Friday, September 25, 2015

The Patrick Kane Vortex

The bizarre circumstances of the sexual assault allegations (it's not even a case, yet) against the well-known hockey player raise all kinds of interesting questions with respect to what his National Hockey League employer should be doing in response.  Some prominent Chicago sportswriters are calling for his team, the Blackhawks, to suspend Kane and keep him away from all things hockey-related.

Note to employers-never, ever, take advice on how to manage your employees from sportswriters.

If I were in the enviable position of providing advice here, I would tell the Blackhawks to keep on doing exactly what they have been doing. Mr. Kane has not been indicted, there is no public and irrefutable evidence that he did anything improper, and this is exactly the type of case that should be left to law enforcement and the court process.  Treating Mr. Kane like some type of guilty pariah damages him, damages the teams' relationship with him, damages his relationship with the public, and, as a result, ultimately damages the product that the organization puts on the ice starting in October.

That probably sounds harsh, but it reflects the essential element of the employer-employee relationship that we would find in place for any other company facing a similar situation. The basic question is how does this episode affect the business?  That is the only legitimate basis for inquiry into an individual employee's off-work conduct.  Absent some showing that the player's conduct is creating business problems for the club, the best and legally defensible move right now is no move. That's particularly true when it appears that case against Mr. Kane is collapsing (my personal opinion is that the withdrawal of the accuser's counsel is based on something far more fundamental than a discrepancy as to how the evidence bag was discovered).

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