Angels in the Workplace? Accusations of Harassment Leave the Navy Feeling Blue

For a human resources professional or high level executive, some of the worst possible terms to land in the subject line of an email include “porn,” “homophobia,” and “harassment.” Each on its own is enough to give upper management a small heart attack. Unfortunately, the United States’ most famous aerial performers recently faced this triumvirate of HR evil.

According to a recent report, the Blue Angels aerial performers have been accused of flying with pornographic material in their cockpits, making homophobic slurs, and constantly degrading women. The CNN report stated that at one point things got so bad that an image of a male genitalia adorned a Blue Angels hangar. This image was so large that it was detected by Google Maps satellites. All of this behavior allegedly created a hostile working environment, according to a recent complaint against the organization.

After the aforementioned tomfoolery was tolerated within the Blue Angels for years (and even arguably perpetuated by high-level commanders), a service member filed a complaint in 2014 for the “toxic” atmosphere that had been created within the Blue Angels. Although an internal inquiry is currently underway, it is easy to foresee the likely forthcoming lawsuits. 

Offensive and Harassing Conduct Can Take Many Forms

As the Blue Angels case study shows, harassing workplace conduct reaches far beyond degrading comments toward women.  In fact, one of the more common forms of harassment allegations stem from offensive imagery on computer monitors and within emails. Further, many employees believe it is acceptable to have off-color discussions about sex, sexual orientation, and gender so long as the person they are conversing with has the same or similar views. This belief is not only antiquated, it fails to take into account the fact that anyone could overhear the offensive comments or see the offensive imagery, thereby creating the basis for a sex harassment claim. It also fails to consider that a person may feel under pressure not to complain about offensive conduct. 

In today’s litigious society it is ever important for human resources managers and executives to remain up to date as to the types of conduct they need to watch out for to ensure an effective workplace.   

Online Sexual Harassment Training Programs Can Prevent Hostile Working Environments

The standard argument coming from the Blue Angels side will likely be that higher-ups did not know what was going on. Unfortunately, hiding one’s head in the sand is unlikely to be successful under any set of facts, much less when a pervasive environment of sexual comments and behavior was allowed to persist. The Navy has since set up awareness training from various equal opportunity programs to rid the Blue Angels of the smut. This case just goes to show that anti-harassment training is necessary in every organization, particularly for managers and supervisors. Sadly, no organization is immune to conduct and circumstances that can lead to claims of sexual harassment and other forms of unlawful harassment

Syntrio, Inc. specializes in providing sexual harassment prevention and HR compliance training in an extremely comprehensive yet cost-effective and time sensitive manner. Contact us today at 888-289-6670 to discuss the ways Syntrio, Inc. can help your supervisors and HR Professionals ensure that they are up to date with state and federal laws regarding employment equality and workplace diversity training.



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