Risky Role Models – Sexual Harassment Is No Joke

by Aaron Goldstein

The massive media coverage of President Trump’s Twitter attack on “Morning Joe” host Mika Brzezinski brought to the fore an important point for business to keep in mind: Companies and employees should be aware that just joking at work about President Trump’s tweets could get their company sued for sexual harassment.

Typically, a person can quote the President of the United States without getting sued, but not today. Some employees might think, “If the President can say it, I can talk about it.” But not when the President’s statements meet the legal definition of sexual harassment.

Any statement that is directed at a person’s gender, that is unwelcome and that is offensive to a reasonable person can contribute to a sexual harassment claim. President Trump’s statements, if repeated with approval, fit this bill. A manager who repeats such statements with a chuckle risks getting his employer sued.

The image of the President as a role model should make employers nervous. President Trump might get tried in the court of public opinion, but a company stands to lose millions of dollars in a court of law.

Aaron Goldstein is a labor and employment partner at international law firm Dorsey & Whitney, who provides litigation expertise and advice regarding trade secret disputes; non-competition agreements; race, gender, disability, national origin, age, religious, and sexual-orientation discrimination; whistleblower retaliation; and sexual harassment; protected under law.

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