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Hewlett Packard saw their stock prices drop ten percent after sexual harassment claims against the company's CEO, Mark Hurd caused the sudden resignation of the widely-respected CEO this past Friday. In addition to building the company's software and corporate services division, the Silicon Valley-based HP stock soared 135% during the five years that the married Hurd served as CEO.
Hurd released a statement regarding his departure: "It would be difficult for me to continue as an effective leader at HP and I believe this is the only decision the board and I could make at this time. I want to stress that this in no way reflects on the operating performance or financial integrity of HP," reports Business Week. The sexual harassment claims against Hurd were determined to not be in violation of HP's sexual harassment policy, but the board's investigation revealed that Hurd did violate established standards of business conduct. Whether the stock drop will be a temporary response to the resignation or a more permanent concern over new HP leadership is still yet to be determined.
The sudden and embarrassing departure of Mark Hurd from HP highlights the importance of training managers to recognize and respond to sexual harassment in the workplace. Simply put, it makes both legal and business sense to maintain a sexual harassment-free environment, whether it is a huge company like HP or a small business. Adopting a clear sexual harassment policy and making the entire company aware of the policy is a great start to combating the problem that affects both female and male employees. Additionally, having an annual sexual harassment training session educating managers and supervisors on how to deal with a sexual harassment complaints is a practice that has been successful for many companies.
The consequences of sexual harassment reach beyond an individual public resignation, and can also serve to negatively affect the reputation of a company as a whole. Whether the complaint comes from the bottom or the top of the workplace hierarchy, one thing is for sure-- a sexual harassment claim should be taken seriously and the company's response should be swift. In the case of Mark Hurd, it was less than a week between the board's investigation into the sexual harassment claim and his resignation.