Almost everyone is familiar with Donald Sterling and his problems resulting from the statements tape recorded by his companion. Many have not heard of Dov Charney, the founder of American Apparel, who was recently fired from his position as CEO.  What they have in common is a long history of illegal and/or unacceptable conduct, without any consequences.

I have written previously about Donald Sterling and his problems with the NBA on April 29 and May 28.  Many concerns have been raised about Mr. Sterling’s prior conduct, and why no action was taken against him by the NBA for many years.  An interesting article, entitled “The 20 Worst Sports Franchises of All Time,” written by Rob Tennenbaum, was published in the October issue of GQ, and sums up Sterling’s past very succinctly.

According to AOL Jobs, Mr. Charney has a long history of unacceptable behavior: dancing naked in front of female employees, engaging in sex acts while interviewing potential employees, exposing himself to employees and much more.  These allegations go back almost 10 years. In fact, American Apparel added the following clause to their employment contracts:

…employees working in the design, sales, marketing and other creative areas of the company will come into contact with sexually charged language and visual images.  This is part of the job for employees working in these areas.

Donna Ballman, who wrote the article, believes that his behavior was tolerated because the company was making lots of money.  After the stock price fell over 80%, the board decided to fire him.  Now, the parties are engaged in a dispute that has become public, and may lead to more litigation.

Practice pointer.  So, what do American Apparel and the NBA have in common?  They refused to address serious problems that should have been investigated years ago.  Now, they are both facing very public battles, adverse publicity, and potentially extended and expensive litigation.  Employers and organizations such as the NBA should take the appropriate steps to investigate and impose disciplinary sanctions, if applicable, as soon as possible once they are aware of allegations of improper conduct.  Waiting any amount of time, especially years as with Mr. Sterling and Mr. Charney, will not make things any better, and will most likely cause more problems.