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WWE Sex Scandal Unveils Shocking Workplace Misconduct: A Closer Look at Corporate Ethics

Top corporate executives are expected to set an example for behavior through their words and actions. Their ethics impact company culture and employee morale, and also play a crucial role in shaping the company's reputation in the public eye, which can significantly affect customer trust and stakeholder confidence.

But what happens when a female subordinate says the executive chairman has texted her with: “Do U promise to make me proud Baby? Will U show him what a Porno Star U can B. Will U Show Off for me like never before ????”

Answer: a lawsuit.

The text was the tip of the iceberg in what a former female employee describes as three years of sexual harassment, sexual assault and sex trafficking at the hands of Vince McMahon, the billionaire co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment, aka WWE. 

The 67-page complaint filed by former employee Janel Grant in U.S. District Court in Connecticut on Jan. 25 accuses McMahon of sexual abuse and sexually trafficking her to other employees within WWE from 2019 to 2022. The lawsuit, which also names WWE and WWE executive John Laurinaitis, contains graphic sexual depictions and copies of sexually explicit texts allegedly sent by McMahon. 

Here are two other texts among many that McMahon allegedly sent to Grant, one referring to Laurinaitis, the other WWE executive she was allegedly ordered to have sex with:

On days when he’s in town, I want him to f*** U every morning and later In the office too.

Do NOT knock on the door cause if I see U ::: I will rape U in the hallway

McMahon resigned from his post as executive chairman of WWE’s parent company, TKO Productions, last week, and has denied Grant’s allegations as “baseless,” but according to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal he has also been the subject of a federal sex trafficking probe since 2022. McMahon has also weathered other accusations of sexual assault dating back to the 1990s, and denied them, according to published reports. (Laurinaitis also denies Grant's allegations and says he is also a victim of McMahon, according to Vice news.)

McMahon had previously agreed to pay Grant $3 million in hush money under an NDA, but delivered only $1 million and stopped making payments, according to the lawsuit. The suit seeks to have the NDA nullified.

During an investigation by the WWE board, McMahon left the company for a short period in 2022 and returned the following year. WWE was then sold to another company, which was brought under the umbrella of TKO Group — with McMahon as executive chairman, according to the Wall Street Journal. TKO advised investors about the risks involved with McMahon, including negative publicity and adverse effects on business performance. The concerns were largely disregarded.

It’s the latest in a long line of examples showing the way that sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual assault in the workplace are costly for businesses.

Three decades ago, Smith Barney paid $150 million to settle a case in which male employees partied in a basement room known as the “Boom Boom Room” and referred to female colleagues as “b*tches” and “c*nts.” Other class action discrimination lawsuits followed, including one brought by female brokers at Merrill Lynch, resulting in a $215 million settlement.

In November, a Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) — an agency established by Congress to sustain stability and public trust in the banking system — is rife with sexual harassment and misogyny, allegations that have spurred congressional hearings. 

Meanwhile, Arias Agencies, a Pennsylvania insurance firm that works with industry giants Globe Life Inc. and American Income Life, is being sued by female employees. Business Insider, citing interviews and a federal lawsuit filed by a former employee, reported that female employees were given date rape drugs, called “b*tches,” “sluts,” and “whores,” and sexually assaulted on the job, while male employees openly engaged in drugs, alcohol and violent behavior at work.

As a result, Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway shed most of the 6.35 million shares of Globe Life, the parent company of Arias Agencies, that it owned in 2023, ending the year with 831,000 shares, an 87% drop. Two law firms are investigating whether to file shareholder lawsuits against Globe Life.

Creating a workplace that swiftly and consistently protects against discriminatory speech and actions is both morally and financially essential. Companies must adopt initiatives that reduce risks, protect employees, and safeguard their financial interests.

When it comes to email, Reflect AI plays a vital role by alerting users in real-time to communication that is unethical, unlawful, harmful and respectful. Preemptively identifying problematic communication can nip it in the bud, rather than letting it fester into a toxic culture that not only harms individuals but also corrodes the integrity of an organization.

Below are the responses you’d get from Reflect AI if you typed the words McMahon used into an email: 

Do U promise to make me proud Baby? Will U show him what a Porno Star U can B. Will U Show Off for me like never before ????

On days when he’s in town, I want him to f*** U every morning and later In the office too.

Carolyne Zinko is the editorial director and AI editor at Alphy.

Reflect AI by Alphy is an AI communication compliance solution that detects and flags language that is harmful, unlawful, and unethical in digital communication. Alphy was founded to reduce the risk of litigation from harmful and discriminatory communication while helping employees communicate more effectively.


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