Much has been written about the importance of cleaning up any “digital dirt,” particularly if you’re in the market for a new opportunity. For most of us, that’s fairly simple to do, given the fact that our dirt is confined to our own personal social networking profiles. It’s easy to delete evidence of bachelor parties, Mardi Gras spontaneity, or any other kind of exuberant overindulgence that might send the wrong message to a potential employer. But what if you don’t have the power to destroy the evidence – then what?
That’s exactly the question that former Playgirl model Daniel Sawka has been asking himself. Eighteen years ago, Sawka, a former district sales manager for ADP Inc., a provider of business outsourcing, posed as a nude lumberjack in Playgirl magazine. His colleagues discovered his brief modeling career online about a month after he started working and allegedly began teasing him relentlessly, shouting “Timber!” whenever he was around. At two different meetings at the company headquarters in Roseland, N.J., employees he did not know “openly brought up the pictures and made jokes,” Sawka says. And to further add insult to injury, at an awards dinner in Manhattan where he received an award, one of Sawka’s fellow employees asked him about the pictures, and a manager admitted that everyone at the company knew about his lumberjack spread.
In March of 2011, Sawka got the axe from ADP, and guess what he’s decided to do as of last month? Sawka filed a lawsuit against ADP in U.S. District Court, in Connecticut, alleging that ADP failed to take action to protect him from sexual harassment. He is seeking damages for “back pay, front pay, bonuses, personal days, lost pension/retirement benefits, and emotional distress.”
I’ve asked colleagues and friends what they make of this lawsuit, and the response has been either, “What did he expect?” or “Sexual harassment is not limited to women – he’s got a case!” I tend to lean toward the “What did he expect?” camp – and after seeing the photos it’s clear he has the right to be fairly cocky about his young lumberjack self, so maybe a better approach would have been to chalk up the comments to jealousy and move on. But I’ve never had nude lumberjack photos of myself published in a national magazine, and then been teased by my co-workers, so I may be completely wrong on this one. What say you? Is he being a big baby? Did he get what he deserved? Does he have a case?