NPR is reporting that San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, who is accused by at least eight women of sexually harassing them, never received a mandated training course on sexual harassment from the city.
According to San Diego’s municipal law, the city government is required to provide sexual harassment training to employees within six months of their employment. And Filner’s lawyer has to audacity to claim that a harassment training session was cancelled and never rescheduled.
Let me say what every Human Resources professional is thinking out there: Mayor Bob Filner is an asshole.
- Human Resources never needs to tell a powerful man that it is inappropriate to grope, fondle and objectify an employee.
- HR doesn’t need to train an executive not to box a woman in a corner and whisper sexually explicit comments in her ear.
- Human Resources can’t stop someone from being a pervert.
The courts will decide if the city of San Diego is liable for this mess — and they might be liable for fostering a culture where it is easier to look the other way than to confront a bully — but I stand with a majority of Human Resources professionals who believe in personal accountability.
This is Bob Filner’s fault.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that other staff members knew that the mayor was a creep. Are they liable for some blame? Possibly. You don’t need a sexual harassment class to tell you the difference between right and wrong. You don’t need an anonymous hotline to stand up for justice. And despite what the lawyers tell you, a PowerPoint deck has never been an effective tool to enforce accountability.
I believe the first line of defense against abuse and intolerance in the workforce is a strong, transparent and properly defined recruiting process. Hiring a decent and talented human being — someone who has a defined set of values and a decent moral compass — creates a culture where an elected official like Bob Filner never feels like he has the right or the privilege to harass his staff.
You can select for values, competencies and behavioral traits during the recruiting process. You should select for those attributes. That’s your job in Human Resources.
Had San Diego hired individuals who felt morally obligated to fight against injustice within their own ranks, Mayor Bob Filner may have never harassed anyone.
But let me repeat myself: This is Bob Filner’s fault. He started this.
As a HR professional, I hope you spend more time on hiring the right candidates than delivering a PowerPoint presentation with horrible stock photography. I hope you are strong enough and brave enough to fight back when you see injustice in your organization. And I want you to remind your friends and colleagues that it is not HR’s job to be the moral compass of an organization.
Adults know right from wrong.
For once in my life, I would like to see what happens when Human Resources isn’t there to clean up this mess.
And I would like Mayor Bob Filner to resign.
Laurie Ruettimann is a former HR leader and an influential speaker, writer and marketing advisor. Her work has appeared in many mainstream print publications and major news media outlets. You can find her on twitter at @Lruettimann.