure I’d be even more interested in evidence of a candidate’s character, no matter how long ago the behavior might have taken place. In a job interview it’s all fair game.

    1. Fact check: most appellate judges (i.e., the circuit courts of appeal) are appointed for life.

  5. I’d fire Feinstein, tell Ford that was unfortunate and maybe switch her to another department. Your employee (Dr Ford) comes to you and says “do you remember when our company and Spacely Sprockets merges? Around that time we had some kind of company event and Brett pushed me into an empty office and groped me. Then he tried to take off my clothes. Mike was there, but he was laughing. You interview every person who was at any event for the 3 years after the merger. Some were Dr Ford’s friends, as well as coworkers. No one had any recollection of an event that even remotely sounds like Dr Ford’s. Then given the fact that Brett was up for a huge promotion, it sounds pretty ridiculous.

    1. Well, accept you don’t interview those people. You only interview Ford and Kavanaugh in a game of he said, she said.

      That’s part of where this breaks down for me. You investigate, like the article says. There isn’t much investigation if you only talk to two people, and then decide everything else you know is just based on the rumors you hear. And this is why the impartiality is so important, you don’t have people with vested interest doing the investigating, you have an outside company, or the FBI, doing so.

  6. It probably would have been better to have simply made this a hypothetical — without relating it to current events — as the facts are too skewed. It’s something of an exaggeration to accuse Feinstein of sitting on the letter “for months,” since the letter arrived in July and became public weeks ago. In the interim, Feinstein spoke with Dr. Ford and confirmed that she was not willing to go public. Feinstein then redacted Ford’s personal information from the letter and sent it to the FBI, which included it in Kavanaugh’s background info packet. Kavanaugh then obtained endorsements from 65 women who, reportedly, knew him during his high school years. Feinstein is not the “boss” of either Ford or Kavanaugh. But, using your business analogy, a confirmation hearing is not analogous to a criminal trial — hence, the “innocent until proven guilty” standard does not apply — but is more akin to a job interview, with the burden on the applicant to persuade the hiring official(s) as to his or her fitness. Even if the allegations remain unproven, does one hire a candidate with a big question remaining as to his or her prior moral — and perhaps, criminal — conduct?

      1. Yes, like the way Kavanaugh weirdly began ranting about some conspiracy that the Clintons were behind the accusations as revenge. yeah, that wasn’t completely rational, not a good look for a judge.

    1. Feinstein had the information for *6 weeks* before the information was leaked. That’s inexcusable. As Suzanne says, you simply can’t guarantee confidentiality when an accusation of the magnitude gets made.

      Beyond that, she could have forwarded the redacted letter to the FBI when she got it, NOT after all the hearings and after her office leaked the information.

      So, yes, in any same corporate / business environment, she should be fired.

  7. But you still have to consider the risk anytime you contemplate hiring someone that comes with controversy – whether that controversy is based on facts or merely on speculation/accusations. Look at Nike hiring Kapernick as their spokesperson. He comes with a ton of controversy and it’s a risk whether the controversy and negative press will benefit Nike or hurt them. The only difference is with Nike or any other company, they can cut ties with someone tha’s too risky/controversial/etc. In this case, the job is for life so the “hiring manager” i.e. the legislature really needs to consider the risk of taking on Kavanaugh. Fair or unfair though it may be that need to do it in the first place.

    I also agree with Dorothy. If a candidate addressed my hiring panel with the level of contempt, disrespect, and entitlement Kavenaugh displayed, he’d be out of the running in a hot minute. Attitude counts, too, in a job interview.

  8. I think it’s best to keep this apolitical and hypothetical. The trickier question is “What would you do if you found out your rockstar candidate for a crucial executive position was accused of sexual assault by a former colleague?” I don’t think most companies would be able to bring in an outside accuser to be interviewed by their HR departments, so their ability to assess the truth of complaints is limited, especially if the accusations were made years after the fact.

