When a woman makes offensive comments about being female. A lesson on implicit bias.

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Image by mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

I live and work about 100 miles northeast of Baltimore, MD.

I don’t have my finger on the pulse of everything that’s going on in the Charm City. However, I do know that the City’s 50th mayor, Catherine Pugh, had a bad run there at the end. She resigned on May 2, which was about a week after the FBI and IRS conducted multiple raids relating to her business affairs. You can read all about it here.

The purpose of today’s post is not to pile onto Ms. Pugh. Instead, I want to focus on another related separation of employment and a lesson for your workplace.

Tyler Waldman, WBAL NewsRadio 1090 and FM 101.5, reports here about a longtime television anchor in Baltimore who is no longer reporting the news for the TV station following controversial comments about Baltimore politics:

WJZ-TV on Tuesday confirmed they have parted ways with longtime anchor Mary Bubala following a controversial question to an on-air analyst.

“Mary Bubala is no longer a WJZ-TV employee,” vice president and general manager Audra Swain said in an email. “The station apologizes to its viewers for her remarks.”

Following Mayor Catherine Pugh’s resignation last week, Bubala asked Loyola professor Karsonya Wise Whitehead about the city’s future in a question some took as racist.

“We have had three African American female mayors in a row,” Bubala said. “They were all passionate public servants. Two resigned, though. Isn’t it a signal that a different kind of leadership is needed to move Baltimore City forward?”

Here is the clip of Ms. Bubala asking the question on live television.

And here’s what the Baltimore Association of Black Journalists has to say about it (again, credit to Tyler Waldman, WBAL NewsRadio 1090 and FM 101.5):

“This question implies race and gender are qualifiers in one’s ability to lead while also demonizing African Americans and women as poor leaders,” the organization said in a statement Monday. “We feel certain Bubala would not have asked this same question of white male leadership.”

The statement called for either her or WJZ to acknowledge her mistake on air, and said the implicit bias in her interview should be “addressed company-wide” at the station.

I doubt that Ms. Bubala intended to offend anyone with her question. She said as much on Twitter when she later apologized for her regrettable choice of words.

Still, there are a few employment law lessons here.

Even if Ms. Bubala lacked malice, her intent is immaterial. Rather, what matters is the effect that her implicit bias has on others.

Ah yes, implicit bias.

Around this time last year, we spent a lot of time on the blog discussing implicit bias.  I wasn’t 100 miles away from that; that Starbucks incident was right in my backyard in Philadelphia.

I know that Starbucks and WJZ-TV aren’t the only businesses that have dealt with implicit bias in the workplace. Maybe, you’ve seen it too. So make sure that you address it. Do you conduct respect in the workplace training? I suspect that your recent training(s) may have been heavily geared towards addressing sexual harassment. But, they should go beyond that to address other issues, such as implicit bias.

If you’d like some training materials, Starbucks has made theirs available. You can access them here.

 

 

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