Categorized | Management

Sex in the American (Apparel) Workplace

When it comes to sex in the workplace companies take two stances: ignore it or forbid it outright.  Okay, so we’re not actually talking about sex in the workplace.  That should be forbidden outright, no question.  But when two consenting adults who work together decide to do more than work together, what’s the company policy?   Gael O’Brien of Business Ethics Magazine writes about the complexities of this issue and uses the extreme example of American Apparel CEO Dov Charney. (Read the article here)  Charney has been dubbed the Chief Lawsuit Officer for good reason.  The company has been sued numerous times for Charney’s various relationships young female employees.  O’Brien points out that:

Charney is a complex figure. His website, filled with photos of him and provocative shots he took of the company’s young models, tells the story of his immigrant family, religion, creating the company as a teenager, philosophy on sexual freedom, and politics.

He is quoted as saying:

“I think it’s a First Amendment right to pursue one’s affection for another human being.”

All well and good, but O’Brien rightly points out that when one person has power over someone’s career and salary, can there really be consent?  And this is key.  While we don’t live in a puritanical society, we have an ethical obligation to uphold fairness in the workplace.  Company policy should make it clear that no personal relationship, sexual or otherwise, should be leveraged against salary or promotions.  In other words, having power over how much someone gets paid and what their title is should never be used to motivate anything other than work performance.

O’Brien’s article on this topic as well as her article on how Mark Hurd’s failure to disclose a relationship he had with a consultant while he was CEO led to his downfall, are both excellent analyses of the ethics of power and sex.  She also makes the case that good ethics equals a strong work force and, ultimately, strong business.  It’s also important to point out that, while it’s all well and good to chastise the bad behaviors of a few CEOs, companies need to look at their policies and their implementation carefully to see if it’s realistic, and productive.

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Tim McPherson

By Tim McPherson

Tim McPherson, President and COO for Nesco Resource, has over 27 years of experience in all facets of the Staffing Services Industry.

2 Responses to “Sex in the American (Apparel) Workplace”

  1. Great Post! Some pretty cool info. I your website and I’ll check back soon!

  2. Awesome stuff! Wish I found it sooner.

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