- Talent Management
Would your organization hire Trump? As absurd as it is (after all, Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, has never worked for anyone but himself), it’s a question worth asking. It also happens to be the very question posed in a New York Times editorial today. As Andrew Ross Sorkin observes, “Given the Republican presidential nominee’s vulgar boasts about sexually assaulting women and trying to coerce a woman to commit adultery with him — among other things — it is hard to believe he could get past the human resources department of a Fortune 500 company.” In many respects, Sorkin is absolutely right. Trump’s prospects on the job market would likely be very limited.
Even sectors known to be well-established “old boys’ networks” (e.g., high tech, gas and oil, and automotive) are increasingly steering clear of hiring employees who are bound to be liabilities when it comes to sexual harassment. Indeed, hiring someone with a public reputation for not just making demeaning comments about women but also openly boasting about assaulting women would simply be considered a grave mistake by any HR department.
To illustrate, Sorkin cleverly takes the case of Walmart–the nation’s largest employer with 2.2 million employees on staff. As noted, “Walmart..has explicit policies, for example, that prohibit ‘sexually explicit language, off-color jokes, remarks about a person’s body’ as well as ‘using slurs or negative stereotyping,’ ‘verbal kidding, teasing or joking’ and ‘intimidating acts, such as bullying or threatening.'” As Sorkin concludes, “By those definitions, it is not clear if Mr. Trump would qualify to be hired as a janitor, let alone a senior executive.” When he asked Walmart to comment, however, a spokesman for the mega-retailer refused to say whether or not they would or would consider Mr. Trump as an employee, explaining, “We’ve got a policy of not entertaining hypotheticals.”
What is clear is that in most cases, Mr. Trump–presented as a job candidate–would raise major red flags for any organization committed to ensuring that women are not harassed or assaulted on the job and more importantly, committed to creating a safe environment where such threats are simply never present.
This, of course, raises another question: Can you reject a potential employee based on “off the record” comments alone? After all, Mr. Trump has repeatedly said that his comments about women were “locker room talk” and not really meant for the public (though they evidently happened in a semi public context). As such, could one theoretically decide to dismiss Mr. Trump’s application for a job on the basis of his “off the record” comments? The answer is yes and of course, this already happens on a regular basis.
Today, a reported 93% of employers “google” potential job candidates prior to hiring them. Are they spying? Perhaps, but most recruiters consider such routine checks simply a standard practice. There is also growing evidence that what employees do outside their professional lives (e.g., hosting keg parties at their university frat and then posting lewd photographs of what happened at the party online) can and will impact one’s chances of being hired. In some cases, however, private social media postings have even led to dismissals of employees. Consider, for example, the case of Barrow County School District v. Payne. In 2009, the Barrow County School District forced an local English teacher to resign after postings a photo of herself on her private Facebook page in which she was holding a glass of wine. The teacher subsequently sued the school district.
If a school teacher, already employed, can be fired for posting a photograph of herself with a drink in her hand on a private Facebook page, and recruiters regularly admit to screening out candidates for things they have posted or said online (things far less lewd than the comments made by Mr. Trump), there is no question that we now live in an era when the division between what one does outside of work and at work can and does cross over. So hypothetically, if Mr. Trump came knocking on your organization’s door asking for a job, would you be able to dismiss him as a potential candidates on the basis of his existing public reputation? The answer is yes. Moreover, if you’re concerned about creating a safe environment for women in the workplace and about compliance issues, you would likely have many reasons to do so.