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Google paid Andy Rubin $90M while keeping silent about a misconduct claim (nytimes.com)
819 points by untog 50 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 535 comments



"In 2013, Richard DeVaul, a director at Google X, the company’s research and development arm, interviewed Star Simpson, a hardware engineer. During the job interview, she said he told her that he and his wife were “polyamorous,” a word often used to describe an open marriage. She said he invited her to Burning Man, an annual festival in the Nevada desert, the following week.

Ms. Simpson went with her mother and said she thought it was an opportunity to talk to Mr. DeVaul about the job. She said she brought conservative clothes suitable for a professional meeting."

woah nelly! totally fucked that he was hitting on her in the interview and appears to be a pretty cut and dried abuse of power...

but... business casual, with mom, at burning man? that's absolutely bananas. however i can see how it would come to be, you're staring down your dream job, and there's this tight knit group of people you want to join so you go along with all of it... and then you realize later that you were just being played because someone wanted to sleep with you. yikes.


> and then you realize later that you were just being played because someone wanted to sleep with you. yikes.

I think she probably realized, that's why she brought her mom and conservative clothes.

Sometimes one way to win is to play along and lead your opponent into a trap.

Granted the trap didn't work as https://www.linkedin.com/in/rdevaul is still a director at X. Propositioning people and telling them about your open relationships during an interview process then inviting them to a drug infused festival should lead to not being a director anywhere in my opinion but maybe I am old-fashioned.


It probably wasn't a trap, just a way to get him to hire her while avoiding unwanted advances by dressing with a clear message.


It's a trap in the sense that if he makes a move there is a witness (mom). And she gets to pretend like she didn't understand and thought it was a business meeting to further the professional engagement and get the job she wanted. Or he gets to look ridiculous with this person he invited that came along dressed professionally and her mom came too. She can tell the story to all his "friends" and pretend like she just thought it was a "nice gesture". They will read between the lines and see what he was really trying to do. Maybe a few of them will turn to be reporters or bloggers, etc.

It didn't quite work out as well in the sense that he got to keep his job. And that's how sexism usually works with powerful people. They get golden parachutes, spend time at "sex addiction retreats for a 1 week" and they are "cured" and so on. But they are usually not punished for their behavior.


"Director of Rapid Evaluation and Mad Science at X, the moonshot factory"

The unprofessionalism should obvious by reading this "job title".


Shouldn't he be fired immediately according to company policy? That poor interview candidate.


> ... is still a director at X ...

one may be forgiven for wondering how long that will continue


Have you been to burning man? It is not just a "drug induced festival" for many burners.

Some people bring their 5 or 10 year old kids!


As a burner myself this makes me really sad that this is what people are going to think of Burning Man. Many people absolutely do bring their mother and wear whatever they want to the burn. It’s sad to consider those were done as guarding measures in this case.

There is a movement to get “Consent” ratified as the 11th principle, and I have to image for most of the people who aren’t for it, it’s because they don’t see the image problem the event has from stories like this, and wonder why people need to be reminded of something as basic as “Consent”. Well, here is why. I absolutely do not want this event I have fallen in love with to be associated with executives hitting on people and pushing drugs.


It seems odd to take this as an indictment of burning man when it should be verboten to invite anyone to an intimate event DURING A PROFESSIONAL INTERVIEW. Wait until after the interview and try to know them on personal terms.... then maybe. Even that seems super sketchy as you could interpet it as tied to the interview.


Actually even then, if you value your employment, I feel like this is a sacrifice you make when you cross the rubicon to director-level and above.


Rubicon is a rather shallow river and is easy to cross by the way. But comparing menage-a-trois to a watershed event in human history deflates the risks taken by Caesar.


I think the genocide he committed deflates it plenty.


Completely agree.


It was taken as an opportunity to announce that they are in fact a "burner". I suppose that's dope or something.


“See? My millions of dollars haven’t atrophied my soul.”


I won't go to Burning Man, and my SO won't go back after going with our friends due to the culture around the event. There are lots of great people that make an effort to go to Burning Man, but I have no desire to hang out with a good portion that are essentially mindless techbros, if I want that I can go wander over to Fremont, South Lake Union or similar.

The pervasive "fuck you, got mine" among this crowd is toxic, similar to lawbertarians espousing their beliefs. In the context of Burning Man these attitudes don't make sense, but this demographic does not reconcile their attitudes and that of what they participate in, all that matters is others have said they should go.


Have you read about the labor practices of Burning Man and related suicides?

I'm not surprised.

https://www.magneticmag.com/2018/08/report-burning-man-accus...


I haven't read about them, but a friend of mine got to spend quite a bit of time out on playa pre-burn as part of staff. The labor practices of the org are not great from what I heard from this friend, they ended up replacing many employees this past year with contractors it seems...


Sounds like a great feeling though.


Not particularly, this attitude tends to bite the demographic that holds it in the ass as time goes on. Quite hilarious to observe as an outsider.


Burning Man is libertarian Mecca for acolytes of Joe Rogan.


Joe Rogan didn't ruin Burning Man. There's a long, long history of Burning Man being "over"...probably beginning with the second year it was held.


I was also at Burning Man 2013 (when this seems to have taken place), and some of my female friends were approached by middle aged men who offered them massages. When trying to decline politely, these men used a sort of "uptight-shaming" tactic, saying things like "you're at burning man, you need to relax". They ended up going along with it and felt very badly about it afterwards. I'm not saying this is typical, but it does occur.


I think you stepped over the other key detail “mentioning an open relationship”, I don’t think they’re all together slamming burning man


I don’t think this has too much to do with Burning Man. If he had even invited her to travel to a business conference with the intent to get laid it would have been the same deal.


Just looking at the price of a ticket, you know straight away what Burning Man is really about.

It's a festival for rich capitalists who want to use freedom of expression as a pretext for acting out their erotic fantasies.

Rich tech people always have to put idealistic labels on everything they do.


Burning Man stopped being Burning Man over 10years ago, when people started bringing portable private hotels, if not earlier.


I was always better last year :D

I am reminded of this article, “A brief history of who ruined burning man”

https://journal.burningman.org/2016/10/philosophical-center/...


Thank you, gate keeper of Burning Man, for deciding and letting us know what Burning Man truly is.


The ability of people to complain about things they can easily avoid never ceases to astound me.

Secondly, nobody cares what you think about burning man. That goes for everyone. Just go if you want to and enjoy it on your own terms and don’t ruin someone else’s day.


The ability of people to complain about other people complaining, which they can easily avoid, never ceases to astound me.

Secondly, nobody cares what you think about other people's complaints. That goes for everyone. Just ignore it you want to and disregard it on your own terms and don't ruin someone else's day.


> Burning Man stopped being Burning Man over 10years ago

Burners were saying that 10 years ago too.


20 years ago. (My first burn was in '98 - the old timers existed already... "6,000 people!!! Man, this event has sold out!")


So the vibe changed?


If "conservative clothes" and "bringing your mom" are irrelevant, it should not have been mentioned.


Its to head off accusations that she was "dressed like that" and other stupid nonsense.

As if that's an excuse to throw away professionalism.


"never without asking"


As usual the media gets this a bit wrong and is obscuring the truth. Star knew more about Burning Man than this harassing interviewer.

I was a couple years ahead of Star in school and know she was a long time fan of burning man, even going while in undergrad. No way this guy was the first person to tell her about it as this article implies. (but doesn’t explicitly state) Maybe meeting a fellow burner is what brought out his extra creepy side but that’s no excuse.

She was probably going to be there anyway. She might make plans with a weeks notice but really doubt a mom living in another state would have.

though also Star is a amazing famous person in her own right! She deserves more attention than Mr. DoucheVaul


I also know her, and camped with her at Burning Man many moons ago.

I don't think the account related in the article in any way obscures the truth, and it doesn't soften the sharp and inappropriate edge of what her interviewer did in the least.

I, myself, occasionally run across subordinates at Burning Man, and I make a very strong effort to interact with them in the same way I'd do at work, with the exception of offering them water bottles, extra ampoules of sunscreen, and electrolyte packets.

There is less than zero excuse for that guys' behavior.


The article led the reader to believe that the victim was not a burner, and that Burn was part of the weird SV culture and part of the setup for harassment. The problem was the guy's behavior, not inviting her to the Burn.


Totally agree! It really seems like the article is trying to say she was invited to attend her first burning man by this creepy interviewer and that she attended it mainly for networking purposes but brought her mom and a “conservative” attire to keep it professional. This isn’t explicitly stated but is strongly implied. The author also links predatory behavior with burning man by making Star seem like the outsider to it.

I commented because I think this article is doing a disservice to the victim and falsely depicting her as a bit naive, clueless, and perhaps a tad too desperate for the job which isn’t accurate at all.


I love how you're admittedly making stuff up that the article doesn't say, and then attack it for it.

To be fair, I can somewhat see what causes your misinterpretation. The first sentence about Burning Man is

She said he invited her to Burning Man, an annual festival in the Nevada desert, the following week.

What's cause for confusion here is the interjection defining Burning Man. Your interpretation sees it as a retelling of her experience, i.e. him having to explain her what it is.

But any semi-regular reader of the NYT will take this for what it is: an explanation of Burning Man to the reader.

It's rather common to introduce new terms in article in this way, whenever they are first mentioned. Sometimes, as arguably in this case, it is overdone. Worst offender here is the Economist: "The US, a large north-american country,...".


well glad we agree on content and just have a different interpretation of what his article is implying!

Instead of discussing the article, let’s just look at other commenters and see their interpretation.

reviewing other comments in this thread I see:

- commenters that believe she made plans to go to burning man on a weeks notice and convinced her mom to join. And got tickets.

- commenters that re-interpret “conservative” to mean professional/business casual attire. That interpretation makes Simpson seems particularly oblivious about the event which is clearly untrue

- a commenter that specifically mentions her naivete

As I’ve said already, what these commenters think isn’t true, but they believe these things because that’s what the article unfairly implies.

I’m glad this article is drawing attention to this harasser and this issue in general, but it does a disservice to the victim to falsely paint them in this light.


