You work for a privately-owned multinational conglomerate with a high-profile CEO who loves Twitter and can’t stop talking.
And that CEO, outside of work, has been critical of lots of people. In doing so, however, the CEO has made particular comments about certain women, comments such as:
- “She wanted to breast pump in front of me at dep.”
- “I refuse to call [her] a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct”
- “Look at that face!” “Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” “I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not s’posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”
And there’s more where that came from too.
That said, some people think the CEO is a feminist. And within the confines of the company, they would argue, he put women in charge of construction projects before it was “fashionable” to do so. And, some would argue, the organization has more female executives than male executives and a large number of these women are paid more.
The question is: Has the CEO created a hostile work environment for women at the workplace?
Of course, we can’t answer this question in a vacuum, because the CEO described above is Donald Trump. And this isn’t a pure hypothetical; he has reportedly made all of the above statements either recently on the campaign trail or in other public statements.
Some have already jumped into the fray on this issue both here and here taking issue with his behavior.
But frankly, taking aim at The Donald here on whether or not his conduct creates a hostile work environment at his own workplace is a fruitless exercise. Eventually, some enterprising lawyer will take aim at the organization for his comments and he has plenty of lawyers to defend the organization.
Rather, his comments bring up a point that is relevant to other corporations. I cannot imagine another organization that would relish having such comments made by their CEO in almost any other context.
Yes, the equal opportunity offender — that is, the “horrible boss” who speaks poorly of everyone — can work as a defense in cases. But that’s an argument for a court and won’t prevent the lawsuit from being filed with the accompanying publicity that comes with it.
And so, if your CEO or another senior manager is suddenly spouting “truths”, perhaps its best if you remind him or her that there are, in fact, rules for the workplace. And that your CEO is not Donald Trump.
Of course, in Trump’s case, perhaps there’s a third option: maybe he’s just an entertainer in a “reality” show about running for President. As a character, maybe he’s just playing a role of a candidate who speaks the “truth” like the character playing the President in the 1993 movie “Dave.”
That might still give him an out to disclaim his statements.
Needless to say, your company and your company’s CEO won’t have that option when faced with a hostile work environment claim.