He was caught on a recorded conversation openly bragging about forcing himself on women. He also outlined his belief that, due to his elevated position and celebrity status, he could do anything he wanted to women and get away with it. Over time, he has made countless disparaging remarks about women – he implied that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly’s no-nonsense questioning was due to it being ‘her time of the month’. He wanted to fire all his unattractive female employees and replace them with prettier ones. He said a lawyer was disgusting for requesting a break to pump breast-milk.
His political views can be described as extreme and racist – his call for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States being a case in point, not to mention calling all Mexicans ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals’.
His comments about people with disabilities haven’t been much better – he openly mocked a journalist with a joint disorder during one of his rallies.
He is also not shy of carrying out a bit of rival bashing. Throughout his campaign, he frequently criticised rival political candidates Carly Fiorina (“Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?”) and Hillary Clinton, whom he frequently threatened to put in jail, among other jibes.
He is a prolific user of Twitter and unleashed some unbelievable, campaign-damaging statements to the extent that at one point his aides took his Twitter account from him.
Can you imagine your CEO, or indeed any employee, behaving in such a way without any sanction or action being taken? Condoning such activity and language of an employee, and particularly a senior one, would likely place you at a great risk of arriving at an Employment Tribunal.
Ignoring any legislative risks for the moment, the potential damage to organisational reputation and standing is significant. What impression does such ‘leadership’ give to potential customers or employees? Would you want to work with an individual that, on the face of it, is blatantly sexist and racist, rude, and has a tendency to shoot from the hip? What does this say about the culture of the organisation if the individual at the top has such a lack of respect towards others, appears to have little social conscience, and considers themselves immune from sanctions?
There may well be many people and organisations who would choose not to work with such an individual/organisation, regardless of how much their offering was prized, if their own values and ethos appear to be ignored, belittled, or just at odds with the individual.
From a legislative perspective, there is a potential risk of various discrimination claims under the Equality Act 2010. Of the nine protected characteristics, the examples referred to above would potentially cover five of them – disability, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, and gender.
Not only would the individual who was the recipient of the inappropriate and/or unwanted conduct potentially have a claim through direct discrimination, direct discrimination by association or direct discrimination by perception, potentially there may also be claims by others of indirect discrimination claims, harassment or victimisation.
There are very limited circumstances where an employer may act in a way which is discriminatory, apart from where they may be able to argue and provide objective justification that it is ‘a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim’. It is highly unlikely that any employee, or employer, who made the same kind of statements as Donald Trump would be able to pass the objective justification test.
As well as protection under the Equality Act, it is also feasible that the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 may provide an individual with a further avenue for seeking redress.
Many organisations have challenging employees or those that might be described as a ‘maverick personality’. No matter how brilliant that individual may be, or how important they are perhaps perceived to the ongoing success of the business, such behaviour and characteristics have to be addressed and managed appropriately. Not easy, but leadership and management often isn’t.