Do you mean to say you know Star Simpson from school?


Dude, she was asked to do interview at Burning Man. It wasn't her choice. It is unfathomable that this guy is allowed to manage anyone at all anywhere.


Check out the article again - this is wrong. The reporter makes no claim about this.

>>Ms. Simpson went with her mother and said she thought it was an opportunity to talk to Mr. DeVaul about the job. She said she brought conservative clothes suitable for a professional meeting.


Talk about dedication - not planning on going to burning man, then going with a week's notice, in conservative clothing no less? Ms. Simpson is willing to go to far greater lengths than I to increase offer prospects...

I would have read it differently if she had gone "burning-man" mode, as I'd be tempted to do if invited on a whim like this. I'd always intended to try anyway, so having a guaranteed champion there (and maybe a camp? Unclear if crashing at the camp was implied in the invitation), would make it a fun thing to do. But the conservative clothes makes it seem like she was treating this as a step in the interview process.

Why was DeVaul talking about his personal romantic/sexual life in an interview? How stupid of him. What a dumb gamble, even if he was trying to get laid, the risk/reward just doesn't make sense in the context.


It's apparent from reading the article that Google had a widespread and pervasive sexual harassment problem with senior executives freely doing whatever they wanted - that the current chief legal fellow is still there (and got several promotions to the top) after having an extramarital affair and child with another employee in the legal department says everything - he knew all the consequences and how things could turn out and he did it anyways. I would cut a bit of slack to Ms. Simpson, she was only 24, the power imbalance is huge, and reading about the women who have turned down these sort of invitations early in their career is to read a litany of careers crippled. I thought naively that the casting couch was a Hollywood institution but it's just an institution. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/10/ha...


The article says that both founders and the 3rd majority owner triumvirate of Google a violated the company sexually conduct policy. It's part of the founding culture, even before the parade of SVPs.


This. Tone at the top.


Realworld is always more wonderful than novels


You speak in past tense. Some of the mentioned Google execs are still at the company, and they are still in high ranking positions of power.


Was tempted to go further but wanted to hew closely to what was supported by the news story and I also do not have any personal experience or knowledge of current work environment.


> What a dumb gamble, even if he was trying to get laid, the risk/reward just doesn't make sense in the context.

What risk are you thinking of? There has been no consequence for him that I can see. He correctly assessed that there was no risk to him.


Every manager in California has to do mandatory 2 hour harassment prevention training every two years where such behavior is specifically called out as unacceptable. So he would have known this was wrong.

The irony is that this mandatory sexual harassment training was signed into law by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger a couple of years after he had been fornicating with his house maid.


The problem is - what I see here is that a woman made a claim that a man did or said something that might have constituted harassment. As any employer ought, Google started investigating. Also, as any employer ought, they didn't go public about the claim, seeing as how that's a violation of everybody's privacy. They investigated, didn't find enough evidence to discipline the accused (or maybe they did, but that's also not, nor should it be, public). Independent of all of this, they made a payout that they were contractually obligated to pay out. Yet with the outrage machine in full gear, it's getting more and more like the only thing any company can do to avoid criticism is to not only terminate without investigating immediately when a claim is filed, but to also include "no accusation" clauses in all of their contracts so that they can default on their obligations essentially at whim. And it seems like most everybody on there thinks that's a good idea.


> Independent of all of this, they made a payout that they were contractually obligated to pay out.

Why did they make this payout and this contract? In other words—what benefit to Alphabet was it in exchange for?

Not damaging the reputation of the company is a common clause in severance agreements. I bet that not being retroactively found to have violated company policy is also common. Would it be in Google's interest to pay out the severance if the employee were found to have stolen corporate secrets?


> And it seems like most everybody on there thinks that's a good idea.

I think that probably almost anyone is aware of the danger that a system like that, its just that everyone is deliberately ignoring it and weighing it against the PR storm. Its pretty much universal, to throw due process out the window is something that a vast majority of people want to do after any heinous crime committed, something politicians also always exploited.


> Also, as any employer ought, they didn't go public about the claim, seeing as how that's a violation of everybody's privacy

How is talking about things that happened to you a violation of anybody's privacy?

It is prefectly reasonable to talk about true events that happened to you, especially in a interview, and to even use names.

The truth is the Truth, and your interactions with someone that you are interviewing should not be treated as private.


Having an affair is not the same thing as sexual harassment bu any stretch, so there is nothing ironic about that.


Came here to say that.


fornicating

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.


To be fair, I had to look it up to realize that the word implies that both parties are unmarried.

In today's parlance, "fornicate" generally is just a synonym for sexual congress.


Wait now I'm confused. Fornicate means Have sexual intercourse with someone one is not married to.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/fornicate

Seems the original use was accurate no?


Welcome to English as it is spoken, vs, English as it is defined.


Er, except the actual cited definition matches use (there is an uncited definition upthread that doesn't, but that definition of just a poor definition, since definitions aim to describe use.)


“A word often used to describe an open marriage”

Often used incorrectly. That’s not at all what polyamory is.


However, a married person who is polyamorous is either a serial liar or in an open marriage. It’s reasonable to infer the latter since it is the least offensive.


Polyamorous people can still marry or be married. That doesn't somehow make them "serial liars" or otherwise result in them being required to describe their relationships using a specific term such as open marriage.


This depends on your definition of "open marriage", but to be clear, polyamory is _not_ about open relationships (which I think "open marriage" suggests). Polyamory typically means closed/committed relationships, but with multiple people. That they are made out to be sleeping around or in less serious relationships is incorrect, at least as far as the terminology goes. I would not say that a married poly person is necessarily a liar or in an open marriage.


You seem to be unreasonably narrowing options here for no reason. A polyamorous couple could date others, as a couple, without it being an open marriage

My understanding is that an open marriage bars long term amorous relationships from the mix, but that things are ok


but... business casual, with mom, at burning man? that's absolutely bananas.

I think it speaks to how difficult it is for women to sort whether this is really a networking opportunity or not. A lot of networking that's obviously networking when done between two hetero men could be construed as a proposition for a woman. Where does she draw the line?


[flagged]


Oy.

I was banned today from a (nominally) professional forum. I was active there years ago and returned a few months back. Many years ago, I hooked up with one of the mods while I was going through a divorce. So far, so good.

But I didn't want to see him again after that. So he was an ass to me about it in a way that abused his position of power on the forum. I didn't make a stink. I left, mostly for other reasons, but that was kind of a final straw. My comment last night detailing his crappy behavior was deleted and my account was quietly banned. The ban was not announced publicly.

Women in business are frequently in a no win situation. If a man in power is attracted to them, win, lose, or draw, her career gets hurt and people will say she somehow screwed it up.

I have no control over men being attracted to me. I've been celibate for nearly 13.5 years. That has proven to be essentially zero protection from having to worry about drama because some man sees me as hot for some damn reason.

If a man is attracted in spite of my best efforts to be repulsive to him (yes, I'm being flippant here cuz I'm aggravated today), it is typically all downside for me. There isn't a good solution.



Yeah, I know about that.

But I don't see where that is pertinent. If a tech guy had his homemade tech gadget mistaken for a bomb, would this be somehow deemed pertinent to his female boss sexually harassing him years later or something like that?


Whoa there! I didn't say anything about sexual harassment.

It's just a lighthearted comment unrelated to the more serious components of the discussion.

Goes to airport in bomb-esque clothes.... Goes to Burning Man in conservative clothes...


This type discussion isn't exactly the best place to try to be funny in that way.


I disagree wholeheartedly.

It is perfectly civil to make a lighthearted comment about the least sensitive part of the entire discussion. Frankly, who cares whether someone wears conservative clothes to Burning Man. I don't appreciate people who attempt to police others on how and when to discuss things; I think it lacks social grace.

You chose to respond to me with an unnecessary and totally irrelevant candid view into your professional life and sexual habits. To be completely honest, your comment struck me as bizarre and made me feel uncomfortable. I think that your comment on celibacy, etc, was a far more inappropriate thing to say (on your part) than simply pointing out the humor in Star's wardrobe having made the news more than once.

To address my views on the discussion directly:

I find it difficult to immediately and unquestioningly believe an allegation that doesn't appear to have evidence aside from testimony from a single individual, Star, who plainly admits that she was motivated to speak out due to the rising public profile of the accused. I believe that as a 24-year-old, Star Simpson was old enough to make her own adult decisions and even if what she says was true, it doesn't amount to sexual harassment but rather a rejected offer for a back rub and a consensual neck massage at a music festival. i don't know anything about DeVaul's other exploits, but even if Star's account is totally accurate, at the very worst his invitation was in poor taste considering that she was an interviewee.


How would a man feel if a male interview invited them to meet his wife and him, who are into polyamory or what not? I feel like the connotations are clear are inappropriate during an interview.


That question is not at all relevant to anything I have said in this thread, nor do you and I know in detail what exactly was said in that interview.

If you're just randomly asking my opinion, then I would say that any person who goes to an interview and is treated unprofessionally can be expected to feel bad.

At the same time, I have been invited to socialize outside of work by people who have unusual/unhealthy hobbies. It doesn't always mean they want me to join in those hobbies, and if I were pressured to do so, I would decline.

It's tough to draw conclusions about something when the only information we have is two paragraphs about one side of the story, and one sentence about the other side.


I don't appreciate people who attempt to police others on how and when to discuss things; I think it lacks social grace.

I was in no way trying to police anything. I was merely trying to convey that context impacts interpretation of a remark. Lighthearted humor amidst such a serious discussion comes across as disrespectful and dismissive, even mocking.

Given your above comment on the matter, it seems it is not inaccurate to see the comment that way. In fact, that likely is a wholly accurate interpretation of your intent. Someone was sexually harassed and your reaction is to point and laugh, basically.


I didn't dismiss, disrespect, or mock anything. I didn't even draw any conclusions. I simply pointed out something that happened in the past. Please don't go off the deep end trying to put words in my mouth.

