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Sexual Conduct In Front Of Staff: The Foundations For A Sexual Misconduct Suit

Rapper Diddy (Sean John Combs) recently settled a sexual harassment lawsuit brought against him by his former chef.

The plaintiff worked as the rapper's personal chef from April 2015 to May 2016. She filed suit in 2017, accusing the rapper of sexual misconduct and wage and hour violations.

According to the lawsuit, the rapper asked the chef to serve him breakfast in bed when he had a guest in his room on several occasions. She alleged that she was forced to see her employer and his guest "indisposed and engaged in sexual activity." She alleged that her employer would then yell and curse at her when she entered the bedroom.

The chef also alleged that she did not receive pay for additional hours worked.   

A judge sent the case to mediation because of the terms of an employment agreement that the chef had signed. Jessica McKinney "Diddy Settles Sexual Harassment Lawsuit With Former Chef" vibe.com (Feb. 20, 2019). 

Commentary and Checklist

When owners or executives engage in sexual conduct in front of staff or otherwise encourage a sexually-charged workplace, the risk of staff complaining about, or engaging in, sexual harassment is high, and lawsuits will likely follow, including charges of creating or maintaining a hostile working environment.  

Note that a person does not have to be the target of sexual harassment to make a claim of sexual harassment. Sexual images, discussions about sex, or nude appearances can create a sexually-charged working environment, even if the target was not asked to engage in sexual activities.

There are steps family employers can take, including never inviting staff into a room where sexual activity is taking place. Never make sexual innuendos when staff is present. Keep public displays of affection to a minimum when staff is in the room. Keep clothed and your appearance professional at all times, and do not allow for sexual images around employees, including pornographic images.

By setting a good example and never engaging in sexual language or behavior, others in the home will see that such conduct is not proper in the workplace.

Family employers can follow these tips to avoid committing or allowing sexual harassment against staff:
 

   •     Lead by example and don't make crude remarks or jokes.

   •     Always conduct yourself with respect for others.

   •     Don't wear sexually provocative or crude clothing or jewelry.

   •     If you are wondering whether your or someone else's behavior or comments are acceptable, then probably the behavior or comments are not. Think before you speak, and if it may be inappropriate, don't say it.

   •     Limit your physical contact with staff, especially touches that are more personal than professional.

   •     Do your best to keep your social life out of the workplace.

   •     If you spot someone being disrespectful or using foul language, admonish him or her quickly and in private.

   •     Listen to how staff talk about other staff and managers. Crude behavior is often done in private.

   •     When you observe sexually harassing conduct or staff complains of inappropriate behavior, immediately arrange for a third-party investigation.

   •     Never retaliate against staff for reporting harassing behavior or other forms of misconduct. 

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