Sunday, September 09, 2007

San Diego Diocese Settles Abuse Claims

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego has settled lawsuits with alleged abuse victims for $198 million, double what the church offered just months ago. Settlements here in the US have topped $2.3 billion in the aggregate and leave me wondering at what could be the largest failure in sexual harassment and abuse of children in history.

Now, before we beat our chests and thunder "The Children!" know this: we're not too good at dealing with harassment and sexual harassment in the workforce when all parties are adults. I worked for a time as an internal HR rep. Our focus seemed not on rooting out problems before they escalated; instead, with little company-funded training (I paid for a lot of my own development), reps were known to tell people they were making too much of situations, being "too sensitive" and other things. The thinking was that by getting the complainant to simmer down, it would go away. It didn't. Generally, complainants began suffering workplace write ups as their productivity and workplace ethic began to decline. It usually started with attendance and the every-ready "attitudinal" anomalies. On several occasions, it escalated to violence (including gun play).

One gentleman that came to my attention had an employee file that was almost an inch thick, stuffed with complaints by women workers that spanned over 20 years. The corporate "we" had done nothing--and he wasn't the only one. Side note: When I came to talk with him at the end of second shift about the most-recent complaints--wait for it...wait for it--he hit on me, telling me how pretty I was and moving from his side of the table to mine (we were at a small table with only two chairs).

Help me, heaven!

When I suggested escalating the discipline, I was reminded how many years of service he had with the company, with no consideration about policy or the law (or--heck--the feelings and rights of the women involved). Like priests with long tenure, these people are given a "pass" and begin to believe that their behavior is acceptable: "If they really didn't want me to do this, they'd punch my ticket." It wasn't lost on me that just I was leaving that organization they were served with a $550 million race and age discrimination suit.

In an earlier blog post on this site, Like Nobody's Business: How We Want to Work...and Live: Mean People are Made to Pay!, we saw that it didn't take an censer and a sacramental vestments to get slammed by our reluctance to roll up our sleeves and deal effectively with predatory behavior in the workplace. Deutsche Bank got a $1.5 million spanking for refusing to effectively deal with threatening, harassing behavior. Studies suggest that our inability to deal with workplace relationships can cost in excess of $60 billion annually.

We didn't get it any more than these diocese.

I've said before, how ludicrous it is to me that the people charged with fair dealing with firms (churches, civic organizations, etc.) are not required to be trained in problem solving and effective conflict resolution.