The truth of the matter is that for anyone who was at MIT at that time, it was a big news story. It was the junction of hacker culture and normal culture, and hacker culture almost got shot and killed for no reason. Seeing a conversation about her that doesn't mention this major story, to me, was like seeing the Michelin Man run for president and nobody mentions that he used to sell tires. It's just naturally funny to me because the most salient thing I know about Star is that she went to Logan with a lighted breadboard affixed to her chest and play-doh in her hand, and the next time she shows up in my news feed she's dressed for a business meeting at Burning Man.

Maybe you can step off your soap box to see the humor in that. Maybe not.

Just because you want to assume that anyone who doesn't want to burn the accused at the stake is a bigot, doesn't mean it's true. I just saw the humor in something that, apparently, is off limits in your mind. Well, for me, until it's proven in court, it's just another allegation in a sea of allegations, and I have neither the evidence to accept one view or the other. I didn't attack anyone, say anything untrue, make accusations that I can't substantiate, or ridicule anyone's pain. I'm just here in the comments section chatting, and as far as I can tell my comments don't violate any of the guidelines of HN....

...Unless, of course, someone with the ability to read my mind can identify that what REALLY drove me to comment, deep down, was a desire to ridicule Star for allegedly being a victim.

Give me a break.

Are you able to see why decrying me as "pointing and laughing" at Star for making allegations of sexual harassment is a jump to a far-flung conclusion?

I didn't even mention the situation or share an opinion at first, and later I said that absent evidence I don't have an opinion. Do you have a problem with hearing voices that don't unequivocally agree with your ideas of what everyone ought (in your mind) to think?

The knee-jerk reaction in the tech culture is to assume that everything is malicious and anti-women. You're doing that right now by "interpreting" my "intent." You don't know my name, you don't know my background, and you're purporting to understand what drives me. I guess it's satisfying to set up a straw man just to knock it down.

If you were talking to me on the street and you were to randomly bring up your decade-plus of celibacy (not judging), I would be absolutely taken aback. But here on HN it appears to be totally normal and that strikes me as bizarre. That one singular comment is honestly making me rethink the value of this community, because there are some ideas that get traction in the echo chamber ("all people who do not immediately stone the accused share in his guilt"), yet basic civility and manners are often totally absent. I don't know if that's a result of liberal/feminist political biases, or a lack of social skills associated with tech types.

On another note:

With all due respect, I've responded to everything you've said, represented my view candidly, and attempted to share my thoughts in a coherent way, but I get the impression that to continue this discussion would serve little purpose for me but to expend my time talking to someone who has demonstrated a desire to misinterpret what I'm saying by injecting malice into it on my behalf. If this were a real-life conversation, the second you mentioned your sexual habits, I would have smiled politely and walked away shortly thereafter.


>https://thetech.com/2007/11/13/simpson-v127-n40

Holy shit

>A college student who walked into Logan International Airport wearing a fake bomb strapped to chest was arrested at gunpoint Friday, officials said. CBS News correspondent Bob Orr reports the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sophomore told police she was there to meet a passenger arriving on a Continental flight from Oakland. She explained her get-up saying, "I wanted to stand out in the crowd."

>Star Simpson, 19, allegedly had a computer circuit board, wiring and a putty that later turned out to be Play-Doh in plain view over a black hooded sweatshirt she was wearing, said State Police Maj. Scott Pare, the commanding officer at the airport.

This happened on September 21, 2007. It surprises me that she didn't get shot on sight as it happened after 9/11. Crazy ... I mean, I don't want to say she was/is crazy, but no sane person does such a thing, especially not in this day and age.


Yeah it was a pretty big deal.

At MIT there was a bit of controversy because many professors argued that the university president should have gone to bat for her publicly, instead of releasing a statement saying that she showed poor judgment.

Wearing weird electronics and hacker-esque things is totally normal for MIT undergrads, especially the ones living on the east side of Mass Ave. I wouldn't think twice if I saw a kid walk into the campus convenience store wearing a hoodie with LEDs on a breadboard and playdoh in her hands, but I guess Logan Airport isn't exactly a hackathon.


I believe 100% that R. DeVaul is scum and I am not trying to attack the story, but the burning man part is too difficult to believe.

Tickets for burning man go on sale 6 months before, cost $1000 and become sold out in 30 minutes. It's a festival in the middle of the desert that you have to go pretty prepared if you want to last more than half a day (coolers, water, van, etc).

How did someone find tickets for 2 people a week before, drove to the desert with their mother because they honestly thought it was an interview test.

EDIT: Maybe she was going to be at burning man with her mom eitherway. She just decided to get some more business oriented clothes for when she would hang with her new work mates. That makes sense. But now it makes zero sense for the article to mention the burning man story.


You are missing the point of being rich and powerful. He probably had multiple tickets already handy 6 months earlier to "invite" people. He did not have to buy them himself, someone else would do it for him.


> EDIT: Maybe she was going to be at burning man with her mom eitherway. She just decided to get some more business oriented clothes for when she would hang with her new work mates. That makes sense.

How did that happen? "You're going to the same event as me, your interviewer? We should totally hang out there!" maybe?

> But now it makes zero sense for the article to mention the burning man story.

Which interviewer suggests (during the interview!) to meet up a week later in private at some event? One that is trying to be professional?

It shows he wasn't just using his position to make suggestions, but taking it one step further and planning things. During the interview.

In a story about culture by management towards sexual harassment, it makes a ton of sense to include this story.


According to Star Simpson, she attended Burning Man 5 times prior to this this, between 2007-2011.[0]

Given she attended with her mom, it seems more likely that Star was already planning on going to Burning Man in 2013, not that she decided to go on a week's notice after her interview with DeVaul - which is something that many in this thread are assuming, but is not stated in the article.

[0] http://starsimpson.com/ "Have we met?"


Just FYI: tickets were $425 in 2018 with a small minority available at higher prices for those who explicitly wanted to help the event.

It's also fairly easy to get tickets up until days before the event through active secondhand swap communities. Many people do, in practice, show up with only a few days of preparation.


Yeah I cannot imagine how uncomfortable of a position that would be, wanting such a prestigious job and being taken advantage of.


The fact that this guy still has his job after this is appalling.


[flagged]


If you don't want to be a dick, consider not being a dick. What a horrible thing to post.

We've banned this account. If you don't want to be banned, you're welcome to email hn@ycombinator.com and commit to never doing anything like this again.


> During the job interview, she said he told her that he and his wife were “polyamorous,” a word often used to describe an open marriage. She said he invited her to Burning Man, an annual festival in the Nevada desert, the following week.

Oh, commas and sentence structure, so important.

One says Burning Man was the next week, entirely possible because she thought it was talking about the job (leaving aside -that- naivete), and makes him a liar, in that he couldn't have "believed that she had been informed that she didn't get the job" if he invited her during the interview.

The other says the invitation came the next week.


How did she get a BM ticket so fast for herself and her mom?


See elsewhere in this comment thread. Apparently she was already a regular burning man attendee.


i'm sure he gave it to her.


It's amazing how some people will spare no expense or effort to please their penis and won't even spare a thought about not being a complete scumfuck.


Yeah, super super unacceptable hit on someone in an interview.

BUT... professional clothes at burning man? The charitable view is that she's making that up and feigning indignation. The uncharitable view is that she's clueless and did absolutely no research about burning man whatsoever.


See my other comment...Star probably was attending burning man before this guy was. She knew more about it than him.

Also if you were into burning man since 2006, the event then was less about “bacchanalia” and “free love”. This was before it was mainstream for techies, when cheap tickets could be bought anonymously with cash at the entrance, and when you could even more believably show up in “conservative” clothes and be into it for the art and maker culture. If the victim was a man I doubt their style of attire would be mentioned, but for Star the author needs to clarify for their audience that she wasn’t there for the scanty costumed photoshoots that so many associate with burning man now. She’s a hardware engineer and well known maker. Is it that hard to believe she actually likes it for the art and everything that gets created that week? Networking for a Google X job was probably just a bonus.


...which is the charitable explanation: She's feigning surprise and indignation. She knew what she was signing up for. I'm not apologizing for the douchebag, but the narrative of "I wore my interview suit to burning man and was horrified when everyone got naked" does not hold water.

FWIW, my burning man years started in 1994. Check your assumptions, kiddo.


Star Simpson is actually somewhat notorious for her naivete:

https://thetech.com/2007/11/13/simpson-v127-n40

http://henryjenkins.org/blog/2007/10/i_was_a_teenage_terrori...

Edit: not sure why the downvotes, I was actually attempting to defend her, in the sense that her innocence has gotten her into bad situations in the past.


the only naivete I can find in those links is that of the airport workers thinking a light up nametag is a bomb. About as ridiculous as the time boston shut down over some light up LED signs [1]. Something has wires and LED lights? Must be a bomb, no other explanation possible

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007_Boston_Mooninite_panic


No. She went into an airport wearing a circuitboard with flashing lights that made some people uneasy. When they asked her about it, she ignored them. Edit: Also, she was holding Play-doh, which no adult does at an airport, and can look like plastic explosives.

Even if they did overreact (and they pretty much have to aggressively err on the side of caution), it was a bit tone deaf and callous for her to act that way.


Well, if in her view, it was just a nametag and not a scary piece of technology, then I think it's reasonable to not understand why anyone would be uneasy. Did people wearing google glasses back when that was a thing respond to everyone who harassed them about it? If you were walking with your phone in your hand and someone came up to you accusing you of trying to bomb them, would you bother responding or just roll your eyes and keep walking?

Or other similar airport stories I've read of people in an airport terminal remoting into work being accused of hacking because scary linux terminals are the tools of hackers who are trying to hack planes and crash them. If that happened to me, I'd probably ignore the person while thinking to myself "what the fuck is this guy's problem, have they never seen a computer before"


Being tone-deaf means being unaware of what kinds of things would make others uneasy. If the world changed to the point that a phone like mine was easily confused with a bomb, then I would consider it tone-deaf for me to carry on in ignorance of this dynamic.


I can acknowledge that in retrospect she could have acted differently and avoided this whole situation...

But she was mainly the victim.

