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Managing Labor Relations : The Legal Framework

The following is the list of 20 identified legal and HR issues, which are being incorporated in the plot of “Obsessed” (2009) movie:

The foremost HR issue that is being presented throughout the film’s entirety is the issue of sexual harassment. While watching “Obsessed”, I have identified at least 5 instances of Lisa’s attitudes towards Derek representing a classical example of such harassment. The most obvious of them is the scene of Lisa flirting with Derek, while in the elevator (00.05.15), the scene of Lisa trying to seduce Derek in the men’s washroom, during the corporate party (00.32.29), and the scene of Lisa trying to seduce Derek, while in his car (00.38.20).

All these three incidents have provided Derek with a fully legitimate reason to file a complaint against Lisa to the company’s HR department. It is namely the fact that Derek had failed to realize the sheer inappropriateness of Lisa’s sexual advances towards him early enough, which resulted in the whole situation getting out of control.

The scene, in which Sharon comes to visit Derek at work with their child Kyle (00.16.27) can be discussed in terms of violation against Derek’s company work ethics. Most commercial institutions make it clear to the employees that they cannot go about addressing their matters, while at work. The fact that Derek considered it appropriate to invite Sharon over to his office to spend time with her, when he should have been working, indicates a certain degree of professional inadequateness, on his part.

If Derek was truly committed to his company, then he should have told his wife that she cannot be coming to see him when he is being in the middle of executing his professional duties. It appears that, while socializing with Sharon in his office, Derek had simply taken advantage of his high rank, within the company, which can be thought of in terms of his lessened ability to observe the rules of corporate ethics, while at work.

The fact that employees, invited to the company’s corporate Christmas party, were explicitly forbidden to bring their spouses along, constitutes a violation of their rights as American citizens. It is important to understand that various municipal and corporate by-laws and regulations should only be observed by those to whom they apply, for as long as these by-laws do not contradict American Constitution. Therefore, there was absolutely no reason for Derek to come to the Christmas party without Sharon, as the ultimate proof of his corporate loyalty – no corporate body can forcibly impose a certain behavioral code upon employees, for as long as such code has nothing to do with the process of these employees executing their professional duties.

No matter how strong is the behavioral inappropriateness, on the part of sexual harassers, not a whole lot can be done about it, if those subjected to such harassment do not resort to the legal means of dealing with it. In the scene, where Derek discusses with Ben what should be done about Lisa (00.42.36), he eventually decides not to proceed with filing a complaint against her, simply because he had learned that Lisa no longer works for the company.

Such Derek’s decision proved to be fateful – as the movie’s plot unraveled, he came to realize that he could not substantiate his claims as to Lisa’s craziness in his subsequent conversations with Sharon and with detective Reese. Therefore, if Derek did let know about what had happened between him and Lisa to HR, it would have spared him a lot of headaches.

In the same scene (00.42.36), Ben talks Derek out of filing a complaint against Lisa, because he thinks that HR would take Lisa’s side, in regards to the subject matter: “You just be careful about this. What if she makes trouble and says you came onto her? We are talking history of behavior here Derek. When was the last time you had a female assistant at your desk?”. This conversation provides us with insight into the fact that in today’s America, women’s gender affiliation endows them with an automatic advantage over men when resorting to the legal means of dealing with men’s “sexism”.

In its turn, such a situation came into being as the result of American society becoming overly “feminized”, due to the crazed promoters of the feminist cause being put in the position of designing socio-political policies in this country. Derek was well aware of this fact, which explains his reluctance to proceed with submitting an official complaint as to Lisa’s behavior. Given the fact that Derek is Black, while appearing particularly manly and physically imposing (as opposed to Ben, for example), it would automatically result in HR sticking to Lisa’s point of view.

The scene in which Derek receives an unwanted email letter from Lisa (00.46.27) represents a classical example of so-called “e-harassment”. In its turn, harassing people over email represents a federal offense, with criminal law providing from 1 to 3 years in jail for perpetrators of such an offense. However, given the fact that Derek did not submit a complaint against Lisa, while she was still working for the company, would significantly reduce the chances for Lisa’s initial email letter to serve as proof of her malicious intentions, in regards to Derek. Moreover, Lisa had obtained Derek’s email address without his consent, which can be classified as “identity theft”.

However, even at this point, Derek still appeared to be quite incapable of recognizing a potential danger to his welfare and the welfare of his family, posted by Lisa. This was the reason why he did not call the police right away, after having received a “Happy New Year” letter from his troublesome “secret admirer”.