    But even assuming it’s impossible to determine the truth, and even setting aside the larger questions about sexual violence and intimidation in society writ large, it’s hard to just dismiss the accusation out of hand:
    (1) If the core requirements of the position itself are good judgement and legal and moral reasoning, then the suggestion of bad judgement or illegal or immoral behavior would be directly relevant. At the very least, you’d have to scrutinize the candidate much more thoroughly than otherwise.
    (2) If it’s going to embroil your organization in ongoing bad PR, that has to be something you consider, since dealing with bad PR translates into time and money for your business. To ignore this bottom line would be potentially reckless, regardless of whether or not it’s fair to the applicant. As an employer, you don’t “owe” an applicant a job, and you can reject them for any reason as long as it’s not a legally protected status. While I agree it’s good practice to be as fair as possible, and while it’s true that you can’t establish a pattern of rejecting applicants based on demographic features, sometimes the issue is larger than your organization. My sense is that the applicant may have to send a cease and desist letter to the accuser (assuming the accusations are false), or else file defamation charges, since they’re being materially damaged by the accusation. But until there’s some kind of resolution, you may need to keep your organization out of the middle of the controversy.
    (3) Finally, I think you have to consider the risk of bringing on an employee who might have hurt someone in the past. Unless you KNOW the accusations are untrue, you’re potentially rolling the dice on their future behavior. If the accusations turn out to be true, and the employee you’ve just hired re-offends and hurts someone in your organization… that’s not good. And regardless of whether the accusations are true or not, you’d have to consider the impact on your existing employees. If your other employees are aware of the accusations and you hire the person anyway, your existing employees may be concerned about being asked to work with someone who is (fairly or not) known for hurting coworkers. You might lose people over this.

    Again, not all this directly applies to the Kavanaugh case, and I have no desire to litigate that. In general though, I think this is a really a hard call for a hiring committee. Personally, I wouldn’t risk it.

  9. Interesting reactions, not all of which are responding to the article from an HR perspective. I am going to attempt to address this like the article.
    Feinstein is the manager in the committee who oversees and interviews all potential candidates for a job position that has specific skills requirements. The applicant starts the process with interviews with each member of the committee which also has a background check done on the applicant which shows no negative reports. Shortly after Feinstein has interviewed the applicant, she received a letter alleging a wrongful act by the potential applicant by a person who knew this applicant 30 years ago. The claim was the act traumatized their life. Feinstein now has new potential information not shown on background check but delayed passing this information on for investigation by the department that specializes in doing the investigation work. Feinstein makes a decision to get in touch personally with this accuser and decides that the rest of the committee should hear this accusation without verifying facts
    When Feinstein finally lets the rest of the committee know, this information has already gone public, creating a situation that should have never occurred if the information had been addressed as it was supposed to be—sent to background department who specializes in doing the checking. There was no reason to have any information made public, especially when there’s no public record on file. I am also referring to sealed juvenile records. Feinstein did not follow protocol and should be not only documented for mishandling the situation but removed from the position ( assuming that they are a tenured employee) and placed in a position that don’t have any potential to effect decisions, i.e. they may continue to work as a subordinate under another with no decision making allowed. That was a very poor decision made by Feinstein to hold back information deemed questionable using delay tactics.
    As for the applicant, the decision to continue to tryout for the job should be given. If the committee wants to investigate this now public information for fact verification even though they are sure of the qualifications of the applicant, they are doing it for their public face only.

    1. I might be harsher from an HR perspective. If your job is screening applicants, even if you are only of many, and hugely relevant information comes to you, you HAVE to share it with the rest of the hiring committee and / or the company doing the background checks.

  10. I’ve been ferociously struggling with the Ford/Kavanaugh issue. I know a person who touched someone else. By touch, I mean simply touch, without any hidden meanings, on her fully-clothed shirt. This was in the first year of high school. Since that time, 30 years ago, he has had to annually register as a sex offender and will continue to register for the rest of his life. This has ruined his ability to get any kind of professional employment – ever. Attempts to get this overturned have failed. If he has been made to suffer, should Kavanaugh get away with doing much worse? Or should the standard of behavior be based on more recent actions vs older ones?

    1. This sounds horrible for your friend. Would you mind sharing more details? Where I was living 30 years ago, nobody cared about sexual harassment and I had never even heard of a sex offender registry.

      In the late 80s, a guy at work was fired for sexual harassment, which nobody I knew had ever heard of happening anywhere. But I do know that this guy was hitting on me hard at a company meeting. I was 23, he was a VP and married. If he was doing that kind of thing with witnesses, what was he doing when he had no witnesses?

      1. Without giving away identifying information, he was from the wrong side of the tracks and she was the child of politically connected parents. People have said her family owned the judge.

    2. ‘should Kavanaugh get away with doing much worse?’

      But Kavanaugh didn’t do anything at all.

    3. But how do you know that he actually did that?

      As you know from experience, not every story is true.

      1. but stastically, they are. So you look at the statements they made. The doctor seemed to do her best to be accurate as possible, although she didn’t have perfect recall of the location, or actual date. The judge seemed to have forgotten or dismissed his heavy drinking, despite his calendar notations, and yearbook call outs regarding kegs, skis and ralphing. While he has every right to say he is no longer the same person he was as a teen, he instead kept insisting that he is the same person now that he was as a teen – hardworking, pious and family/friend oriented. It brings up questions about his honesty of who he is now, because he seems to be lying about who he was as a teen.

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