The over reaction by the initial reporter and the authories above them seem a bit wrong but not egregious. The real unforgivable failure is how after the incident the authorities had to double down, never admit any fault, and unfairly paint her as some nefarious perpetrator. Someone is quoted with saying she’s “lucky she ended up in a jail cell and not the morgue”.

They propagated the narrative that it was an intentional hoax and bomb scare and mis-used her claim that it was art. (she was saying her shirt was just art, not that the bomb scare was art) The “hoax device” charges brought on her were thrown out. She never was never found to have broken any law.


>She never was never found to have broken any law.

That's not the same as not being callously disrespectful of others' concerns.


Well I guess our disagreement is that the world at that point had the dynamic where any electronic item was to be confused with a bomb. I was alive in 2007, some LED lights arranged in a star would certainly not have screamed "bomb" at me, and I would not have expected anyone else to have been scared of it either. If she was carrying around a clock like that one kid made, maybe, but even by 2007 movie standards a bomb would at least have a countdown timer of some kind

I'm imagining her wearing something like https://www.flashingblinkylights.com/jade-led-christmas-tree... with a little less production value, if that can be mistaken for a bomb then those people better stay away from office christmas parties


Right, there isn't much I can say to convince you why a block of blinking electronics on someone walking around at an airport and ignoring everyone's questions, at a time of heightened airport security against suicide bombers, is tone deaf.


She was holding play-dough. You honestly don't think she was deliberately pushing people's buttons?


You can google what it actually looked like. It was a breadboard ziptied to her sweater with a bunch of wires and a 9V battery on the side

Looks harmless to me but after the moonite scare it's also pretty obvious that airport security would freak out

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/_RwdLdQxhZGk/RvQAv2mTWfI/AAAAAAAAB...

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/_RwdLdQxhZGk/RvQDoGmTWhI/AAAAAAAAB...

Also, is that a burning man sweater?


She was 19.


The obvious view is that she knows perfectly well what Burning Man is, and she also suspected lewd intentions, and purposefully dressed that way to avoid them without having to refuse the invitation, which could have cost her the job.

The sad reality is that for a significant number of people, office politics includes a good chance of sexual harassment, which they have to learn to navigate as well.


Dude, Richard DeVaul has been harassing people for fucking years.

That guy shows up in academic settings and touches and communicates inappropriately and unwantedly with women, especially at MIT. I've personally witnessed this at something as routine as a party with alcohol. His entire mindset is twisted. He saw Star Simpson as a vulnerable target. She wasn't the only person!

His reckoning is long overdue, and I have no fucking clue why people at GoogleX keep him around.

This is the tip of the god damned iceberg. Google is a powder keg of abuse. If they weren't so rich, paying people off as handsomely as they do, it would have come to head years ago.


Interesting to read the HN thread 4 years ago about Rubin's departure: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=8536609

A commenter claimed to have been privy to the real story:

> The truth seems to be both (a) unpleasant for Andy and (b) unremarkable to the rest of us. In other words, it wasn't his choice, but there wasn't a scandalous smoking gun either. He just wanted what Larry wouldn't give him. Nothing that would be front page news.

I don't think that the commenter was necessarily bullshitting at the time. The story conveyed to those inside Google may have been that there was sex involved, not necessarily that the act allegedly involved coercion. Even in 4 years, a lot has changed in how people interpret such accusations.


There's also an awful lot we don't know; we don't know who at Google leaked, what they leaked, and what their other motivations may have been. Even the word "credible" is pretty tricky here.

It may be another of these situations: https://quillette.com/2018/10/17/the-scandal-at-ubc-keeps-gr....

Having watched friends go through similar trials over bogus accusations that stem from a wide array of causes, I'm leery of the way many of these stories are reported.


> He just wanted what Larry wouldn't give him.

This... reads differently now.


This is really on Google. Companies shouldn't be providing cover to sexual predators. They just made sure Andy keep abusing in his even more powerful position as CEO of startup. Shame on them. They have really divorced themselves from ethics.


According to interviews with Google insiders, this sort of inappropriate behavior was accepted there from the beginning and started from the very highest levels of the company.

>Here Fisher quotes Google’s first executive chef, Charlie Ayers, and Heather Cairns, the company’s first HR manager:

Charlie Ayers: Sergey’s the Google playboy. He was known for getting his fingers caught in the cookie jar with employees that worked for the company in the masseuse room. He got around.

Heather Cairns: And we didn’t have locks, so you can’t help it if you walk in on people if there’s no lock. Remember, we’re a bunch of twentysomethings except for me—ancient at 35, so there’s some hormones and they’re raging.

Charlie Ayers: H.R. told me that Sergey’s response to it was, “Why not? They’re my employees.” But you don’t have employees for fucking! That’s not what the job is.

Heather Cairns: Oh my God: This is a sexual harassment claim waiting to happen! That was my concern.

https://qz.com/work/1326942/sergey-brin-started-google-with-...


didn't some of this stuff also come to light after James Damore sued Google for discrimination? or is this all separate?


Completely separate/ predates that


This is such a thorny ugly issue to which there are really no right answers. It should be very clear that using a position of authority to coerce someone into a relationship of any kind is wrong. But at the same time it's pretty much impossible to prevent people from dating within the work place. You simply spend to much of your life there for it to be at all realistic. Many relationships end poorly, regardless of the obvious incompatibilities of these sorts of power dynamics. It's guaranteed to be a mess more often than not. I'm honestly not sure how you both given people the benefit of the doubt (innocent until proven guilty) while also ensuring that predators aren't allowed to abuse the people around them. Andy Rubin sounds like a sleazy guy. Paying him lots of money to go away seems like a no brainer move here from Google's perspective, but I'm not sure what else they could have done.


I think it is reasonably easy to prevent people from dating subordinates in the workplace. Up front, you explain that the policy is one word: don't. If it ever happens, you fire the higher-level person promptly. No excuses, no second chances.

Bosses should know not to have sexual or romantic relationships with people who work for them. We all know how one has to be careful what one says to one's boss. And we all no how hard it can be to say no to a boss or boss's boss about anything. It puts the junior person in an impossible situation.

But it's just as bad from the employer's perspective. Suddenly two people who are supposed to be putting the company's interests first have a strong conflict of interest. And when the relationship ends (as most do) you have a whole different set of unnecessary potential conflicts in the workplace.


> I think it is reasonably easy to prevent people from dating subordinates in the workplace. Up front, you explain that the policy is one word: don't. If it ever happens, you fire the higher-level person promptly. No excuses, no second chances.

In such a world, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would likely not exist:

Office Romance: How Bill Met Melinda https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/fe...

The first time Bill Gates asked Melinda Gates out on a date, she turned him down https://www.businessinsider.com/melinda-gates-turned-bill-ga...


Off the top of my head, there are a few things wrong with this.

One, the fact that a rule might have downsides is not proof that it's a bad rule.

Two, if the rule had existed, it's hardly impossible that they would have gotten together later, or found some accommodation.

Three, if they hadn't gotten together, there's no reason to think they both wouldn't have gone on to find happiness with other people.

Four, your suggestion that them not dating means a Bill Gates foundation wouldn't exist is without evidence. At best you could say it might has another name on it.

Five, even if this rule would somehow have caused Gates to just burn his billions instead of doing some good, you haven't grappled at all with the harm that the lack of that rule does to many people who aren't as famous.


I think the point is that your rule implies that dating anyone in a consensual, non-coercive way implies that relationship is wrong[0] given certain contextual circumstances. That people, when they break up go on to do toxic and terrible things isn't and shouldn't be an indictment of the original relationship or sexual interaction if it was consensual and non-coerced rather of instead of critiquing the toxic behavior after the relationship.

Therefore, if we must not consider the resultant behavior separate from the relationship before it, then you are making a moral[0] judgement on the validity of relationships.

Consider the following: being coerced into a relationship and consenting because you fear being fired. That is clearly coercive and wrong because the consent isn't genuine, and I don't think anyone in this thread is arguing is worth being protected. A second situation: two people with mutual attraction who end up dating (like Melinda and Bill Gates) but have a power differential. It sounds like you are saying this is a priori wrong, even if the two consent and neither party feels coerced, or that one is coerced even if they believe sincerely that they are not being coerced.

Even if you don't say it is morally wrong, you still will forbid and prohibit such relationships, adults whom aren't you and who might not have the same value judgements you have. That's why it isn't so clear cut to me and others in this thread.

[0] I say wrong and moral, because this is an argument about morality, fundamentally.


> your rule implies that dating anyone in a consensual, non-coercive way implies that relationship is wrong

In a word, no. It implies that the class of covered activities is too risky for the company.

Consider company rules about receiving gifts from vendors. Typically, there's some limit, like $25. If you are negotiating a contract with somebody and they give you a $26 pen or even a $100 pen, is that morally wrong? No, unless that's enough for you to improperly favor them. But it's still forbidden, and the danger to the company is significant enough that they still ban it.


> Even if you don't say it is morally wrong, you still will forbid and prohibit such relationships, adults whom aren't you and who might not have the same value judgements you have.

I think it's okay to prohibit relationships that have a high likelihood of causing problems for the company, just like it's okay to prohibit (legal, morally-permissible!) behavior that is likely to detriment the company in other ways such as all engineers having root on production boxes.

If it's probably gonna cause problems it doesn't matter if it's legal, or if it's morally permissible under certain moral frameworks: don't do that shit, and it's fine for a company to ask you not to. Having relationships with subordinates is likely gonna cause problems, because most relationships end, and many of those that end will end poorly. All it takes is one lawsuit or even some bad PR to damage the business.


Or maybe it's an attempt to bring nuance to the discussion. Granted, it's kind of ham-handed. But absolutist positions frequently turn out to be draconian.

There seems to be no good way to make this point, but most relationships have some power imbalance. Where do we stop? Can you only marry someone your age with similar incomes? Do we encode this into law? Does this become a caste system?

The world seems to be okay with the relationship Bill Gates has. Wouldn't the world be a better place if we wondered how to foster such successes more often instead of designing rules based on an assumption of guilt in essence? Maybe rules that would forbid Gates current marriage aren't as thoroughly thought out and wise as they might seem at first blush.

