Friday, May 26, 2006

Harassment Pays: $830,000 Plus Benefits

Thanks for the Benjamins, Sean-o, now I can buy some more bling

I've litigated outrageous sexual harassment cases against large employers and never once have I seen such a large settlement for an employee without years of litigation, and often trial. And always with a blanket confidentiality clause so the employee can never ever speak out about the harassment. But for a harasser? Snap, done. This just sickens me.

Boston Globe: Caritas head ran out of options

Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley and the Caritas Christi Health Care System board had voted to fire the Caritas president for serial sexual harassment, but left him the choice of resigning with 10 months' severance pay, about $830,000, and agreeing not to sue the archdiocese.

Brian McGrory, columnist, Boston Globe: Ignominious outcome

If Robert Haddad gets a near-million-dollar payout from the Boston Archdiocese after being a serial harasser and unmitigated boor, how much more might he have earned for being an exhibitionist or something worse?

If he committed an actual felony, would he have gotten the full $3 million he initially sought from the Caritas board?

You could just about fill an airplane hangar with all his female subordinates who say that Haddad, ousted president of the Catholic healthcare system, groped them, kissed them on the mouth, called them at home to ask inappropriate questions. And that's his big sanction: 10 months of his already bloated pay, more money than most normal people will make in 20 years of work.

Where, it might be time to ask, is the sense in that?

The lawyers, of course, give their stock lawyerly replies. They say these cases are complicated, that sexual harassment allegations inevitably end up as he-said, she-said kind of deals, that hours of depositions would have to be taken, that victims are made to feel uncomfortable, that court time adds up, that the outcome is always at risk.

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But just imagine if someone in this case, anyone, had a scintilla of spine.

Imagine if Cardinal Sean O'Malley stood at a bank of microphones yesterday and acknowledged his own mistake in failing to grasp the gravity of the situation from the start. Imagine if he announced that, on second thought, he decided to fire Haddad without giving him the chance to resign.

He could have said he doesn't negotiate with such demeaning cads as Haddad. He could have said he listened to the advice from his battery of lawyers, but ultimately decided that he had to take a larger stand. He could have said that if the Catholic Church can't put morality before convenience, then what institution in this city would or can?


In response to the inevitable question over what he'll do if Haddad sues, O'Malley could have simply replied, ``Let him."

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O'Malley wouldn't even have to point out that it was his own $400-an-hour lawyers at Ropes & Gray who didn't think Haddad's behavior was a dismissible offense and that one Ropes & Gray lawyer, Stephen B. Perlman, even likened Haddad's behavior to ``effusive, friendly warmth that is nonetheless unwelcome."

Thank you, Ropes & Gray. Where does the line form to get more of your advice?

This is the article from the AP that is being printed around the country, with my comments in italics:

WaPo: Clergy Victims Angered by Handling of Case

BOSTON -- For victims of clergy sexual abuse, the Boston Archdiocese's initial handling of sexual harassment allegations against its top health care executive had a familiar ring: multiple allegations, minimal consequence and secrecy.

"There are extraordinary and painful parallels," said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

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The initial decision to reprimand rather than fire Haddad was criticized by some clergy sex abuse victims, who said they felt O'Malley sought to protect Haddad just as church officials for decades protected priests who sexually abused children.

O'Malley was installed as Boston's archbishop in July 2003, seven months after Cardinal Bernard Law resigned amid intense criticism of his role in moving priests who had been accused of abuse from parish to parish instead of removing them.

"The fact that this man was not immediately terminated makes me wonder ... whether they've learned anything over the last four years?" said Gary Bergeron, who was molested by a priest in the 1970s in Lowell.

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O'Malley sought the advice of three outside lawyers who are experts in employment and sexual harassment law. One lawyer found that although Haddad's conduct was illegal and improper, it "was not of an exceptionally egregious nature," according to the archdiocese. [The only male of the three lawyers thought it was nothing. O'Malley credited the one male lawyer's opinion over the opinions of the two female lawyers. Surprised?]

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Employment attorneys, however, said it's not always clear-cut how to discipline an employee accused of sexual harassment.

"What constitutes what we call hostile environment? Is a hug sexually harassing? How many hugs does it have to be?" said Nancy Shilepsky, a Boston employment lawyer not involved in the Haddad case. "There are gradations. Some activities are clearly on one side or the other, but there may be some that may be more in the middle." [Nancy Shilepsky started out as an employee's lawyer, but now she's with a big firm and represents employers This comment is meant to influence all her future jury pools. I'm sure it makes all her corporate clients happy to see it in print. I remember seeing Nancy Shilepsky speaking at employment law seminars fifteen years ago when she didn't think sexual harassment was so .... ambiguous. Sheesh.]

1 comment:

Mike said...

how is it that it is illegal to be a communist but not illegal to be a catholic?