Personnel Fouls

October 3, 2007 | | 2 Comments

If you watch ESPN, then you’ve seen the news that the New York Knicks organization was found liable for sexual harassment and must pay ex-executive Anucha Browne Sanders $11.6 million in damages and lost salary. Not to downplay the seriousness of this incident, but that’s roughly the equivalent of one year of Chauncey Billups’ services at point guard and that makes for an interesting numeric juxtaposition and commentary on the surreal salaries of the NBA. The maximum salary in the WNBA is $100,000, which is worth mentioning in an article about sexual harassment and unfair treatment of women in corporate settings.

The crude details of the case included testimony about Isiah Thomas’ racial litmus test for when to refer to a woman as a *ehem* “b-word” and the graphic portrayal of a strip club encounter between a NY Knicks intern and star guard Stephon Marbury. The facts of the case are shocking, yet serve as another reminder that we still live in a society where there is rampant workplace discrimination.

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

“In Fiscal Year 2006, EEOC received 12,025 charges of sexual harassment. 15.4% of those charges were filed by males. EEOC resolved 11,936 sexual harassment charges in FY 2006 and recovered $48.8 million in monetary benefits for charging parties and other aggrieved individuals (not including monetary benefits obtained through litigation).”

This number is down from approximately 16,000 in the year 2000, but don’t expect to hear these statistics on ESPN. Danielle Gubitosa, a commercial real estate broker in New York, told the Chicago-Tribune, “You have to understand the context and where it’s coming from. A lot of people don’t mean to offend and a lot of people are overly sensitive,” and added that she would definitely draw the line at being the target of derogatory comments like the ones Isiah Thomas mad at Anucha Browne Sanders.

But this is far from being the only sexual harassment suit in New York right now. Bloomberg L.P., the news and financial services company, violated federal law by discriminating against pregnant employees according to charges the EEOC filed today.

“Employers need to be aware that it is unlawful to discriminate against women based on their pregnancy or act on stereotypes concerning their roles as caregivers,” said EEOC’s New York District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. “No working woman should be forced to choose between motherhood and her livelihood.”

And, in the same week the Knicks were found liable, the Supreme Court denied a petition to hear the arguments from a former UNC women’s soccer player that her coach Anson Dorrance allegedly had a hostile environment filled with sexual harassment. The former soccer player said that Dorrance’s actions violated Title IX by denying her the opportunity to play college sports.

Sexual harassment became illegal with the passge of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was thrust into the national spotlight nearly 16 years ago after Anita Hill accused Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment and lewd behavior. Hill published a letter to the New York Times this week to stand by her accusations against Clarence Thomas, and stand up for women who suffer from character attacks when making their allegations.

“Fortunately, we have made progress since 1991. Today, when employees complain of abuse in the workplace, investigators and judges are more likely to examine all the evidence and less likely to simply accept as true the word of those in power. But that could change. Our legal system will suffer if a sitting justice’s vitriolic pursuit of personal vindication discourages others from standing up for their rights.”

Let’s hope the Courts continue to listen.

Creative commons photo courtesy of Flickr users Brave New Films and swanksalot.


2 Comments so far

  1. EldWoods on October 5, 2007 11:25 am

    “Hill published a letter to the New York Times this week to stand by her accusations against Clarence Thomas, and stand up for women who suffer from character attacks when making their allegations.”

    Why would you simply accept Hill’s alegations at face value? Anyone could easily say that Thomas was the target of a “character attack” when claiming he did not sexually harass Anita Hill. Sadly, you seem to have made up your mind about that matter without really knowing what the hell you’re talking about.

  2. Mark Pike on October 5, 2007 11:37 am

    I don’t accept allegations at face value. I accept the right to make them.

    Thanks for your feedback, EldWoods!

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