Designing rules to prevent a worst case scenario sometimes goes very bad places. I have joked it can be a little like me starting a dating profile and putting "No rapists!" at the top of it. This isn't going to accomplish anything good and is likely to go bad places. Good policies need to consider more scenarios than just that worst case scenario we absolutely don't want to see.

Tldr: Let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater.


Yes, most relationships have some sort of power imbalance (although historically that has been drastically decreasing). What makes work relationships different is that it is hard to change jobs.

If you decide to go date a rich man on Tinder, you can break up without significant consequence to your income or your career. But if your boss asks you out you may face severe career consequences just for saying no. If you say yes and then break it off, the risks to you go up.

This rule has no assumption of guilt. It's just acknowledging the risk to the company and the people involved.


You're right in principle, but the problem is that nuance doesn't scale. In 1987 Microsoft only had about 1800 employees so it was more practical to apply some individual judgment to employee policies. Google had about 38000 employees in 2013, so it was more than an order of magnitude larger. That's a much tougher management problem.


So, what your telling me is there is a specific circumstance under which we know that it can work to not have absolutist rules. Now, it might be nice to have more hard data suggesting roughly what size of company this can work with, plus other details as to what makes it work.

Most companies are not behemoths. Everything I have ever read indicates most companies qualify for definitions of small to mid sized.

SMEs outnumber large companies by a wide margin and also employ many more people. For example, Australian SMEs make up 97% of all Australian businesses, produced one third of total GDP, and employ 4.7 million people. In Chile, in the commercial year 2014, 98.5% of the firms were classified as SMEs.[1] In Tunisia, the self-employed workers alone account for about 28% of the total non-farm employment and firms with fewer than 100 employees account for about 62% of total employment.[2] In developing countries, smaller (micro) and informal firms, have a larger share than in developed countries. SMEs are also said to be responsible for driving innovation and competition in many economic sectors.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_and_medium-sized_enterpr...


I mostly agree, but I think:

> At best you could say it might has another name on it.

...does disservice to the influence she had (on Bill & the world) and shortchanges her contribution.

Your point still stands, i.e. that the claims of harm of the policy are post-hoc reasoning and therefore irrelevant its expected utility. But that does not actually conflict with this one particular instance possibly being a lucky coincidence.


This is pretty silly. We're not talking about Bill and Melinda Gates. We're talking about the David Drummond and Jennifer Blakely Foundation, which lasted a couple years, and resulted in Jennifer Blakely --- Drummond's subordinate --- losing her job along with the relationship.


"David C. Drummond, who joined as general counsel in 2002, had an extramarital relationship with Jennifer Blakely, a senior contract manager in the legal department who reported to one of his deputies, she and other Google employees said. They began dating in 2004, discussed having children and had a son in 2007,"

I don't understand, doesn't she bear some responsibility in her actions? She chose to date him and also chose to have kids with him. All knowing that he was already married. Why would she do that to another woman?


The dynamics of Drummond's marriage are literally none of our business. You have no idea what Blakely "did" or "didn't" do to "another woman". How Google handles like this, though, is absolutely open to analysis and criticism.


This is silly. We can't discuss Google's handling of a situation without digging into the situation itself.


No part of Google's handling of this has anything to do with Drummond's marriage, obviously.


"We're not talking about <implication of my position that makes it look bad>, so it doesn't matter. We're talking about <implication of my position that makes it look good>."

Edit: Seriously? Does that count as a valid response now on HN?

A: X is bad. We should prohibit all X. Look at Y, which was a case of X.

B: But Z was a case of X too -- is that an acceptable cost?

A: Irrelevant; we're talking about Y.

There's even a famous joke about this fallacy! ctrl-f "changing the subject": https://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2002/12/26/15545311.php?sh...


No, we're talking about how dredging up an exception to the rule where things worked out for two people is not a a very good argument that it's actually fine most of the time and bosses won't victimize subordinates under the right circumstances.

Bill and Melinda Gates's relationship isn't so important to the world that we must allow bosses to date, pressure into a relationship or manipulate subordinates just in case.


That wasn't tptacek's response, which was effectively "we don't have to worry about implications that make the policy look bad if we're not talking about them".

Your claim -- that it's an extreme exception and doesn't outweigh the harm of a blanket prohibition -- would be a relevant response (although suboptimal because you're only replying to that one case and not the general phenomenon).


There’s just one problem. Who the hell are you (or anyone else) to tell Bill or Melinda who they should date?

You don’t get to sacrifice 2 people’s liberty who mind their own business and did nothing wrong because someone else in another place and time that they have nothing to do with can’t behave themselves.


> Who the hell are you (or anyone else) to tell Bill or Melinda who they should date?

If you're Google, and Bill and Melinda in this universe were Google employees, you'd be their employer. And employers can (and almost always do) ask the managers that work for them to not date their subordinates, for clear reasons:

1. It's easy, given power, for managers to abuse it. Even unknowingly. With these kinds of relationships it's very hard to tell if they are/were abusing it, so it's better for the company if they didn't happen in the first place.

2. Companies don't want articles like this written about them in the New York Times.

They're paying you to do your job to promote the company's best interests, part of which is not dating subordinates. If you don't want to do your job you don't have to, and similarly they don't have to pay you.

> You don’t get to sacrifice 2 people’s liberty who mind their own business and did nothing wrong...

You're not sacrificing anyone's liberty to date. Managers at these companies aren't being coerced into working there, and have the liberty to work elsewhere — that's the law in California. Having a rule banning a behavior at a company isn't like having a law banning a behavior in a country, where you usually can't just up and join a different country on a whim if you don't want to be bound by your country's laws. You can up and join another company on a whim because you don't want to be bound by your company's policies.


We are literally commenting on a story about David Drummond, so no, that's not a real rebuttal.


And "we're not talking about that" is literally an invalid response to pointing out a negative implication of a proposed policy. Do you disagree?


It's difficult to differentiate, though. How do you know what relationship is coercive or isn't? Were you there at the time?

There are always power differences between males and females, and in the past, dating a superior was often the only way a female could transcend the class they were born into. Hypergamy is a real, observed social phenomenon, and it bothers me that people are hand wringing over a problem that may not even exist in the first place. Hypocrisy runs deep in this country, especially for the self-appointed moral police.


If the situation is avoided, then there's no need to differentiate. That's the best part about the "don't" policy. There are plenty of people out there.

Also, hypergamy doesn't require that the two parties work at the same company, so it doesn't seem relevant to this discussion.


> If the situation is avoided, then there's no need to differentiate. That's the best part about the "don't" policy. There are plenty of people out there.

It’s not my company's business as to who I am allowed to date or engage in a consensual relationship with. It literally has nothing to do with them.


Sorry, but that is a very simplistic way of seeing it.

For example:

If you date someone who works for you, and you have multiple subordinates (as most managers do), and you rate / evaluate those subordinates (as most managers do), and you rate your partner higher than another subordinate, you are opening the company up to legal action that you discriminated against the other subordinate due to your relationship. That costs the company money to defend and more more if they lose, so they have every "business" to tell you not to.

There are many more examples.


Alright, so in the first place, this is attacking the problems in American work (and work the world over) from the wrong vantage point. What if you merely like one of your workers more than the others and you rate them higher than the others? That should be just as insidious but because it doesn't involve sex, somehow that's not as bad, it's just "life". Almost everyone in HN has experienced this sort of toxic manager at some point in our careers and we've for some reason normalized it just like the rampant sexual harassment.

If I could have my way, we'd ask ourselves why do managers have so much sway and power over our lives in the first place, that their bad moods and habits can literally kill us? If people cannot be trusted to be managers when normal human emotions and interactions occur, then why are they managers in the first place and why do they have so much power over us?


Two reasons mainly. First and less charitably, managers and executives are a self-perpetuating phenomenon. They’d have to be the ones to slit their own throats, and they won’t. The second and more depressing reason is at the core of much human misery from politics to business: it’s better than the known and proven alternatives in most cases. Like what passes for democracy these days, it’s a lamentable mess, but still preferable to the proven alternatives on offer.


This is just plain wrong. A romantic relationship between a subordinate and superior is definitely the employer's business. If you want to date a subordinate one of you needs to quit or hide it and accept the consequences if it is ever discovered.


It's not the company making the decision; it's oneself. Of course, you're free to make your own decisions, but I personally use the "don't" policy.


My read of "hypergamy is a real observed phenomenon" is that it is mostly a way of dismissing concerns when they pertain to women employees.


Here, have some empirical evidence. [0]

The Atlantic [1] spends some time with this study, and here are some takeaways. Attractiveness is measured from 0 to 1.

* The headline: People are "hypergamous" (what a terrible word), aiming about 0.25 above their own position

* Women are most attractive (0.62) when young, with sharp falloff; men are most attractive (0.53) in mid-life, with middling falloff

* "Men experience slightly lower reply rates when they write more positively worded messages."

* Different metropolitan areas have different dating patterns

Humans are weird.

[0] http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/4/8/eaap9815

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/08/online-d...


I wasn't actually asking for more evidence. I was criticizing the invocation of "hypergamy" as something relevant to the story we're commenting on.


The guy who used it was discussing the difficulty of ascertaining whether or not power-imbalances between people in a relationship implies coercion. Women's general preference towards dating up is obviously a factor, so to ascribe a dismissive attitude to anybody who mentions it is uncharitable to say the least.


The only difference is that Gates was CEO and owner so no one good force his subordinate to change jobs.

When Brin cheated on his wife with his assistant, she wasn't forced to change jobs.


Did you not read what the OP said? He demonstrated why that “simple rule” may have unintended consequences, and the Bill and Melinda comparison was applicable, not silly. We are talking about all relationships in which the male is a superior on the org chart.


She didn't turn him down. She told him "You aren't spontaneous enough for me." An hour later, he upped his game to meet her standard.

As It Should Be. ;)


It was founded as just the William H. Gates foundation, so I don't think that this is true.


The world when Bill and Melinda met doesn't exist anymore.


