The Impact of Harassment is All That Matters in Business and at Work

In the face of overwhelming documentary evidence (including but not limited to inappropriate photos, and an even-more-inappropriate “selfie” video that he took of himself in a public bathroom stall), New York state Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak resigned last week as sexual harassment allegations against him continue to accumulate.

From the Albany Times Union, January 12, 2014:

Gabryszak resigns, admits to ‘inappropriate’ comments

In his resignation letter, partially excerpted here:

At this time, I want the public and my colleagues to know:

  • There was no sexual contact between me and any members of my staff.
  • There was never a request that sexual contact should occur.
  • There was never any intent on my part to sexually harass any member of my staff or to create a hostile work environment.  (Emphasis mine.)
  • In fact, there are allegations that have been made that are demonstrably false.
  • There was mutual banter and exchanges that took place that should not have taken place because it is inappropriate in the workplace even if it does not constitute sexual harassment. (Emphasis mine.)

My decision today is based upon the impact this has had on my family and my concern for the important work of the assembly. (Emphasis mine.)

Sexual harassment training and legal compliance 101:  sexual harassment violations constitute observable impact – as in:  

  • “Mutual banter and exchanges that took place that should not have taken place because it is inappropriate in the workplace.” (Quote from Gabryszak.)
  • Gabryszak inviting female subordinates for massages.
  • Gabryszak cutting a female subordinate’s pay in retaliation for her voicing displeasure with his sexually tinged comments and actions.
  • Gabryszak suggesting to his female subordinates that they dress in “sexy elf costumes and that he should be Santa with them sitting on his lap.”
  • Gabryszak sending a “selfie” video of himself engaging in or simulating a sex act in a public bathroom stall to female subordinates.

The intention of the actions taken by the party responsible (Gabryszak) for harassing the harmed parties (his female subordinates) does not matter.  The impact is what counts. And when the harassment is inflicted by a supervisor, the damage and exposure to both the responsible party and their organization is compounded, legally and financially.

Gabryszak’s story is a cautionary tale for all organizations, public and private:  would the conduct of your managers pass the newspaper test?  Moreover, worst-case scenario:  if your organization’s leadership took every proactive measure to prevent harassment in your workplace and an incident of harassment still took place and became public information, would their actions pass the newspaper test, e.g. that your leadership had already investigated the incident and disciplined and/or fired the responsible parties, without the press prompting them to do so after the fact?

How are you and your organization prepared to effectively prevent, address and remediate the impact of harassment incidents, in business and at work?


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