My law school alma mater, Case Western Reserve University, is currently embroiled in a nasty lawsuit filed by a professor, who alleges that the Dean retaliated against him after he opposed the Dean’s sexually harassing behavior. This is how my school publicly responded:
To the Alumni of the School of Law:
I write today to announce the appointment of health law scholar Jessica Berg and international law expert Michael Scharf as Acting Deans of the School of Law. Longtime faculty at the school, they bring unique experience and expertise to the roles, as well as a history of effective collaboration with one another on school committees. They are widely respected among faculty, staff and students, and will do an outstanding job of building on the school’s recent academic progress….
Of course, we also face obstacles. The pending litigation and accompanying publicity has proved challenging for all of us. Even as the school focuses on its academic priorities, we continue to pursue a thorough and deliberate process regarding the claims raised. As mentioned earlier, we have engaged outside counsel, who in turn has retained an independent investigator. The investigator will review the claims raised and also assess the reviews we conducted in 2011 when concerns first came to our attention. We are committed to taking the time necessary to handle this matter in a full, fair and objective manner; it is not only the right thing to do, but also is in the best interest of the school and university in the long run.
As always, we appreciate your support and involvement with the School of Law. You will continue to receive updates from me and our Acting Deans as developments warrant.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is currently embroiled in a mess of his own, which includes, among other things (i.e., smoking crack), that he sexually harassed a former assistant. This is how Rob Ford publicly responded (warning, salty language ahead).
How you choose publicly to respond to allegations is open to cross-examination in later depositions and at trial. Which response would you be more comfortable defending, CWRU’s or Rob Ford? The answer is obvious, and should guide your company’s actions when a high-profile lawsuit demands a public response.
Written by Jon Hyman, a partner in the Labor & Employment group of Kohrman Jackson & Krantz. For more information, contact Hyman at (216) 736-7226 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow Hyman on Twitter at @jonhyman.