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Professional Decorum Required When Interacting With Staff At Home

The former personal chef for Sean (Diddy) Combs is suing the singer for wrongful termination, sexual harassment, and violation of whistleblower protections. She alleges that Combs exposed himself to her and made sexual comments.

According to the lawsuit, Combs regularly asked the chef to "serve him post-sex meals." When she entered the room, Combs would be naked and would ask the "visibly uncomfortable" chef if she liked his naked body. The plaintiff also alleges that one of Combs' friends came into the kitchen and showed her his genitals.  

The chef alleges she reported the harassment to the celebrity's manager, but that no action was taken to stop the harassment. The lawsuit further alleges that someone in the organization retaliated against her by framing her for stealing a watch from Combs. The organization then asked her to sign a waiver saying she would not sue Combs, which she refused to do. The employer eventually terminated the chef.

A representative for Combs denied the allegations and says the chef was terminated for cause. Nicole Bitette "Diddy sued for by ex-chef for having to serve post-sex meals,"nydailynews.com (May 10, 2017).


Commentary and Checklist

Because the home is not a traditional work setting, charges of harassment related to unprofessional behavior is a real risk for family employers. The laws of harassment and the expectations of professional decorum are not abandoned simply because the workplace is a home.

Family employers must restrict where and when they interact with staff. Interacting with staff in a bedroom is questionable. Interacting with staff in a bedroom unclothed is way out of bounds.

Because this employee was a cook, the interaction should have been in the kitchen, with everyone fully dressed. Requests for food could be made through intercom or even text.  

It is important that family employers also monitor how guests interact with staff. Sexual harassment by a guest may be considered sexual harassment by the host.

Family employers should follow these tips to avoid committing or allowing sexual harassment against staff:
 

  • Lead by example and don't make crude remarks or jokes.
  • Lead by example and don't make crude remarks or jokes.
  • Always conduct yourself with respect for others.
  • Always conduct yourself with respect for others.
  • Don't wear sexually provocative or crude clothing or jewelry.
  • Don't wear sexually provocative or crude clothing or jewelry.
  • If you are wondering whether your or someone else's behavior or comments are acceptable, then they probably are not. Think before you speak, and if it may be inappropriate, don't say it.
  • If you are wondering whether your or someone else's behavior or comments are acceptable, then they probably are not. Think before you speak, and if it may be inappropriate, don't say it.
  • Limit your physical contact with staff, especially touches that are more personal than professional.
  • Limit your physical contact with staff, especially touches that are more personal than professional.
  • Do your best to keep your social life out of the workplace.
  • Do your best to keep your social life out of the workplace.
  • If you spot someone being disrespectful or using foul language, admonish him or her quickly and in private.
  • If you spot someone being disrespectful or using foul language, admonish him or her quickly and in private.
  • Listen to how staff talk about other staff and managers. Crude behavior is often done in private.
  • Listen to how staff talk about other staff and managers. Crude behavior is often done in private.
  • When you observe sexually harassing conduct or if staff complains of inappropriate behavior, immediately conduct a third party investigator.
  • When you observe sexually harassing conduct or if staff complains of inappropriate behavior, immediately conduct a third party investigation.
  • Never retaliate against staff for reporting harassing behavior or other forms of misconduct.
  • Never retaliate against staff for reporting harassing behavior or other forms of misconduct.
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