The Show Must NOT Go On: Outcry Over Numerous Sexual Harassment Allegations Results in Placid Domingo Resigning from the Los Angeles Opera and the Met Opera
World-renowned opera singer and General Director of the Los Angeles Opera, Placido Domingo, has been accused of a variety of sexual harassment claims involving over 20 different women. An investigation was launched to check the veracity of the claims, but public pressure on the Los Angeles Opera to suspend Mr. Domingo ultimately resulted in Mr. Domingo withdrawing from his role as the general director of the Los Angeles Opera, and from participating in any future performances at the Los Angeles Opera, before that investigation was complete. Mr. Domingo also stepped down from his performances at the Met Opera in New York City.
The national conversation of the last several years and the gains made through the #MeToo movement continue to force conversations around what is and isn’t inappropriate behavior within a workplace. Nontraditional workplaces—including fine arts spaces, like the Los Angeles Opera, pose their own set of challengers. What is the option available to persons who have been on the receiving end of misconduct, when there is no human resources “door” to go knock on and make a complaint? And when complaints are made, who investigates the allegation? And finally, who makes the ultimate determination as to what corrective actions, if any, should be taken, when an allegation is substantiated?
In Mr. Domingo’s case, over 20 women spoke to the Associated Press, and detailed Mr. Domingo’s inappropriate, sexually-tinged behavior towards them specifically. In addition to those women, another 30 persons spoke to the Associated Press about inappropriate behavior that they themselves had witnessed on the part of Mr. Domingo. Despite these serious allegations from an alarmingly large number of victims, and additional corroboration from other witnesses, a troubling and head-scratching meeting occurred shortly after news of the allegations broke in which the Chief of the Met Opera, Peter Gelb, convened a meeting with members of the Met Opera, where Mr. Domingo also performed. During this meeting, Mr. Geld told Met Opera employees that the reports against Mr. Domingo were “unsubstantiated”, and intimated that the women were not to be believed because they had told their allegations to certain news publications, as opposed to other ones. One can only wonder what these words, spoken by Mr. Gelb, and his dismissive characterization of the women’s claims, might have done to chill the voices of persons who, either currently or in the future, were victims of misconduct at the Met Opera, whether sexual or otherwise.
Instances like this illustrate just how important it is for companies of all stripes to hire unbiased, expert investigators to handle misconduct investigations. An investigator can conduct a thorough and detailed investigation into serious allegations and bring justice for victims of misconduct, as well as help to monitor trends and issues within a workplace so that an employer can quickly and mindfully address them to avoid future misconduct. An expert-level sexual harassment investigation, or a misconduct investigation generally, can give persons with complaints peace of mind, knowing that an investigator is there to assiduously investigate their allegations. Additionally, an outside, independent investigation makes it less likely for employees to claim that the investigation conducted was biased, and can ensure that no employee is favored over others due to office politics or power plays. In the case of Placido Domingo and the Met, many staff members claimed that Mr. Domingo was the beneficiary of favoritism, since other Met employees had been fired after similar accusations had been levied against them.
For many companies, handling sexual misconduct investigations is very difficult. When employees are accusing each other of serious allegations, conducting a full investigation puts strain on both the company, and on internal employee relationships. The best way to handle these situations is, if at all possible, is to have a solid plan in place long before misconduct occurs.
The Triangle Takeaway: No matter the workplace, whether traditional or nontraditional, sexual harassment and other misconduct is unacceptable and corrosive to employee morale and workplace culture. A key component in preventing misconduct is by having an easy-to-use reporting mechanism available to employees, by which they can easily and quickly report misconduct when it does occur. And misconduct, when it is substantiated, should be quickly and thoroughly addressed, with appropriate corrective action taken immediately. Triangle’s Telli app enables employees to report inappropriate behavior privately and easily, without having to navigate office politics or outdated reporting procedures.