Spotting Issues

By Priest, Jim T. | THE JOURNAL RECORD, May 14, 1999 | Go to article overview

Spotting Issues


Priest, Jim T., THE JOURNAL RECORD


A recent edition of PC Computing magazine related the following story that confirms my belief truth is stranger than fiction. See how many ethical issues you can spot in this scenario. (This is a true story. I am not making this up!)

Lydia Profaslo is a 24-year-old sales associate at Polar Foil, a Minnesota company that manufactures thermal insulating. Profaslo appeared at the firm's company picnic wearing shorts and a revealing bathing suit top. Someone took her picture and later posted it on the company's Web site.

Not surprisingly, a number of workers who were not fully engaged in their job duties visited the Web site to "view" Profaslo. Sales Manager Roger Jeffries was one of those idle oglers, and as he stared at the picture he remarked, "Nice bazongas!" Unfortunately for him, a friend of Profaslo was walking by Jeffries' office at the time, saw the ogling, heard the comment, and promptly reported the conduct to Profaslo. Profaslo was so aghast at this she left the office in tears and later brought a sexual harassment lawsuit against Jeffries and Polar, asking for $30 million. She claims she now suffers "depression, anorexia and sleeplessness," and is disabled. In the course of the lawsuit, Profaslo's lawyers sent a standard request for Polar Foil to produce any documents or audio tape recordings that dealt with the issues in the litigation. Much to everyone's surprise, the company reported having an actual tape recording of the "Nice bazongas!" comment. The company obtained such a tape because, it turns out, every computer at Polar had a built in, sound-activated microphone that recorded all verbal communications within five feet of the terminal. The information technology department at Polar had been running Speech Collection Port software as a "protective measure." Unknown to Polar workers, all their conversations had been taped. Jeffries was fired (it is unclear what the basis was) and the company is still fighting the Profaslo lawsuit. I don't know when the trial is, but I'm planning to travel to Minnesota just to watch it. Keeping tabs So how many ethical issues did you count? I thought ethical issues arose in the following areas: * Profaslo should have paid more attention to what she wore to the company picnic. Even though this was an "off duty" get-together, Profaslo should have recognized her attire was probably not appropriate. I may catch some flack from folks who think women should be able to wear whatever they want and not be condemned for men ogling them, but I believe we all owe a duty to one another not to needlessly provoke or tempt one another by word or action.

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