When Your Job Offer Process Takes On a "Stalker" Quality....
All Stars, No Ditchdiggers - The Ocean's Eleven/Netflix Staffing Model

Sexual Harassment Trials and the Media: A Cautionary Tale

Talent wins.  Whether the game is business or sports, the managers/coaches can only enhance performance to certain levels.  You've got to have the horses to win the game.

The pressure to have strong talent can also cause you to make decisions you wouldn't ordinarily make.Isiah   Consider the cautionary tale of the New York Knicks (pro basketball) and Isiah Thomas.    Thomas is a former All-Star player who has transitioned into the role of executive for the NBA's premier franchise (the Knicks).

Thomas and the Knicks are also currently embroiled in a nasty lawsuit. Lawyers for a former Madison Square Garden executive suing New York Knicks coach and president Isiah Thomas for sexual harassment, rested her case after four days of testimony portraying him as a foul-mouthed jock who loathed and then loved her.  Details from ABC News on the four days of testimony:

-On Tuesday, Jeffrey Nix a 15-year employee of the NBA team, took the stand in U.S. District Court to recount a series of 2004 conversations he had with his friend and co-worker. Browne Sanders, in tones of disgust, detailed how Thomas initially treated her with contempt shortly after his December 2003 arrival in New York, Nix testified.

-At one meeting meant to resolve any issues between Browne Sanders and Thomas, the two-time NBA champion guard lashed out at her by calling her a "bitch" and reminding her in even harsher language he is the president of the team, Nix said his friend told him.

--Browne Sanders also told Nix, he testified, that Thomas had asked her in March 2004: "What are your job responsibilities, you ... ho?" Thomas added an obscenity for emphasis, according to the secondhand account.

--By the end of the year, though, Nix testified that he saw Thomas embracing Browne Sanders in Madison Square Garden after a Knicks' victory and watched as his friend pushed the coach away. "You're not going to believe what he just said," Nix quoted Browne Sanders as saying. "He just said, 'I'm in love with you. It's like (the movie) 'Love and Basketball."

Making the whole thing nastier is the fact that Browne Sanders was fired by the owner (Jim Dolan) of the club almost immediately after being informed by his VP of HR that the defendant was impeding the investigation by coercing "her direct reports into collaborating her complaints."  Unfortunately, no one ever confronted Brown Sanders with those allegations before she was terminated...

The moral?  Companies have to conduct due diligence with any allegation before they start terminating people, especially those who have filed a complaint in an area like harassment.  Your star performers may be the ones included in the allegations, but you can't let that affect your judgment.   

It will be interesting to follow this one - you don't get a lot of opportunities to see all the testimony in print in cases like this...


Michael Moore

When the CEO is alleged harasser, the Human Resources Department is in a tough spot. EEOC Guidance is clear that the alleged harasser may not directly or indirectly control the investigation. The organization's board of directors must be notified about the complaint. The board should consider engaging outside counsel to protect the integrity of the investigation and to preserve executive relationships following the outcome. You can always get a new lawyer if the CEO is upset, but good HR people are hard to find.

Laurie Ruettimann

I really hate Isiah Thomas regardless of these allegations.

The comments to this entry are closed.