Despite what it looks like to some of his supporters, Brett Kavanaugh is not currently on trial. The federal judge is actually in the middle of the most intense job interview of his life, for one of the best gigs in the country: lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court.
It’s not going great. Kavanaugh is now facing allegations of sexual misconduct from three women.
The White House has stood by its nominee. But if Kavanaugh were gunning for a position in the private sector, his situation would be vastly different in this Me Too era.
These days, many major companies would avoid hiring someone with sexual misconduct allegations hanging over their head, particularly for a high-profile position, according to hiring, legal and management experts who talked to HuffPost.
Businesses are increasingly concerned with their reputations regarding sexual harassment. And a company wouldn’t want to turn off other job candidates by becoming known as a place that tolerates misconduct, said Brian Kropp, a vice president in human resources at the consulting firm Gartner.
Companies don’t want to upset their employees, either. “Who wants to work at a place that hires a bunch of harassers?” Kropp said.
That doesn’t mean a man with a dodgy background would be out on the streets, by any stretch. At the highest levels of most firms, there are still older men making the hiring decisions, and they likely wouldn’t take issue with the kind of conduct Kavanaugh is accused of.
“I think there are a lot of men particularly in positions of power that absolutely wouldn’t have a problem with these allegations,” said Liz Stapp, a professor at the Leeds School of Business at the University of Colorado. ”Public companies are under a bit more scrutiny now. But at the average company, the person in the hiring position most likely can relate and empathize with someone like Kavanaugh.”
Last week, Christine Blasey Ford said that when she and Kavanaugh were teenagers, he pushed her down, covered her mouth and attempted to rape her at a party ― behavior some men have described as “horseplay.”
Deborah Ramirez came forward last week and said that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her on an occasion when they were both drunk in college.
And a third woman, Julie Swetnick, came forward on Wednesday and said Kavanaugh was “present” at a house party where she was raped sometime in the early 1980s.
Stapp said there are plenty of men in powerful positions who think this kind of behavior is basically normal for young guys. She noted that CBS’s board of directors were willing to overlook sexual misconduct allegations against chief executive Les Moonves for months, until they were forced to contend with the situation because of bad publicity.
And of course, in 2016, millions of voters overlooked the various allegations of sexual misconduct hanging over Donald Trump’s head.
“I don’t care if 30 more women come forward and allege this kind of stuff,” 83-year-old producer Arnold Kopelson, who until recently sat on CBS’s board, reportedly told his colleagues about Moonves.
A tainted Kavanaugh-like candidate probably wouldn’t land in something like a CEO role ― but many companies would still bring in someone like that to consult or work behind the scenes, Stapp said.
What’s more, she said, it’s unlikely that any company would even find out about these types of long-ago incidents. Companies don’t dig that deep ― particularly for sexual misconduct allegations.
Still, the Me Too movement has shaken things up.
Even in the male-dominated world of finance, typically a safe haven for men with old-fashioned ideas about women, firms are much more wary of the optics where sexual misconduct is concerned, said John Singer, a New York attorney who represents more than a dozen men in the securities and entertainment industries who have faced accusations of harassment or other misconduct.
Banks and other companies are now more likely to publicly announce a firing over misconduct ― something that just wasn’t done before ― and a lot less likely to take a chance on someone with a tainted past.
The change in attitude happened right after the Harvey Weinstein scandal broke last fall, Singer said.
“Pre-October there would have been little to no impact on a banker or trader’s ability to get hired at a new firm,” he said.
Even conservative-leaning law firms would be wary of hiring someone like Kavanaugh in this climate, Singer said. On the one hand, a longtime Beltway insider like Kavanaugh would be an “extraordinary rainmaker,” and the right side of the aisle likely wouldn’t care much about the sexual misconduct question.
However, even those firms have become increasingly sensitive to these issues. “I’d have a hard time believing he’d get hired,” Singer concluded.
Smaller companies and firms, particularly those without any female employees, would probably be more amenable.
For example, it took less than a year for Brian Cagney, founder and CEO of the startup Social Finance, to land on his feet after leaving the company in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations. Just nine months after he’d quit his former company, venture capital firms had given him millions of dollars to start a new business.
In the end, of course, Kavanaugh likely needn’t worry about any of this. He hasn’t been charged with a crime, and the worst outcome he now seems to face is the possibility of losing out on a cool job.
And if that happens, he shouldn’t have a problem going back to his current position ― a lifetime seat on the D.C. Circuit.
Need help? Visit RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Online Hotline or the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s website.
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