Laurie asked me to elaborate on the comments I made on her Letterman post and I will do that. Just to summarize: Letterman confess he had sex with other staff workers and a CBS News Producer was going to extort him for $2 million. Dave saw something was not right and called the police to create fake check to the producer, which has created this mess. There are so many HR factors in this story that I will break this down in several areas.
We all agree what Letterman did was immoral and if it were any other business, he would be fired. However, he owns his company, World Wide Pants and he can create the rules, which leads to my next topic…
If you know your David Letterman history, he started his show with his then girlfriend, Merill Markoe. It started off as a morning show, but then one-year later, it was following the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. If Letterman and Markoe were building a staff, would the staff know that the two were dating and would we hear any qualms of the relationship? Another thing is if you seen Letterman interview female celebrities like Madonna, Drew Barrymore, Teri Garr, and Julia Roberts, you know he’s a flirt. If anyone seemed so shocked of the news, look into his past history.
HR and Work Environment:
With all the scandals and hoopla, we would imagine we would hear a lot more stories from staff and crew. The thing is, there’s no history of a hostile work environment or “taken advantage of a situation” moment. No one complaint about Dave’s relationship with Merrill or his relationship with Stephanie Birkitt, which I think the staff knew there was some tension since Dave had great “chemistry” with Stephanie. You would also imagine if a former staff writer or crew will spill the beans on Letterman, but from this Writers Strike in 2007, it sure looks like Letterman took care of his employees.
Stephanie and the CBS News Producer had a relationship and my guess is Stephanie mention she had a relationship with Dave and the producer had a Blago moment and wanted to extort money from Letterman but got caught red-handed. Also, my friend, Bill Lehecka, told me from his source that the producer in question, made contributions to Sarah Palin’s run last year. This makes it a little more shady since Palin has a huge grudge on Letterman and was seeking revenge and look if Letterman was a “hypocrite.”
In the HR perspective, this is probably one of the most unique cases in business. Letterman had sexual relationships during work, yet you hear no complaints at work. This would classify as a hostile environment, but everyone gets along and it proves that Dave would do anything for his employees. Also, there would be clues that if Dave use his power to promote Stephanie and from the looks of it, his “relationship” helped her get a law degree, which has not done anything to do with work, which leads me to relationships at work. I don’t mind people have crushes or fall in love at work, but here are two things if you’re going to keep you relationship at work: keep it amongst yourselves and don’t mess up “company property” and if you do, cleanup and pay. If I see “stuff” in any property, it’s an automatic firing. As a rule of thumb for HR: have ground rules on relationships, but don’t deny true love.
The second point is the media/PR standpoint. I read articles that Dave’s confession in public was weird and bizarre. Was it weird and bizarre that Letterman was ahead of the curve and had to release the story in public since it would harm his company? By getting ahead of the story, Letterman diffuse the trouble a little with open candor. Was the media expecting your typical canned answers, were they amazed Letterman had an affair? This leads to what is wrong with mainstream media. The only stories I hear from broadcast and cable TV is Letterman had an affair, instead of a major crime was committed. Is this the mainstream media’s answer to survive: juicy stories on celebrities? Now, you know why the general public doesn’t trust the mainstream media
My impression is this: Letterman did something morally and ethically wrong, but did not do anything legally wrong. Also, as surprise as you maybe; behind the million dollars, houses, and notoriety, he is human but is one of the most unique leaders currently with his ironic demeanor, Midwestern roots, and a thing for regular folks. It is hard to pinpoint who he is, but we’re making attempts because we want to know. The only people who knows the situation is Dave and the other parties involve and that’s their business, not ours. I guess we are a peephole society.