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HP CEO Resigns After Sexual Harassment Claim

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By Laura Strachan, Esq. on August 09, 2010 12:32 PM

Personal computers are not the only thing putting Silicon Valley giant Hewlett-Packard in the news these days. The latest headline has nothing to do with computers, as the 53 year-old HP CEO, Mark Hurd, resigned after a sexual harassment claim investigation revealed an alleged inappropriate personal relationship between the CEO and a contractor. Mark Hurd was a well-regarded leader of the computer giant, and served as the company's CEO for the past five years.

While investigating the sexual harassment claim, the HP board learned that there was some financial foul-play between Mark Hurd and the female contractor. From late 2007 to 2009, the unnamed contractor involved in the company's marketing activities received compensation and reimbursement without a legitimate purpose, reports Reuters. HP General Counsel Mark Holston adds, "The board investigation found that Mark demonstrated a profound lack of judgment that seriously undermined his credibility and damaged his effectiveness in leading HP and Mark agreed." The expense account issue spanned over the course of two years and left almost $20,000 unaccounted for.

Sexual harassment in the workplace, especially at such a high level, is an area of law that is both internally and externally regulated. Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature. There are two basic types of sexual harassment claims: quid pro quo and hostile work environment. Quid pro quo involves those situations in which a supervisor is levying their position of power for sexual favors, or in an otherwise inappropriate manner. A hostile work environment, as the name implies, involves those situations in which the harassing individual engages in a pattern of sexual jokes, threats, and taunts to create an offensive work environment.

As an employee, there are various forms of recourse to seek in a sexual harassment situation. Telling the individual that their behavior is unwelcome and harassing may help end the offensive conduct, or at least put him or her on notice that it will not be tolerated. Additionally, most companies have internal policies in place to deal with a sexual harassment claim. Victims of sexual harassment must bring a claim before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or their local state fair employment office before being able to file a civil suit. Whatever avenue a victim of sexual harassment decides to pursue, it is always a good idea to keep a detailed record of harassment complaints, incidents, and episodes in order to present a comprehensive account of the illegal behavior.

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