Once a Lumberjack Always a Lumberjack (and Apparently That Is Not OK)

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., thumb_DanielSawka-PG0595-03a 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?

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Gwen Darling

Gwen Darling is a Search Executive specializing in Healthcare IT, the Founder of Healthcare IT Central (the leading online Career Center for Healthcare IT job seekers and employers), and the Former Editor/Founder of Healthcare IT Today. Gwen also is a featured blogger for Healthcare Informatics magazine.

2 Comments

  • Well, first I’d like to say, RAWR! hahahaha just kidding!

    I’m actually somewhat torn answering this question. Though my gut reaction is, he’s got a case! And I say this because I have seen one of my dear friends go through harassment in the workplace. In HR we use the term sexual harassment, but it really applies to anytime one person or group is singled out and treated differently from the rest. In my friend’s case, her boss would call AT&T and turn her company cell phone plan off and not everybody else’s. She was able to investigate and AT&T told her that her boss had done it. He would do scream at her in the workplace and all sorts of other terrible things which made her feel absolutely lower than low and ostracized. So if Mr. Lumberjack feels that he’s being singled out and made to feel different than everyone else, I think he’s got a reasonable case.

    But on the flip, hello, Mr. Nudey-kins. You posed for PlayGirl and you probably signed some release agreement that you didn’t read giving PlayGirl the rights to your photos. So here I say, duh, be proud of yourself and get over it. Also, the internet existed 18 years ago. Look, Mr. Shiny-Chest-in-Flannel, don’t take pictures if you don’t want them seen. This is ultimately your fault.

  • I can also go either way on this issue. He very likely signed a contract BUT, even as recently as 18 years ago, I would suspect a person might logically consider their risk of further “exposure” limited to only the subscribers of Playgirl magazine. BUT, jump forward 20 years, and now judging the situation with current knowledge of much improved technologies and the likelihood of continued future improvements I think many prospective “au natural” lumberjacks would know that any pictures would certainly get beyond the inside of a magazine.
    Many years ago, in my youth, I pulled some very questionable pranks on people, thankfully that was before the internet and personal publication that could instantly leak it out to the world even 20+ years later….
    But, twenty years from now will others be in a similar situation as the “lumberjack”? Might they make the mistake of gauging their questionable actions within today’s technological limitations without factoring in the advances communication and technologies will make in the next twenty year? 20 years from now will then declassified drone or satellite images be able to be combined with the TV show “fictitious” computer system that tracks everyone and predicts potential crime victims, using some data from prior years? Will people be able to look years back to examine how often a particular person stopped at bars, examine their expenses, and draw conclusions? It all seems impossible until I see current cell phones that are much smaller than the “communicators” on 40 year old “Star Trek” shows set supposedly a few hundred years in the future.
    I want an invisibility cloak for Christmas…

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