This article was originally published in Law360 Employment Authority on August 30, 2023. A subscription is required.
Shareholder and Labor & Employment Attorney Susie Cirilli was quoted in a Law 360 Employment Authority article about how an unwanted kiss that the head of Spain's soccer federation planted on a national soccer star amid the country's World Cup celebrations holds lessons for U.S. employers about how to handle harassment claims against higher-ups. The article was written by Anne Cullen.
Cullen writes: Luis Rubiales, the head of the Royal Spanish Football Federation, or RFEF, since 2018, has drawn widespread condemnation for kissing a member of Spain's women's soccer team on the lips during their televised celebrations immediately after the team's World Cup win on Aug. 20.
The player, decorated forward Jennifer Hermoso, says the kiss was not consensual, issuing a statement a few days after the incident in which she said she felt in shock and vulnerable by what she called an "impulse-driven, sexist, out-of-place act."
Cirilli adds: "I see this every day," said Flaster Greenberg PC shareholder Susie Cirilli, who advises employers. "Whether you're in a grocery store or on a soccer pitch, this happens all the time, harassment from the top."
"This should be a well-oiled machine, no matter what the level, whether it's rank-and-file, manager, or vice president, or chancellor, or whatever," Cirilli said. "As long as human beings are employed, things like this will happen, and the organization should know which path to take, which strategy to employ."
"But it seems to be a failure of the immediate organization on this delay. It should be like clockwork," she said.
"If Rubiales is doing this on television at the World Cup final, this may be the tip of the iceberg," said Cirilli. She said an ensuing investigation into any event like this should evaluate the organization through a wide lens.
"I would counsel any client to do an investigation on the culture," she said. "Seldom are they isolated incidents."
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