Legal Blog

Philadelphia Police Commissioner Abruptly Resigns

Inaction Can Be Just as Career-Threatening as Inappropriate Behavior

Last week, Philadelphia’s Police Commissioner, Richard Ross, resigned amidst allegations of sexual harassment by two female police officers. Ross, however, had just been lauded for his integral role in negotiations with a gunman who shot six police officers and barricaded himself inside a Philadelphia rowhouse near Temple’s campus for seven hours. Despite the praise Ross received for how he handled a situation that received national attention, he abruptly resigned the next week. What could cause someone seemingly excelling in their position to resign? An alleged failure to act.

This is not exactly the fact pattern we have been hearing so often; none of the allegations of harassment are directed at Ross. Rather, the allegations against Ross are not of salacious comments and improper propositions, but of what he did not do. Two female police officers alleged that they had been subjected to sexual harassment, including groping by supervisors and numerous inappropriate sexual comments, and that the Department and Ross did not take action to prevent or remedy the harassment. One of the women accused Ross of instead telling her to tell the alleged harasser to sit down and get out of her face.

The allegations also include failure to properly respond to and remedy derogatory Facebook posts and forging attendance sheets for sexual harassment training. Some of these things can seem small in isolation. For example, signing in for an employee who was late and missed a training may not seem significant. Or, letting a post that could be construed as derogatory toward females go with just a brief verbal warning. The import for employers though is that ignoring a complaint of sexual harassment, or any other protected activity, can have a devastating effect on one’s career and organization.

There is a new awareness of sexual harassment, reflected in legislation and public perception, and employers and management employees can no longer feel secure that not acting inappropriately themselves is enough. Turning a blind eye, or not proactively updating policies and trainings, is no longer a low-risk option.

For more on how to ensure effective policies and properly respond to complaints of sexual harassment, please read my series on preventing and remedying sexual harassment.

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ABOUT KATHARINE BATISTA

kbatista@offitkurman.com | 267.338.1319

Ms. Batista is a Labor & Employment attorney that assists her clients when deciding issues like If my employee has exhausted her FMLA leave and remains out, am I required to hold her position open? Can I terminate my employee for testing positive for marijuana? Will this non-compete agreement be enforced? She helps her clients answer these and similar questions, and vigorously defends their decisions. She represents businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, banks, retailers and health care providers, in the spectrum of employment and labor claims. Specifically, Ms. Batista successfully defends employers against claims of discrimination and harassment, retaliation, wrongful terminations, and wage and hour violations. An employee’s post-separation conduct often requires legal advice and action too. Ms. Batista commonly represents her clients in bringing actions for breach of restrictive covenants and contractual interference, as well as defends them against such claims. Employment and labor law is ever-changing. Employers need to feel secure in how they manage their employees so they can focus on their business. Ms. Batista affords her clients that security.

 

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