Just because Bill Gates did it, doesn't make it right. The problem is the power imbalance. Yeah sometimes that situation turns into a long-lasting relationship, but sometimes it doesn't and sometimes the subordinate feels coerced into it in the first place.

Maybe Bill wouldn't be charitable at all if he hadn't met Melinda but I'd like to think he would've been into philanthropy either way.


it's not like pairing happens in a random chance chaotic void, people like what they like and are what they are, it's quite as likely that a Bill & Mrs Gates foundation would have happened anyway.


That's a reasonable price to pay. If it means having to tolerate sleezeballs rather than preventing more Bill and Melindas, then so be it.


Looks like fascism is on the rise.


The Foundation probably also wouldn’t exist in a world where Hitler got into art school. The fact that dating subordinates sometimes works out doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to allow it.


In such a world, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would likely not exist:

We can cure malaria without having millions of women sexually harassed at work.


Your statement implies Melinda Gates as sexually assaulted at work by Bill, which is wrong.

Or more directly, your response does not speak to the argument.


Your statement implies Melinda Gates as sexually assaulted at work by Bill, which is wrong.

sigh It implies no such thing except under the most uncharitable of interpretations. Here, I'll spell it out: one exception with a positive outcome does not offset the millions of women who have been harassed by their boss. IOW, "hey, baby, we could be the next Billinda!", just no.


You're digging yourself a hole by once again presuming that people who are involved in office romances are mostly likely to be in situations of sexual coercion.

This is not remotely the case.

Most office romances are just two people dating - and that's it.

It's the possibility that something might go awry that's problematic, not the situation itself.

Gates is not 'one example' - it's the norm.

Wherever you work, there are surely people dating/married to one another, it's almost normative.


You're digging yourself a hole by once again presuming that people who are involved in office romances are mostly likely to be in situations of sexual coercion.

I believe you've lost the thread of the conversation if you feel it involves just "office romances". We can part ways here.


The same applies to situations wherein one person might have rank over the other.

It's common, and it does not imply some kind of harassment or coercion.

That Andy Rubin may apparently be bad guy does not invalidate people's right to have such relationships, nor does it make them inherently immoral.


The problem is that is an infinitely arbitrarily moving goalpost. The issue isn't even clear with in the specifics of Rubin's situation. If someone directly reports to you then the answer is obviously no. But from the article it seems like some of these relationships which were inappropriate were with people who were only tangentially in his chain of command. And some not at all. What happens when you start at the same level but are promoted to different levels? If you're responsible for making your company Billions of dollars a year the way Andy Rubin is you can easily argue he shouldn't be able to date anyone in that company at all without there being an unacceptable power dynamic. But as someone worth close to a billion dollars that's probably true of any relationship he's in. Google has literally millions of employees, is it ok to say he can't date any of them? That's why I said it's a tricky issue with no good answers. It's easy to say people should know this or know that but the fact is different people know and believe different things. You have to have a codified policy. And if you can't codify a policy that works in every case then you don't have a good one.


> What happens when you start at the same level but are promoted to different levels?

If through promotion or re-org one partner ends up in the subtree of the other, either end the relationship or find a new position for one of the two people.

> If you're responsible for making your company Billions of dollars a year the way Andy Rubin is you can easily argue he shouldn't be able to date anyone in that company at all without there being an unacceptable power dynamic.

So be it! Being in charge of thousands of people and billions of dollars is an incredible responsibility. That kind of responsibility requires discipline and sacrifice. If you want the freedom to fuck anyone you want in the org chart, don't try to climb to the top of the org chart.

> Google has literally millions of employees, is it ok to say he can't date any of them?

Thousands, not millions. And, yes, that's totally OK. Any executive who doesn't like that can spend some of the millions of dollars making themselves feel better. Seriously, if you're worth +$100M and you can't find a date outside of the office, you've got bigger problems than the org chart.

> You have to have a codified policy.

Google has a codified policy, which every employee signs that they agree to. It says you can't date people when there is a reporting chain between them.

There are seven billion people on Earth. Executives can find someone outside of their reporting structure to fall in love with. This isn't hard.

The only problem here is that the kind of people who want to be in charge of thousands of people and billions of dollars are often also the kind of people who want lots of power and to have the rules not apply to them.


> Google has a codified policy

Google has a policy which they don't follow all the time because there are situations where they don't feel it properly addresses the situations to the satisfaction of all parties. That is a policy that doesn't work. I don't disagree with a lot of your points here. I'm just pointing out that people are trying to make what is a very complex issue sound simple. If it was simple the same problem wouldn't keep coming up.

> There are seven billion people on Earth. Executives can find someone outside of their reporting structure to fall in love with. This isn't hard.

And yet you don't control who you fall in love with. And everything we know tells us that you are far more likely to see 1-200 of those 7 billion people every day. And incredibly more likely to have things in common with and fall in love with someone in that much smaller group.

I think the problem here is that people are still people whether they are rich/successful or not. My policy is I don't date coworkers superior, inferior, or otherwise. But I think it's foolish to think that's a policy that everyone can and will adhere to. And that is really the only policy properly addresses all the issue with office romances.


The policy doesn’t work for Google because they bend the rules for executives that they never would for rank-and-file employees.


> And yet you don't control who you fall in love with.

Tough luck. If forcing people to choose between their job and their love is the price to pay to stop these sleezeballs, then so be it.


It is neither arbitrary nor moving. If one person has power over another in a corporate context, the senior person should not date the junior person.

A pretty simple way to think about it: who in your company would you be afraid to be frank with if you knew it would upset them? Those people shouldn't be allowed to date you. That leaves billions of people for each of you to date, so I'm not seeing a big problem.

Are there edge cases and nuanced situations? Sure. Is that true about any important rule? Sure. E.g., look at your company's conflict of interest policy. For the sake of clarity, a bunch of relatively arbitrary lines will be drawn. But that doesn't produce the same hand-wringing and rushes to the fainting couches that a rule like this does. I'll leave the reason why as an exercise for the reader.


> the senior person should not date the junior person

What if the junior person realllllly wants to date the senior person. And the senior person kinda wouldn't mind giving it a go. Should the junior be reprimanded for their outrageously flirtatious behaviour? Perhaps we should have a committee draft an exhaustive set of rules that unambiguously eliminate this danger.


My concern here is abuse of power, so I would not make any additional rules in this case. If the junior person is bothering the senior person that's unprofessional conduct and so can be dealt with normally. If the senior person isn't bothered, I don't see why it's any business of the company's.


> Google has literally millions of employees

Literally millions? More like 75,000:

https://www.recode.net/2017/7/24/16022210/alphabet-google-em...


I believe that policy will work for mid-level and lower-level employee where the reporting structure is their power.

However, for people like Rubin, the reporting structure isn't their power but their overall sway with the organization. In those cases it's not as easy to make a clear delineation along organizational boundaries.


It's really not, when you're at that level (which I think is easy enough to define) you don't sleep with anyone in the company. At this point you should be a mature enough adult to be able to handle this, if you're not, you probably shouldn't be in a leadership role. If you're so enamored with someone then you leave. The workplace is a place for work, not a place to find a date. Do people date people they work with? Of course – and that's fine, but the second it gets in the way of the work it's a problem and needs to be handled, rarely can it be handled any other way than having one person leave.


Right. Even Travis Kalanick understood this.


When you fail to clear an ethical bar that Kalanick cleared, it's time to stop and reconsider your life.


Someone at that level can afford to pay for a matchmaking service and has plenty of willing strangers to date, and doesn't ned to go foraging among the staff.


Sure, I'm not meaning to be an apologist for people in Rubin's position.

Only meaning to say that a focus on organizational lines is not appropriate for somebody like that. The article itself points this out several times as if it should make a difference, however, I'd disagree. The power imbalance is too extreme, even for people not in the direct organizational chain.


> I think it is reasonably easy to prevent people from dating subordinates in the workplace. Up front, you explain that the policy is one word: don't. If it ever happens, you fire the higher-level person promptly. No excuses, no second chances.

This is completely absurd. How many current great relationships would have never existed under such a rule? (Bill and Melinda Gates is the obvious go-to example, or Barack and Michelle Obama, but there are no doubt millions.)


> Barack and Michelle Obama

I actually don't think that's true. They met through work, but didn't start dating until her summer term in the job ended.


Other way around, she was his mentor as a summer associate

"Robinson met Barack Obama when they were among the few African Americans at their law firm, Sidley Austin LLP (she has sometimes said only two, although others have noted ut there were others in different departments).[55] She was assigned to mentor him while he was a summer associate.[56] Their relationship started with a business lunch and then a community organization meeting where he first impressed her.[57]"

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michelle_Obama


Doesn't the counterfactual matter rather a lot here? I'm reminded of Tim Minchin's "If I didn't have you"


>This is completely absurd. How many current great relationships would have never existed under such a rule?

How many great relationships/working relationships wouldn't be ruined because of that rule?

How many people wouldn't have lives and careers ruined because of that rule?

Frankly if you love someone that damn much, move to a different job and avoid the potential conflicts that are involved. Good luck arguing that a boss absolutely needs the option to date a subordinate because what if a serious relationship never happens?

I mean it's nice if you can pull examples out of the air when it worked out for two people. But for everyone else? What's the ratio of happy couples to victims do you need to tilt scales to one side or the other?


" Up front, you explain that the policy is one word: don't. If it ever happens, you fire the higher-level person promptly. No excuses, no second chances."

In the real world, it's not that easy. Things happen.

Also, it's probably illegal, or it wouldn't hold up in court.

VP of Customer Service falls in love with one of the help-desk assistants, they get married, VP gets fired - that's a lawsuit.


No contract any VP of Customer Service is going to have will insulate them from being fired for cause, which is what would be happening if they violated a basic HR handbook rule about dating subordinates.

And that's assuming the "VP of Customer Service" has a negotiated contract in the first place. Most employees, even managers, don't have negotiated contracts; they have the default handbook contract, which I guarantee you restates and maintains the US default, which is termination at will.


It appears that this is not settled case law, with the most recent case in the 9th district court (basically all of the west coast) ruling that at least public officials have the right to have affairs with coworkers: https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Police-can-t-be-fir...

