In the wake of the shocking revelations of Harvey Weinstein's years and years of sexual harassment, another movie executive faces sexual harassment allegations. Roy Price, head of Amazon Movie Studios is currently on a leave of absence after Isa Hackett (sometimes referred to as Isa Hackett Dick) went public with her accusations.

Hackett is a producer on the Amazon shows, The Man in High Castle and Philip K. Dick's Electric Dreams. Hackett claims that in 2015 Price approached her sexually by saying, "You will love my dick," according to a report at The Hollywood Reporter. Hackett said she was not interested, and Price persisted and followed up by saying "Anal sex!" into her ear at a party later that evening.

Hackett immediately reported the incident, and Amazon investigated, but no one informed Hackett of the outcome. She did note, however, that Price didn't appear at any events for her shows after that.

That's actually an okay outcome--separating the two employees. Hackett didn't suffer any career or personal retribution for her accusations. So what did Amazon do wrong and why are they suspending Price now?

Not Reporting an Outcome

Hackett made a very serious accusation. If she is correct, Price was 100 percent out of line. As a senior executive, he should also be held to an extremely high standard. He sets the stage for what junior employees think is appropriate. Amazon investigated (and hired Christine Farrell of Public Interest Investigations Inc to do so), which is fantastic. Not following up with the complaining employee, however, is a problem.

Hackett had no way of knowing if Amazon took her complaint seriously or if Price simply felt stupid for what he said and avoided her himself. Additionally, because he was the studio head, not receiving his support at events could be seen as a negative outcome for Hackett.

Panicking

When this hit the big time media (undoubtedly thanks to Weinstein's antics), Amazon immediately suspended Price. If they were confident in their original investigation and had shared that with Hackett, it probably wouldn't be coming out now. If they were confident that they had taken the proper response, there would be no need for a suspension but rather a statement, "We investigated the incident, found Price to be in the wrong, and we did A, B, and C, to ensure this never happened again." 

But, no. Instead, they suspended him. Which either means they didn't trust their original investigation or they feared only the mighty dollar. Was he only given a pass because he was successful in his job? Or was the punishment he received actually inappropriate for the bad behavior?

You Don't Always Have to Fire Someone

We often think that all sexual harassers should be fired from their jobs. The law doesn't require that. It's perfectly all right for employers to make judgments based on the facts at hand. But, when you are thinking about those facts and the punishment warranted, ask yourself, how will this look if it goes viral? Because Amazon, apparently, didn't. Now that it is, they are responding with a suspension. If he was deserving of a suspension, that should have happened in 2015.

No One is Too Big to Fail

Companies are often willing to protect superstars. Don't fall for that. There isn't a single person on this planet that is irreplaceable (as far as work is concerned). If your business would fall apart if that person got hit by a bus and died, your business is unsustainable in the long run anyway. The money you make by protecting a high-level jerk can come out and destroy your company later on. This is true even if you get the victim to sign a non-disclosure form as part of the settlement.

Always Investigate Every Claim

Not every claim will turn out to be true. Not every case of harassment or discrimination should result in termination. But, every claim must be taken seriously. You must investigate immediately. If the accusations are both serious and credible, a suspension is in order. (If the investigation clears the accused, you can provide back pay.) 

Amazon was correct to hire an outside investigator for a charge against an executive. In-house HR isn't the best choice when you're investigating a senior person because they are too personally involved. In-house HR is fine for lower level investigations (usually). But, they made a few mistakes along the way and now they hit the headlines.

Remember, everything you try to bury can come to light and you can't control when that will happen.

I suspect we're not done with big Hollywood accusations. And I also bet a lot of Chief Human Resource Officers are sitting in their offices with files in front of them, re-examining their decisions. Let's hope they made the right ones.

Published on: Oct 13, 2017