An Interview is Not Legally a Date in Business and at Work

As women in the Silicon Valley tech industry continue to speak out about years of experience encountering a culture of harassment on both the employment and venture capital funding fronts, the story of a woman entrepreneur engaged in the interview process with a partner in 500 Startups (an accelerator and investment firm in Silicon Valley) lends itself to a workplace training textbook example of sexual harassment during an interview process.

As outlined in the New York Times article “Women in Tech Speak Frankly on Culture of Harassment” during a job interview process in 2014 with 500 Startups partner and co-founder Dave McClure, now-entrepreneur Sarah Kunst received a Facebook message from McClure which read:

“I was getting confused figuring out whether to hire you or hit on you.”

At the time, Kunst discussed McClure’s conduct with one of his 500 Startups colleagues. 500 Startups subsequently ended Kunst’s interview process.

After Kunst’s report, McClure subsequently apologized and authored a blog post “I’m a Creep, I’m Sorry.” McClure role was also limited by 500 Startups to the role of general partner. (Since writing this post a week ago, McClure subsequently resigned from 500 Startups.)

McClure’s conduct was / is also a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which states:

Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

The above is standard content for any good Harassment Prevention Training, which is required annually of employers by California and other states. With so much money and business at stake, why engage in risky behavior that jeopardizes both a business and career(s)?

Does your leadership team (and your employees) understand that interviewing (or any other employment transaction) is legally not dating in business and at work?

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