How #MeToo and Revelations of Misconduct Are Reshaping the Workplace

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Why didn't Matt Lauer just get a warning and a write-up? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Josh Levs, Communications leader, consultant, top expert on dads @ work, on Quora:

We don’t have all the information about exactly what happened with regard to NBC’s Matt Lauer. But if what’s in Variety, a respected news outlet, is accurate, then he of course Matt Lauer should be fired. Among what’s listed:

He “once gave a colleague a sex toy as a present. It included an explicit note about how he wanted to use it on her, which left her mortified. On another day, he summoned a different female employee to his office, and then dropped his pants. After the employee declined to do anything, visibly shaken, he reprimanded her for not engaging in a sexual act.”

Anyone who does this should be fired instantly. If you don’t have the respect and decency to avoid engaging in these kinds of unwanted advances, you don’t belong in any workplace.

Employees can get warnings about things they may have done by mistake. A warning can allow someone to learn and change. But the actions Lauer is accused of are illegal, immoral, and an abuse of power.

It’s crucial to keep in mind the power dynamics of the workplace. People depend on salaries — not just for themselves, but to take care of loved ones as well. People work hard to create and advance their careers. When someone has the power to influence another person’s career, that power must always be used with respect. The abuse of that power is deeply depraved.

Unfortunately, the financial machines inside all industries have allowed serial sexual harassers and even assaulters to remain in power for years, even decades. As long as those men in power have been seen as cash cows, colleagues have been willing to look the other way. And victims have been too afraid to report, knowing it’s likely no one will believe them and that their careers and livelihoods will be shattered.

We’re seeing similar dynamics play out in our government right now, with Trump so far suffering no consequences for his long history of harassment and sexual assault. In fact, he’s supporting Roy Moore, who is widely accused of preying on teenage girls as an adult. Think about the message this sends to girls and women across the country: If you dare to speak the truth, be prepared for the person you’re naming to have even more power than he already does.

When someone engages in such a despicable abuse of power, the only right answer is to immediately oust that person from the job. A warning allows him to stay in power and continue to abuse it.

Several months ago, I wrote in Time about my experience being sexually harassed by a woman in the workplace, at the start of my career when I worked at a small company. At the time, I had no means of recourse and was powerless to do anything about it.

Now, seeing the #MeToo campaign inspire women and some men to come forward about their experiences gives me hope. It’s time for the walls that have protected serial harassers and assaulters to come tumbling down. With a new name in the news every day, that’s starting to happen.

When there’s adequate evidence, and numerous people are able to come forward detailing what they have known for years, it’s time for a reckoning. And that starts with firing anyone and everyone who has victimized underlings in the workplace.

In law, crimes are crimes and you don’t have to get a warning after committing one. In the workplace, fireable offenses are just that, and no warning is needed. Across all industries, it’s time for zero tolerance on this stuff. Only then will we really begin to eradicate it and create the structures that allow for true gender equality.

And in Lauer’s case, all this means he lost the credibility and moral authority to challenge interview subjects like Bill O’Reilly. In retrospect, the allegations about Lauer taint other interviews he has conducted, including his disastrous mishandling of a pair of interviews during the election, when his stunningly softball interview of Trump and hard-hitting stance against Clinton led to the hashtag #LaueringTheBar.

As a morning TV news host, Lauer has been working in a business not just of journalism, but also of perception. He has benefited from that for a long time by coming across to many viewers as respectful, and even lovable, despite his behind-the-scenes behavior. It’s fitting that, in the end, the courage of some women to come forward with their stories combined with journalism by other news outlets to take him down.

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