High-profile executives on the wrong end of a sexual harassment complaint have something in common with mobster Al Capone, whose undoing had little to do with his occupation. Like Capone, who ended up in the big house for tax evasion rather than being the head of a murderous crime syndicate, an executive accused of sexual harassment may end up losing his job over violations of company e-mail policy instead of sexual harassment.
That’s because, just as it’s hard to get witnesses to testify against Capone, it can be hard to prove sexual harassment. That’s why some companies try to terminate executives for technical violations of company policy that, under other circumstances, they would have ignored. Such a scenario might involve sending inappropriate or overly private e-mails using the company e-mail system, or sending inappropriate photos via company-paid mobile phones. Whatever the violation may be, it gives employers the legal standing to terminate an executive who may or may not have harassed a subordinate but who probably exercised poor judgment when deciding when and how to communicate.
Obviously, it goes without saying that sexual harassment shouldn’t be tolerated. Frequently, however, such charges are leveled after a consensual romantic relationship has ended. Such cases point out the perils of workplace romances, but they also prove the importance of using good judgment (and abiding by company e-mail and Internet usage policies) at all times. Even when one is in love. Or something like love.