Deep Background

Making Inquiries With Former Co-workers Can Spotlight Past Sexual Harassment

Courtesy of Samantha Curcio

Clients of the Mintz Group looking to hire executives are increasingly asking us for help in determining whether a job applicant has engaged in sexual harassment in their past. A major U.S. law firm, performing an internal investigation of an alleged pattern of sexual harassment by an NPR executive, has proposed confidential interviews with the applicants’ former associates as a way of inquiring about any past problems.

In its February 2018 report to the National Public Radio board, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius recommended that the media organization “inquire about prior sexual-harassment issues” when it does due diligence on prospective hires.

“In the hiring process,” the law firm said, “we recommend that NPR conduct background checks and inquire about prior sexual-harassment issues to the extent possible after obtaining a release from the candidate that permits NPR to do so.”

Morgan Lewis acknowledged one of the pitfalls in pre-hire interviewing:  that many previous employers that have fired an executive are wary of criticizing him for fear of litigation.  “We recognize that such issues may not be disclosed for confidentiality reasons, but the attempts should still be made.”

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