Employer FAQs (No. 10): How can I guarantee that I'll get a sexual harassment suit?

UPDATED 9/13/11 (see below):

And, more importantly, what is it with The Price Is Right? It's a regular Peyton Place, for cryin' out loud.

Everyone is probably familiar with the sexual harassment allegations from a few years ago against game-show icon and former TPIR host Bob Barker. Barker wisely admitted to a consensual affair, and the harassment case went away.

Now another ex-TPIR beauty, Lanisha Cole, is alleging that her career went sour after one of the bosses began having a relationship with another model. Ms. Cole resigned in 2009 and has now filed suit against the show's producers, two of whom are interestingly named Michael Richards and Adam Sandler but are no relation to Kramer or Billy Madison.

Barker's successor, Drew Carey, is not accused of any wrongdoing.

Among other things, Ms. Cole alleges that Happy Gilmore (actually, the "TPIR" Adam Sandler) burst into her dressing room while she was not fully clothed and began berating her in front of her fellow beauties for not having worn a microphone in a prior segment. (I know! -- I didn't think the women on the show were allowed to talk, either.)

Yes, I promise there is a point to this salacious gossip, and it ties in with FAQ No. 10: How can I guarantee that I'll get a sexual harassment suit? (But first, a word from our sponsor. Answer is below.)

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ANSWER: Have an extramarital affair at work. Not that I am alleging that Ms. Cole had an affair with Stanley Spadowski or Bobby Boucher . . . but her lawsuit was brought on by the alleged relationship between "Stanley" and this other model.

Gentlemen, the easiest way to get yourself accused of sexual harassment is to have an extramarital affair with a female co-worker. Unlike dating relationships between two single people, extramarital affairs always end very badly for someone. If you decide to stick with your spouse and end the affair, your ex-partner is likely to panic and seek vengeance. The easiest way for the jilted woman to get vengeance is to accuse you of sexual harassment.

Please note that I am not accusing only jilted women of being vindictive -- I am not -- but jilted men who are vindictive usually "act out" in other ways. (One of these days I'll have a post on workplace violence.)

Yes, men, if you admit to the affair, you will eventually be cleared of harassment. But you will have some very unpleasant explaining to do. I'm sure it was no fun for Bob Barker to have to face the Truth or Consequences. (See 9/13/11 update below.)

And, as Ms. Cole's lawsuit teaches us, you can be sued for sexual harassment even if the affair was with someone else.

PS - Funniest comment I've heard about this lawsuit is on the New York Daily News website, from evyeve67, and I quote: "Get a real job where ur brain is used Miss Cole. All u do is point at items." (Spelling and punctuation in original, of course.)

UPDATE (9/13/11): Time Magazine has the (rather extensive!) history of legal claims brought against TPIR over the years. According to Time, Mrs. Barker passed away in 1981, more than a decade before model Dian Parkinson sued Bob Barker for sexual harassment. (Hat tip to plaintiff's lawyer, blogger, and writer Donna Ballman.)

FAQ No. 1: What exactly is this "interactive process" that we hear so much about?

FAQ No. 2: "What does 'right to work' mean?"

FAQ No. 3: When do I have to start saving electronic evidence?

FAQ No. 4: Should I offer harassment training to rank-and-file employees? Isn't that just asking for trouble?

FAQ No. 5: Is there any difference between light duty and reasonable accommodation?

FAQ No. 6: We don't have a union. Do I still have to display that new NLRB poster?

FAQ No. 7: Should the "ugly" be protected from discrimination?

FAQ No. 8: May I send an employee to our doctor to verify the need for a reasonable accommodation?

FAQ No. 9: When must I pay a non-exempt employee for travel time?

Don't forget, if you vote for Pedro Employment & Labor Insider, all of your wildest dreams will come true.

Robin Shea has 30 years' experience in employment litigation, including Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (including the Amendments Act). 
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