The Mask Comes Off: Corporate Implications When Your Senior Recruiter is a Bigot

The Mask Comes Off

On the evening of July 7, I was on Twitter following reports and discussion of the shooting in Dallas. One of my twitter friends responded “Jesus” to a post from someone else. My twitter friend is a black man who frequently engages on questions relating to race and social justice; in my experience he always engages thoughtfully and with respect. So when I saw his post, I looked at the tweet that prompted his reaction. It said “#BlackLivesMatter is officially a terrorist organization Cop killers”. The post was made at a time when nothing was known about the shooter(s). When I looked at the original tweet, I realized I knew the author. He is a senior recruiter for a company I used to work for. I was shocked and disappointed.

When I realized I knew the person, I responded to him asking by whose authority #BlackLivesMatter was “officially” a terrorist organization. I went on to tell him I thought it was irresponsible of him to fuel additional anger and hatred with his post.

His response to me was to say it was his opinion, an opinion shared by thousands of others. To support his claim, he retweeted a similar sentiment from a twitter user, Milo Yiannopoulos, who goes by the twitter username @Nero. As shocking as it was to see my former colleague tweeting such hatefulness in the aftermath of the Dallas shooting, it was even worse to me to see him citing Yiannopoulos as someone whose opinion he valued. Yiannopoulos is associated with the alt right: racists, anti-semites, homophobes, and misogynists. Over the last two years, I have seen Yiannopoulos and his cohort harass women in video games with dogpiling, sealioning, digging, doxxing and swatting. They have attacked both me and my daughter. Multiple women in the tech industry have been forced from their homes due to rape and death threats. Many of the targeted women eventually left their professional field and have sought work elsewhere, away from the incessant harassment and threats. Yiannopoulos’ followers have similarly attacked vulnerable trans people using the same tactics, going so far as to publish their dead names (names used before transitioning) in the process of doxxing them.

In a short series of twitter posts, I realized the tweet from my former colleague was not a one-off reaction on a night when much of the country was in shock and despair. This individual was consistent in expressing racist opinions and in expressing enthusiastic support for someone who goes out of his way to incite hatefulness against every possible marginalized group.

This individual was expressing his personal views on his personal social media account. Although he posted personal views from his personal twitter account, his affiliation to his employer was two clicks away: one click on his twitter bio, a second click to his profile on LinkedIn where his employer is featured prominently. And even if the link wasn’t there on his twitter bio, his name is unique and he is easily found by searching, along with his employer.

Corporate Implications When Your Senior Recruiter is a Bigot

If yours is the company whose senior recruiter is a bigot, what are the implications?

First, his posts raise the obvious question of whether he is able to be fair in screening candidates for positions if they are black, female, or any of the other classifications that are the target of so much of his hatefulness. Presumably, statistics on the candidates he had identified for the organization could help determine whether he is presenting female and minority candidates with fair representation, or not. My guess is “not”.

Second, even if you can give the recruiter the benefit of the doubt, that somehow he is able to detach his personal prejudices from his professional responsibilities, it doesn’t change how others may perceive him based on his social media presence. Candidates who are black, female, LGBT, or otherwise “othered” must surely look at his social media presence and question for themselves whether they would receive fair representation from him. As for me, if I were qualified to respond to an employment opportunity advertised by the company, I would nonetheless avoid interacting with him as a recruiter.

Third, based on his social media presence, as a potential employment candidate, I would question whether an organization that employs people who are openly racist and sexist was a place I would want to work. Faced with the prospect of working in an organization of bigots, I’d look for opportunities elsewhere before I’d pursue a job there.

Fourth, there’s a good chance that the organization is not aware of his bigoted posts. For a large tech company, if management is not aware of the online presence of its senior personnel, that would make me question whether they’re really all that high tech after all.

Fifth, the alternative to the company not knowing is that senior leadership in fact is aware and does nothing to stop the hatefulness. In this case, they would be complicit, essentially condoning the behavior.

Sixth, while it seems trivial in comparison to the damage done by expression of bigoted views, if the individual is using company resources to post his hatefulness, or posts on company time (which this person has done), it adds to the complicity on the part of the company.

And finally, if the company has a senior member of the HR staff who has demonstrated bigoted views, and the company has done nothing to mitigate the damage, there is one more implication. When employees bring suit against an employer for discrimination based on gender, race, or any of the other protected classes, the chances of them being successful in court is disappointingly small. The standards of evidence are notoriously difficult to achieve. In particular, it is difficult to demonstrate discrimination because rarely is it overt. Being able to demonstrate willful behavior, or a pattern of behavior, contributes to the strength of an argument that the company engages in and condones the behavior. Overtly bigoted behavior on the part of senior staff, particularly senior staff entrusted with recruiting and HR activities, unchecked by the company, makes a strong case for a pattern of willful behavior.

So, when the mask comes off and a company discovers that their senior recruiter is a bigot? The corporate implications are profound.

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