Other appeals courts have ruled otherwise, but the 9th district court has had a couple of precedents in the past, according to the article.

Personally, I think it's an interesting issue. If the company fires the higher ranked employee, they are probably losing more value.

It's also interesting that I think everyone would agree that it would be absurd to fire any employee if they were a married couple - yet absent the (mostly religious and tax related) binds of marriage, there's some moral judgment cast upon the participants. It seems so puritanical and absurd. What if the two employees got married before anyone found out about the affair? I bet they'd be protected both legally and in terms of moral or business implications.

It appears many states actually prevent firing based on marital status: https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB111041550490175318

From that one, "One reason is that about 20 states and many cities ban employment discrimination on the basis of marital status. If a married employee who has an affair is fired and an unmarried employee who has an affair isn't, the fired employee in those states conceivably could claim illegal discrimination, attorneys say. Thus, many employers turn a blind eye to marital cheating."


We're not talking about marital status, nor do we care that Drummond was married at the time the affair began. We care about the fact that he had the affair with a subordinate.


You seem to not get it.

Situation 1: Person A and B are married and have a sexual relationship. A is a VP, B is just a regular worker. Nobody has a problem with this, and policies generally don't have any problem with coworkers being married.

Situation 2: Person A and B are not married and have a sexual relationship. A is a VP, B is just a regular worker. Some people have a problem with this, and policies often have a problem with coworkers being married.

That's called discrimination based on marital status (or lack thereof).


In case you didn't know, most companies would feel very uncomfortable with situation 1. Creating a situation where someone is managing their significant other is asking for disaster.


Absolutely. I knew a couple who met and married at American Express. It was strictly forbidden that one manage the other. I suspect that's the case at most large companies.


Termination at will doesn't cover things that violates people's rights, and a whole host of other things.

You can't fire someone because they are black, or gay, or Mormon, or get sick - and probably not because they fall in love with each other either.


Most US employers absolutely can legally fire an employee because of who they fall in love with, as long as the action isn't based on a policy which disproportionately impacts a protected class.


Maybe you're right, but I'm doubtful. I wonder how it would hold up in a big supreme court challenge (or maybe it has already ... I'm not an expert)


On what grounds are you doubtful? The concept of protected classes is well-defined and well-tested and "office lovebirds" aren't one of those classes.


For fuck's sake, "being gay" isn't even one of those classes.


Federal protected class, no. But in CA, yeah, it is.

https://www.employmentattorneyla.com/blog/2017/06/what-are-c...


About the same as "employee says controversial thing in personal life". In other words, employer has absolutely every right to fire them for their self-expression.


"About the same as "employee says controversial thing in personal life""

No way. Two people falling in love is not in the same category as someone saying public things.


You think maybe employment at will is just waiting to be tested in the Supreme Court?


"You think maybe employment at will is just waiting to be tested in the Supreme Court?"

It's in court right now.

And it always will be.


Maybe it should.


Yes but "rights" are legally defined, not just 'well I feel like I have a right to this'. Employees dating their subordinates is not a protected class, so "and probably not because they fall in love with each other either" is factually incorrect.


termination for no reason is not the same as termination for any reason.


> In the real world, it's not that easy. Things happen.

No, things don't "happen". People make them happen, and should own up to the consequences of their actions. If the policy is "don't", then you can choose to 1) do not, no matter how much you would like to; 2) move / leave so you can do freely; or 3) do and (if/when found) you get smacked in the face with the policy.


A lot of policies, contract clauses, and even laws exist only to be applied in certain situations, not rigerously.

I can accept that google wants to avoid trouble at the work place and love dramas can cause trouble. And sexual harassment is already forbidden by law. But it is not automatically harassment when two consenting adults of different levels start a love affair mostly happening outside work.

This is as much google’s business as what sex I prefer, what party I vote for or to which god I may pray - none.

The protection against possible harassment does not justify to limit the freedom of adult citizens. For children the limits do make sense, though.

When there is no harassment claim and no other disturbance of peace at work the state should protect me against overreaching policies.


Employer says:

1 "don't be gay"

2 "don't fall in love"

1 is illegal obviously, 2 is legal?

Seriously?


> Also, it's probably illegal, or it wouldn't hold up in court.

Most states in the US are at-will employment. You can be fired for literally any reason whatsoever outside of a very very limited number of protections against discrimination.

Hooking up with a subordinate is not one of those protections.


A lawsuit for what? You can’t just allege “someone will file a suit”, that is meaningless.

wpietri 50 days ago [flagged]

I didn't say it was easy. It is, however, simple.

Please provide evidence for your claim that it's illegal to fire someone for banging the help. In an at-will state, people can generally be fired for any reason or no reason as long as some specific employee protection isn't violated. I have worked at companies, including a publicly traded company, that have rules like that, and the didn't see any problem with it.

You're right that there could be a lawsuit. People can sue for anything. But it's much more likely that a company will see a lawsuit for failing to protect employees from predatory managers and execs. So if lawsuits are the problem, then this rule would be a huge help in reducing the total number, as well as the PR risk.


I think the fact that you refer to Bill and Melinda as a case of “banging the help” says a lot about your understanding of decent human relationships and is probably why you are failing to see the nuaunce that applies to many of these situations. If your understanding of relationships is that simple, then it’s not surprising that you think there is a simple solution.

It also seems a little insulting to imply that women have no agency, but I’ll let them decide if they want to be offended.


I am not referring to Bill and Melinda Gates. I am referring to the broad problem.

I am not denying human relationships are nuanced. I am proposing a very simple rule, one that many companies already have on the books, because a) the deep ambiguity is managerially untractable, and b) as we see in many examples including this article, more nuanced rules are easily interpreted to let powerful men off the hook.

I am not implying women have no agency. There's nothing in this rule about men and women, or even about straight relationships. If you are inferring that women have no agency, maybe that's you.


In a modern matrix organization with shifting project assignments it's not always clear who is a subordinate. Some employees may have formal or informal "dotted line" responsibilities to multiple managers, all of whom can impact their career.


If the organization structure is so complex it isn’t clear, then all the more reason for senior-level leaders to abstain from intimate relationships with people they work with, at any level within the org.


I don't think the issue is that simple with senior execs. The article brings up Page and Brin dating Google employees. Pretty much the entire Alphabet employee base are subordinates of those 2.


Isn’t it pretty simple to just say that Page and Brin shouldn’t have ever dated anyone in the entire organization?


But why?

The fact that they date someone in their organization becomes only problematic if they coerce their partner into something using their position. Or if the partner accuses them of such.

Ruling out theses intra company relationships is like saying that you cannot date a physically weaker partner because you are in a better position to physically force him int things he doesn’t want.


It's a problem whether or not there's explicit coercion, because the subordinate will always have a reasonable suspicion of retaliation.

But how do you plan to prove that no explicit coercion took place? Should they just video-record all of their interactions so that an impartial review board can regularly review goings on to make sure no harm is happening?

Or is instead your plan to place a burden on the junior person to report? If that's the case, you should do a little research on what percentage of problems are reported, which of those reports are taken seriously, and which of the seriously-taken reports see appropriate action. In those numbers you'll find your answer as to why it won't work.


> But how do you plan to prove that no explicit coercion took place?

How do you do that on regular dates? Do you record them? What’s the difference?

Proving is always difficult. You just have to take contextual evidence.

> Or is instead your plan to place a burden on the junior person to report?

Of course the burden of proof is on the accuser. The fact that two people are in a relationship is not a proof. But creepy comments about polyamorism is good evidence.

And yes, the superior is in a weaker position if accused of coercion. So the higher level partner should take a higher risk if the case is brought to court.


Regular dates don't happen in a context where a company has given significant power to one person over another person. A company a) has a responsibility to make sure that power is not abused, and b) has an obligation to avoid legal liability for misuse of that power.

Your theory that "contextual evidence" will be enough to ensure fair outcomes is absurd. Either you haven't paid much attention to how this works in the real world or you are willfully ignoring the experiences of people who go through this.

Both from press reports and from what I hear personally, the average outcome of someone reporting sexual misconduct in a work context is a) the accuser is put through the wringer, b) nothing happens to the accused, and c) the accuser eventually has to leave a poisonous environment.


Do you know of some data that relationships within companies (and in particular where one person has power over the other) are significantly more abusive than the average?

That's what it would take for me to reconsider my belief that relationships within companies are not to be regulated by policies.

My experience is that there is a) no significant difference and b) that sexual predators won't be stopped by a policy (but it makes it easier to remove them).

I actually have difficulties why we have to discuss relationships and sexual misconduct in the same thread.


Ok? I guess you're welcome to have any beliefs you like. But many companies have a rule like the one I describe, and they do it purely for business reasons. They don't need the hassle, and it's part of the normal course of business to make sure that managerial power isn't misused.

If you think there should be some sort of law preventing companies from having this sort of rule, I guess that's your prerogative. But you'll have to make an argument why companies shouldn't have the freedom to make what they see as reasonable and necessary decisions about how to run their business.


CEO Bob is dating underling Alice who works alongside underling Ted. Should Alice and Ted have conflict, Alice can always play the Bob card.

The rule of thumb in the military (I don't know if it's the law) is not to date someone in your chain of command.


Bob and Alice can be connected in many different ways. They could be highschool friends, follow the same faith, be of the same ethnicity (different from Ted). Why single out a romantic relationship?

Professional employees will handle it professionally. If you don’t have that trust - maybe don’t hire them.

The military is so different in many ways that I don’t think it’s worth discussing here.


> I think it is reasonably easy to prevent people from dating subordinates in the workplace

Even the military struggles with this. It's not easy.


Usually law/policy that strictly forbid someone to date somebody which is deemed inferior in any way haven’t turned out to be good idea throughout human history...


At some point people will only hire people of their own gender or different sexual orientation to avoid any problem down the line and it would be a loss for everybody.


Is that really easier than just not sexually harassing people?


This Rubin story isn't about sexual harassment. Some woman dated him and then decided she was "coerced" (how?) into doing something she late regretted. Given the modern notion some women have developed that they can change their mind about whether an act was consensual at any time, even retroactively, it's not at all clear Rubin did anything wrong beyond adultery. After all have only this woman's word for it.


