Earlier this year, I posted about Lt. Col. Joseph Morse, Chief Trial Counsel Assistance Program at Fort Belvoir, Va., who supervised 23 of the Army’s special victim prosecutors. He was suspended from his position after one of the female lawyers under his command alleged that he attempted to kiss and grope her, against her will, in a hotel room during a sexual assault legal conference in 2011. More bad news is being reported about sexual misconduct in the military. NavyTimes reported that Capt. Gregory McWherter, the commanding officer of the Blue Angels, was found guilty at an admiral’s mast of “condoning crude practices on the F/A 18 flight team that led to a sexually hostile command climate.” Among the numerous incidents that led to this finding, were:
- Pornographic pictures, usually of nude women, were posted in the cockpits for the pilots’ amusement by both male and female crew chiefs. Reportedly, McWherter said he “thought the pornography was appropriate because it reflected a special trust shared between the pilot and crew chief.”
- GroupMe, an app used to send mass text messages, was often used to send pornographic photos, usually of male genitalia.
- “During the 2012 air show season, a team member painted a blue and gold penis on the roof of a trailer at the squadron’s winter training facility in El Centro, California. It was big enough to be seen on Google Maps satellite imagery.”
- In the ready room, one officer, often in McWherters’ presence, would show other officers photographs of his girlfriends, sometimes appearing nude.
Practice pointers. Although I will refrain from some of the obvious jokes that could be made about this situation (GroupMe, special trust, etc.), this is an extremely serious and troubling set of circumstances. When a commanding officer, or in the private sector, at the management and/or supervisory level, engages in this kind of improper conduct, there are numerous consequences, including, but not limited to, disciplinary action, up to and including termination, decreased morale, decreased productivity, EEOC charges, lawsuits, legal expenses and bad publicity. This conduct should not be tolerated in any employment environment. This story emphasizes, once again, the need to train all employees, from top to bottom, on the prohibition of harassment in the workplace, be it sexual, racial, religious or otherwise. All employees must be educated on the need to report improper conduct. Employers must take any reports of improper/illegal conduct seriously, and should take the appropriate steps to investigate the allegations.
Meanwhile, in the Army, at Ft. Hood, Texas, Fox News reported that “Sgt. 1st Class Gregory McQueen is facing more than 21 criminal charges filed in March that include pandering, adultery and sexual assault.” McQueen, who was a noncommissioned sexual-assault prevention officer, is accused of organizing a prostitution ring recruiting female soldiers who were facing financial difficulties. His accuser, a female private, testified that she was approached by McQueen when she was 20 years old and she was having problems paying her student loans and buying food for her 3 year old child on her military salary. She also testified that she had sex with McQueen at her home last year. McQueen has been suspended from all duties pending the outcome of the case.
Practice pointer. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. This is one of those occasions. The conduct of Sgt. McQueen, if true, can lead to a dishonorable discharge, jail time, and being sued for monetary damages. In the private sector, if this conduct took place, it could lead to discipline, up to and including, termination, arrest and jail time, an EEOC charge, and civil litigation, against both the employer and the individual engaged in this type of conduct. If these facts are true, it would be a very difficult case for an employer and the individual to defend.