Stand Up for Your Values in Business and at Work
My colleague Michelle Pyan asked an excellent question today regarding this story: “What would you do if it was your employee who slapped the two year-old?” Well, it turns out he was publicly terminated by his employer today. My question: what could you have done to prevent the risk to your workplace and the damage to your company’s reputation? The saga begins, below:
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A Minneapolis woman says her 2-year-old son was traumatized by a man accused of slapping the boy and calling him a racial slur during an Atlanta-bound flight. The boy’s mother, Jessica Bennett, said in a statement Saturday that her son has become “apprehensive to strangers” since the Feb. 8 flight from Minneapolis. Joe Rickey Hundley, of Hayden, Idaho, has been charged with simple assault. His attorney said he will plead not guilty. Bennett, 33, told authorities her son was crying as the Delta Air Lines flight prepared for landing. Hundley, 60, was sitting next to her and slapped the boy in his face, causing a scratch under his right eye, she said. Hundley “told her to shut that (Racial expletive) baby up,” FBI special agent Daron Cheney said in a sworn statement. (Redaction mine.) “Ms. Bennett received assistance from several people on the plane.” Bennett said the infant began crying louder after he was hit.
“Hundley’s comments were racist and hateful,” Bennett said in a statement to KARE-TV(http://kare11.tv/YyjZ58). “The family has numerous questions about how a passenger could get so violently out of control as to assault a toddler.”
Hundley was (initially – emphasis mine) suspended from his job as president of Unitech Composites and Structures, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported (http://bit.ly/Xg2aJQ).
Al Haase, president and chief executive of AGC Aerospace and Defense, Composites Group — Unitech’s parent company — said the firm was taking the matter seriously. “In accordance with our company’s personal conduct policy, we have suspended the employee pending investigation,” Haase said in a statement.
Further research on the incident confirmed what I already suspected: Hundley was drunk (from TheSmokingGun.com):
Bennett told TSG that she believed Hundley was intoxicated when he boarded the plane, adding that he “reeked of alcohol” and was “stumbling around wasted.” Bennett, who was traveling to a family funeral, said that Hundley drank several double vodkas during the two-hour flight and complained to her that her adopted son, seen at left, was too big to be a “lap baby.”
And that this was not Hundley’s first trip to the gross / willful misconduct rodeo did not surprise me either (also from TheSmokingGun.com):
According to Virginia state court records, Hundley was arrested in 2007 following a fight with his girlfriend. Initially charged with simple assault, carrying a concealed weapon, and public intoxication (emphasis mine), Hundley subsequently pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor assault rap. Hundley told TSG that the weapon he allegedly brandished was a wine corkscrew.
I estimate that in my 20+ year career of dealing with employee relations issues and gross /willful misconduct at work, that at least 60% of these incidents ended up being related, directly or indirectly, to some sort of previously undisclosed / untreated alcohol and/or substance abuse.
Here is the full text of Haase’s statement from the AGC Aerospace and Defense Composites Group website:
Statement Regarding Investigation of Employee Conduct
“We understand that authorities are investigating the recent behavior of one of our business unit executives while on personal travel. The allegations are disturbing and are contradictory to our values.We are taking this matter seriously. In accordance with our company’s personal conduct policy, we have suspended the employee pending investigation.”
— Al Haase, President & CEO, AGC Aerospace and Defense, Composites Group
From the News Section of the Integrated Composites Website, Hundley’s now former employer:
Statement Regarding Investigation of Employee Conduct
“We understand that authorities are investigating the recent behavior of one of our business unit executives while on personal travel. We find the alleged actions offensive and disturbing. They are contradictory to our values, embarrassing, and do not in any way reflect the patriotic character of the men and women of diverse backgrounds who work tirelessly in our business.”
“We take this matter very seriously and have terminated his employment in accordance with our company’s personal conduct policy.”
And finally, from October 2011: the announcement of Hundley’s appointment as President of Integrated Composites:
October 31, 2011 02:53 PM Eastern Time
Unitech Composites and Structures Appoints Senior Industry Executive as President
“Mr. Hundley has a proven track record of providing exemplary leadership”
“Mr. Hundley has a proven track record of providing exemplary leadership,” said Alan Haase, President of AGC Aerospace & Defense Composites Group. “Rick brings to Unitech a wealth of experience in the aerospace and defense industry, with background in general management, mergers & acquisitions and business development. Rick will be a great asset to the AGC leadership team.”
“I’m pleased to join the AGC family of companies,” commented Mr. Hundley. “The AGC group has a great growth strategy planned for its Composites Group, and for its expanding Aerospace & Defense portfolio. I look forward to leading Unitech Composites and Structures in this exciting time in the aerospace industry.”
Prior to joining Unitech Composites & Structures, Mr. Hundley held senior leadership positions with aerospace and defense corporations such as Safran, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and M7 Aerospace. Most recently Mr. Hundley was President and COO for A&T Systems, Inc. Mr. Hundley holds Master of Business Administration and BS degrees, and has completed senior leadership and lean enterprise programs at the Lockheed Martin Institute, and Program Management at the General Dynamics Institute.
A cautionary tale indeed, which raises some questions for hiring authorities to ponder:
- Did Hundley’s former employer run a background check on Hundley post-offer, pre-hire? The news outlets covering this story easily discovered Hundley’s 2007 issue with public inebriation and assault. While not necessarily a barrier to employment, was there any consideration given / discussion conducted / oversight implemented as to how Hundley might someday become a workplace and reputational risk in his very prominent position as company President?
- What are the company’s stated values, and do all the employees know and buy into these values? (The company’s values are not posted on their website.)
- Did Hundley ever act out at work, e.g., get drunk at a company event?
- If so, was he ever formally counseled?
- Is such behavior documented in the company’s policies as gross / willful misconduct?
- During his tenure as company President, was Hundley ever abusive to anyone at work?
The intent here is not to Monday-morning quarterback Hundley’s tenure and eventual termination. Instead, the lesson-learned here is to proactively communicate, protect and stand up for your company’s values in business and at work on the front end, to avoid potential workplace, values and reputational threats on the back end.
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