I sincerely hope you are not in any positions of power.


> Some woman dated him and then decided she was "coerced" (how?) into doing something she late regretted. Given the modern notion some women have developed that they can change their mind about whether an act was consensual at any time

jesus. With all due respect dude, this is incredibly retrogressive and I suggest you reevaluate your personal views on that.


Did you miss the part that covered the fact that she was consensually having an affair with him for years, and the trip where she decided it was time to break up is only when it became “pressure”?

I suggest you be less naive.


Hiring people of only one sex is illegal in the US. See the Hooters lawsuit, who had to settle for millions for only hiring women.


Sure, because zero-tolerance policies work so well in practice..

While we're at it, why don't we also tell teenagers about sex? One word: Don't. Problem solved.


My previous employer, Booking Holdings, then the Priceline Group and one of the largest e-commerce companies, treated these kinds of issues with a lot of respect. So much so that allegations were investigated by OUTSIDE counsel, who then also made the call on how far to go in the investigation. This led to the dismissal of the group CEO (relationship with indirect report) and number of other execs over the years.

There was also always a way to (anonymously if need be) report such things to a third party (not just hr). Managers and execs generally considered it a feature, not a threat. Every so often, somebody would try to use the mechanism for a vendetta, but best I can tell (and I've been involved in a few of these investigations), those were effectively recognized as such and treated with respect for accuser and subject of the complaint.

In other words, this is solvable problem.


Should we not have higher expectations for rich senior executives than we do your average teenager?


I'm not objecting to holding executives at higher standard. I'm objecting to zero-tolerance policies at workplace (or anywhere), which is (in a way) the opposite of holding people at higher standard: it's basically saying "I don't trust you to have common sense, so here are the rules and you will follow them unquestionably."

It's a pain in the ass for those who have common sense, and unmitigated disaster for those who don't.


Everyone thinks they have common sense but it all goes out the window when romance is involved. When you decide to date a close coworker, you are setting her (and it’s always her) to lose her job or feel uncomfortable enough that she needs to leave, if it doesn’t work out. Many men don’t even consider that ‘cause hormones.


No, theen who don't consider it get laid while the men who do consider don't get anywhere.

You'll notice these themes are always repetively "sex bad!" with no "sex good" elements ever.


Oh - do a lot of rich senior executives display a greater degree of sexual restraint than high school students?


I think human mating dynamics are far more nuanced than can be captured by simplistic rules, and that's true regardless of the ages involved.


You may be exaggerating, but I find it very reasonable advice in these times, and not just for teenagers.


[flagged]


Err... what? I think this deserves a down vote (which I don't have)


Firing the more senior person automatically is an interesting idea. Are there any companies that do this in a way that doesn't add excessive legal liabilities to the company?


> I think it is reasonably easy to prevent people from dating subordinates in the workplace.

I think you are terribly naiive.

Why does someone have the drive to climb these corporate power structures in the first place? What's the point of power if it's not being (ab)used?

If you want to accomplish something, you're better off starting a company rather than climbing one.


This isn't rocket science. If you fancy someone, you ask him/her on a date, a simple neutral stuff, like a movie. If the other party refuses, that's it. If the other party is a subordinate you just don't.

You don't invite them to Burning man, you don't have business meetings in your house late at night, you don't tell someone your his slave, you don't offer to swing with your wife (from a different post I read), seriously.


I agree about "don't" if the party is a subordinate.

However, in a sex positive culture, what makes a date request so special compared to all the other types of romantic / sexual requests?


What's a sex positive culture? regardless if you want casual romantic or sexual relationship do it with someone out of the office. There are enough people in the world that you don't know anything about you can easily have a casual relationship with, there are apps for that, apparently.

A date assumes you have a more serious relationship in mind. No body cares if you marry a co-worker, it's causal relationships that could cause trouble. Besides, asking someone on a date is never ambiguous, and it can't be taken badly or out of context.


> Paying him lots of money to go away seems like a no brainer move here from Google's perspective, but I'm not sure what else they could have done.

The story suggests that he could have been fired without much if any kind of severance package. But besides the worry that such a senior person would file a termination lawsuit, there was the problem that Google's board had given him a $150M stock grant a few weeks after Google investigated the complaint. It's not clear whether the board knew of the investigation before rewarding him, but that sum apparently served as a reference point when settling the matter:

> The $150 million stock grant gave Mr. Rubin an enormous bargaining chip when he started negotiating his exit package about a month later. That is because an executive’s stock compensation — and how much of it they would leave behind — is often taken into consideration during settlement talks.


Is it really impossible to prevent people from dating within the workplace? I've worked for many years at large and small companies and I've never done it, nor have the majority of my co-workers.

The HN demographic is skewed by a lot of young people who work for companies that are managed more like college dorms than real businesses. I think this gives some people a distorted perspective about what's realistic.

To be clear I'm not proposing a blanket ban on all workplace relationships everywhere. But if some employers choose to go that route it's not necessarily bad or unrealistic.


Should bosses ban friendships in the work place? I mean, horse play can impede work. At some point, bosses shouldn't be dictators of their workers' lives.


I am in total disagreement with you.

Google should have punished Rubin for sexual misconduct, and sue him instead of praise and pay him.


As I understand it, that money was the legitimate severance pay of Rubin (who, by the way, might have left the company for reasons completely unrelated to this sexual harassment accusation- the nyt article is written as to suggest a connection, without really stating it). There are plenty of perfectly reasonable explanations for Rubin leaving Google (dissatisfaction or other). Anyway, that was the money that the company felt was adequate for his contribution to its success. What is or should be the relationship between that sum and the claim of sexual harassment is frankly unclear to me.


How is his severance legitimate if a regular employee would never get this type of consideration? Regular people don’t get severance when they decide their job is boring and they want something new.


> But at the same time it's pretty much impossible to prevent people from dating within the work place.

This goes beyond that - there were rules about reporting such relationships, presumably so HR could look out for the less advantaged party, but those rules were ignored. And this doesn’t sound like simple ‘dating a coworker’ - guy was a sleazy scumbag:

FTA - ‘The suit included a screenshot of an August 2015 email Mr. Rubin sent to one woman. “You will be happy being taken care of,” he wrote. “Being owned is kinda like you are my property, and I can loan you to other people.”’


>This is such a thorny ugly issue to which there are really no right answers. It should be very clear that using a position of authority to coerce someone into a relationship of any kind is wrong. But at the same time it's pretty much impossible to prevent people from dating within the work place.

It's actually pretty simple.

The problem isn't co-workers dating. The problem is people in a position of power dating someone that reports to them.

There's a handful of of options here.

1) Don't do it

2) If it is actually legitimate and not coerced, you reassign one of them to a separate team and completely remove them from the reporting chain and any impact on the other's career.

3) If it is actually legitimate and not coerced, one of them resigns.

4) If it is coerced, you fire the shit out of the person in power.

If it's two people that are not in each other's reporting chain and one isn't subordinate to the other, or there isn't some other reason one could have an outsized impact on the other's career, it's generally not the same sort of issue.


There are absolutely right answers.

> using a position of authority to coerce someone into a relationship of any kind

Is not a necessity for

> people from dating within the work place

> while also ensuring that predators aren't allowed to abuse the people around them

People in high positions can take actions to prevent conflict of interests like when any legitimate President places their assets into a blind trust.

There is absolutely nothing stopping people in positions of power in companies from doing the same and to avoid dating anyone they have power over.

> but I'm not sure what else they could have done.

They could make it clean house, add a zero tolerance policy and make it clear they don't allow people to be in personal relationships with those they have power over, perhaps as defined by being their superior in the org chart.


What if having a healthy work-life balance means a person who wants to meet other people for intimate activities has time to date outside the workplace?


You spend 40 hours a week just at work, not to mention commute and lunch. If you're getting a full night's sleep that means you spend more time with the people you work with than you do probably anyone else in the world. I agree you should aim for a healthy work-life balance and date outside the workplace but it's a bit naive to think that people won't build relationships with people they see that often.


What people at that level in any large corporate hierarchy have a healthy work-life balance? I would expect the answer to be near zero.


Perhaps we have identified the root problem.


What do you consider a healthy work-life balance? 8 hours a day? 6 hours?

If we assume you sleep 8 hours then you spend 16 hours awake, 7 days a week for a total of 112 hours in a week.

Even if you only work 6 hours on the weekdays that'd still 30 hours a week, or more than 1/4 of your waking hours.

If you work at a big company you probably run into a lot of people and you already have a shared interest and stuff to talk about. There will always be a decent chance you'll meet someone you're interested in at work.

Unless you think that everyone should restrict themselves to only dating people who they meet for the explicit purpose of dating there will be relationships at work. Often relationships form without people actively seeking them out.


> but I'm not sure what else they could have done.

They could have fired him without compensation for breaking the law, and then used the money to defend themselves in the resulting lawsuit. Duh.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but coercing people to have sex they do not want is a criminal offense.


He didn’t break the law, unless you are claiming there was coercion involved that could have been criminally prosecuted?


I think he meant that he broke his contract, which would have allowed them to be fired with cause.


No, I am saying that coercing people to have sex they do not want is rape, which is a criminal (not civil) offense, regardless of one’s contract with their employer.


I’m not familiar with the case, but if the other party was consenting and of legal age, there isn’t much anyone can do criminally, it isn’t technically illegal even if it is immoral. Rape has a very specific definition.


I'm not sure a couple of millions is lots of money. this is the guy who started and led android. he should have been a bilionaire easily, 100x times more than whatsup and android guys...


I don't think it's that hard. I would bet 90m$ that if there was a similar sexual harassment situation now he wouldn't get the money.


Are you smoking something? There are no right answers, seriously? This dudes were the boss of victims who used their power to control their paycheck, promotions and career for sex. This is very different then relationships between peers. On the top of this, victims lives and careers were destroyed anyway while the bosses obtained fat paychecks to buy private islands and never having to work for all their future generations. In what world there are no right answers?

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