Apple Takes Workplace Harassment To New Realm

Antonio Garcia Martinez would not gain entry to my inner circle because he seems immature and misogynist.

But should Apple, Inc. fire him as a product engineer on Apple Inc.’s advertising platform on the basis of my feelings, without any evidence that Martinez engaged in illegal harassment on the job?

The answer is no.

Yet, Apple Inc. has effectively banished Martinez from its ranks after only a few months on the job because Apple workers objected to passages in Martinez’ 2016 book about his work as a product manager at Facebook, Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley.

Under the law, a hostile workplace is one where an employee or employees are victims of severe and pervasive “unwelcome conduct” based on a protected characteristic (i.e. sex, race). A few offensive comments generally don’t suffice, let alone one or two overheated passages from a six-year-old book.

If Apple didn’t offer Martinez a hefty financial incentive to voluntarily resign, it may find itself in court in the near future.

Tolerance

The most objectionable passage in Martinez’ book appears to be his contrast of his then-girlfriend – a guerilla type cartoon character taken right out of a video game – with “most” women in Silicon Valley, whom he characterized “soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of shit.”

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Canada Set to Address Workplace Bullying & Harassment

While the U.S. snoozes, Canada’s Parliament is taking steps to protect public sector workers from bullying and harassment  in the workplace.

Canada’s proposed Bill C 65 would amend Canada’s Labour Code by expanding the definition of “workplace violence”  to include both physical and psychological injuries and illnesses.

The bill’s definition of “harassment and violence” includes “any action, conduct or comment, including of a sexual nature, that can reasonably be expected to cause offence, humiliation or other physical or psychological injury or illness to an employee.”

The bill was passed by Canada’s Senate and is now pending before the House of Commons, which is seeking public input on a proposed regulatory framework to implement the bill.  If approved, the bill will apply to all federally regulated workplaces, including workers in the Canadian Parliament, banks, telecommunications and transportation industries. Continue reading “Canada Set to Address Workplace Bullying & Harassment”

Incivility: Is it Trump’s Fault?

There has been much discussion lately about the role of  Republican President Donald Trump in the incivility that hovers like a dark cloud over our country.

However, a recent nationwide poll shows that incivility was a problem long before Trump announced his candidacy in 2015,  though he certainly hasn’t helped the problem.

Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate, in partnership with KRC Research, began its annual Civility in America poll in 2010, five years before Trump’s entry into national politics.  That year, 65 percent of Americans thought incivility was a “major problem.” The most recent poll in December 2016 found that 69 percent of Americans felt that incivility is a major problem.

It would seem that something more systemic and entrenched in American society is responsible for the increasingly sad state of life in America. My guess is that incivility has its roots in the corruption that led to the collapse of Wall Street and the worst depression in 100 years. The government stood by and then failed to prosecute financiers who looted middle class pensions and savings. The situation today is not much better. Our economy is increasingly dominated by predatory monopolies and tax averse multi-national corporations. The entire U.S. news media is owned by 15 billionaires who benefit from the status quo. Meanwhile, the opioid epidemic killed an estimated 64,000 Americans in 2016.

There are distressing signs that incivility is crossing the line into low-level violence.

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Feds Anti-Bully Plan

Minnesota’s largest school district will take wide-ranging steps to protect LGBT students from bullying and harassment under the terms of a settlement reached in a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Dept. of  Justice (DOJ) and the U.S. Dept. of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR).

The Anoka-Hennepin School Board approved the proposed settlement on Monday but it must still be approved by U.S. District Judge Joan N. Ericksen to take effect. The federal agencies will monitor the district’s compliance with the agreement until 2017.

The settlement is  significant with respect to the problem of workplace bullying for two reasons.

It sheds light on what the DOJ and the OCR deem to be important steps to address the general problem of harassment.

And the feds based their lawsuit on alleged violations of laws that potentially could apply to targets of workplace bullying — Discrimination on the basis of sex in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S.Constitution; Title IV of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000c–2000c-9 (Title IV), and; Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, 20 U.S.C. §§ 1681–1688 (Title IX).

There are major differences between how the law treats students and adults but the Minnesota school settlement could be interpreted as evidence that society no longer condones bullying and harassment on the basis of sex or perceived sexual orientation. If that is the case, harassment of this type should not be acceptable in either schools or the workplace.

Authorities began investigating the Anoka-Hennepin School District in 2010 after receiving a complaint that it had failed to adequately address peer-on-peer harassment on the basis of sex and sexual orientation. The Southern Poverty Law Center and the National Center for Lesbian Rights subsequently filed a lawsuit on behalf of six students, who will received $270,000 under the settlement.

The students said they faced a constant torrent of anti-gay slurs due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation. They also said they were choked, shoved, urinated on and even stabbed with a pencil.

The students said an 18-year-old “gag rule” adopted by the district hampered the efforts of teachers to end the harassment and stigmatized gay and lesbian students.The policy required staff to stay neutral on LGBT topics in school. The policywas replaced in February with a new policy that requires district staff to affirm the dignity and self-worth of all students, including LGBT students.

Among other things, the settlement requires the District to:

  • Retain an Equity Consultant to provide a systemic review and recommend any needed revisions to district policies related to harassment, as well as district procedures relating to the investigation and response to incidents of harassment, parental notification, and tracking of harassment incidents.
  • Hire a Title IX/Equity Coordinator to implement district policies and procedures, monitor complaints, ensure that district administrators and staff adhere to sex and sexual orientation-based discrimination laws, and identify trends and common areas of concern.
  • Work with the Equity Consultant and Title IX Coordinator/Equity Coordinator to develop improved and effective trainings on harassment for all students and employees who interact with students.
  • Ensure that a counselor or other qualified mental health professional to be available during school hours for students in need.
  • Hire a mental health consultant to review and access current practices in the district relating to assisting students who are subject to harassment.
  • Provide additional specificity to further strengthen the District’s annual anti-bullying survey.
  • Expand the district’s harassment-prevention task force formed the summer of 2011 to advise the district regarding how to best foster a positive educational climate for all students.
  • Work with the Equity Consultant to further identify hot spots in district schools where harassment is or becomes problematic, including outdoor locations and on school buses, and work with the Equity Consultant to develop actions that better align with a safe, welcoming school environment.
  • Require District personnel  to investigate, address, and respond appropriately to every harassment incident, whether reported (verbally or in writing) by the harassed student, a witness, a parent, or any other individual; observed by any District employee; or brought to the District’s attention by any other means;
  • Provide contact information, including the physical address, phone number and email address, for the District’s Title IX Coordinator and Equity Coordinator.
  • Develop procedures for parental notifications that are sensitive to a student’s right of privacy regarding his or her real or perceived orientation or gender identity.
  • Provide a link on the school web site to an incident reporting form and allow direct electronic submission of complaints.

Harassment was defined in the federal lawsuit as ” … the use of derogatory language, intimidation, and threats; unwanted physical contact and/or physical violence, or the use of derogatory language and images in graffiti, pictures or drawings, notes, e-mails, electronic postings and/or phone messages related to a person’s membership in a protected class.”

The lawsuits will be dismissed with the district denying fault or wrongdoing.

Federal investigators reviewed more than 7,000 district documents and included interviews with more than 60 individuals, including current and former students, parents, district staff, teachers and administrators.