On November 20, 2017, eight women accused Charlie Rose of sexual harassment. Rose, the well-known anchor of CBS This Morning and producer of an award-winning interview show on PBS, was dismissed by both networks following the allegations. While he disputed some of the charges, Rose generally admitted to his culpability.
According to the article Charlie Rose’s Downfall Reportedly Leaves Staffers Out Of Work, Rose’s production company, Charlie Rose, Inc., had as many as two dozen employees, who have now been laid off. Rose’s actions precipitated his downfall, but others were also forced to pay a price.
And of course, it didn’t have to happen. For starters, Charlie Rose, Inc., did not have a human resource department. While some might argue that a company with 24 employees can suffice without one, this development should be a wake-up call for all small business owners. The Charlie Rose website still posts countless interviews on politics, world events, entertainment, and technology. None of them, however, had an air date after the news broke on November 20. This formerly well-respected newsman—and his company—will likely now fade to black.
According to the Time article What to Do If You’re Sexually Harassed and Your Company Doesn’t Have HR, the U.S. Small Business Administration estimated that in 2014, some 3.8 million employers had 15 or fewer workers. This means that 17.1 million American workers were not protected under Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 (since only employers with 15 or more employees are subject to the law).
While it would appear that Charlie Rose, Inc., would be in violation of this federal law, it should be pointed out that many state and local jurisdictions have laws on the books that raise the bar for employers when it comes to dealing with sexual harassment. For example, in New York City, a business with as few as four employees must comply with the city’s Human Rights Law.
In the Time article, the authors suggest employees who are victims of sexual harassment consider four actions items:
- Consider personal safety first and call the police if warranted.
- Keep notes and find a confidant to share your story in real time.
- Speak with an employment law attorney to understand your rights.
- Identify your actual employer to determine whether or not the firm may be owned by a larger entity.
For a small business owner without an HR department, I would suggest another piece of advice: Call an IRS certified and accredited Professional Employer Organization (PEO). For a fraction of the cost of hiring a qualified HR professional, partnering with a PEO will afford the business owner support and some protection. There are many reasons to partner with a PEO, but the most important one could be actually saving your business. Perhaps Charlie Rose, Inc., was doomed to fail; but then again, with proper HR involvement early on, issues might have been addressed before things went out of control. Here’s hoping that small businesses will understand this as a lesson learned.