The fact that Derek tried to reply to Lisa’s email (00.47.47), cannot be thought of as being a particularly smart move, on his part. By this time, he should have figured out that Lisa was not entirely normal, and trying to reason with mentally deranged people is possibly the worst thing one can do. Therefore, if proven that Derek did try to reply to Lisa, his eventual e-harassment claims would have been treated with suspicion.

The first, truly substantial legal issue is being presented to viewers in the scene where Lisa puts some unspecified substance into Derek’s glass when he is not looking (00.50.34). As the result, Derek’s state of mind has been altered to the point when he becomes completely incapacitated and does not mind seeing a sight of Lisa walking into his room and laying down beside him on the bed. This incident falls under the definition of Criminal Poisoning, for which perpetrators can be sentenced to 10-20 years in jail, even if the effects of such poisoning prove to be non-lethal.

And again, Derek needs to primarily blame himself for what had happened – while being aware of the fact that Lisa lacks marbles in her brain, he never even considered a possibility that she could have been solely focused on trying to cause him as much harm as possible. Had the well-being of his friends been concerned, Derek’s failure to call the police under similar circumstances would have accounted for Criminal Negligence, on his part.

Even though later in the movie, Lisa has been revealed as a mentally deranged individual, she nevertheless had proven herself capable of blackmailing Derek in a truly rational and well-calculated manner. In the scene (00.56.12) where Derek tries to get rid of Lisa, after having had a “one night stand” with her (according to what she implied), Lisa threatens Derek to reveal his spousal infidelity in front of his coworkers: “If I go into that room and tell them, it’ll be a truth. Is that what you want? You want me to tell them the truth?”. The Online Farlex Legal Dictionary defines blackmail as “the crime of threatening to reveal embarrassing, disgraceful or damaging facts (or rumors) about a person to the public, family, spouse or associates unless paid off to not carry out the threat” (The Online Farlex Legal Dictionary 2009).

Thus, Lisa’s threats serve as proof that she was intending to blackmail Derek from the very time their “relationship” had started. In its turn, blackmail represents a federal offense, for which one can be sentenced to lengthy terms in jail. Just as it was the case in situations mentioned earlier, the fact that Lisa was able to threaten Derek, was partially due to his inability to think of the concept of sexual harassment as such that poses a clear and immediate danger to those who are being subjected to such harassment – in this particular case, himself.

In the scene, where Derek tell Lisa what he thinks of her, immediately after being threatened (00.57.36), he makes another mistake by becoming emotional with his “lover”: “You know what? It doesn’t matter what you say or what goes on in that crazy little brain of yours, there never going to be anything between us”. The reasons for this are as follows:

  1. Derek’s words correspond to the socially created stereotype of “dumb blond”, and therefore can be interpreted as the proof of his racist attitudes towards White people in general, especially given the fact that he is Black.
  2. The phrase “crazy little brain of yours” contains clearly defined misogynist overtones, as it implies Lisa’s inability to think in terms of logic because she is a “dumb blond” woman.

If the hawks of political correctness happened to be nearby, while Derek was saying this, he could have easily ended up being accused of “male chauvinism”. Thus, for as long as the realities of living in contemporary America are being concerned, one can never afford the luxury of becoming emotional with its coworkers.

As we have mentioned earlier, by the time movie ends, Lisa is being revealed to viewers as insane. This means that she never ceased to remain a psycho, even while performing her duties with utter efficiency for two weeks. In its turn, this brings us to the conclusion that Derek company’s managers had failed to run a proper background check on Lisa, before deciding to hire her, which can be thought of as the ultimate proof of their ineffectiveness, for as long as the process of human resources’ managing on their part is being concerned. Partially, this can also be explained by the fact that Lisa was a “temp”. This; however, does not mean that company’s managers, responsible for hiring new employees, should be held less accountable for what had happened to Derek, as the result of their failure to make sure that hiring new workers would not pose any danger to the organization’s proper functioning.

The scene in which detective Reese begins to question Derek about the specifics of his relationship with Lisa (01.01.17), can be discussed in terms of a legal issue, as it leaves no doubt as to Reese’s professional inadequacy. During conducting an investigation, police detectives are being explicitly forbidden to share information, in regards to such investigation, with a third party. And yet, Reese seems to have no reservations whatsoever for Sharon to join the conversation between her and Derek.

It is important to understand that, in this case, Sharon represented a third party, despite being married to Derek. Therefore, the fact that Reese began to discuss what had happened between Lisa and Derek in front of Sharon, should have eventually gotten her fired from her job as a police detective. The same applies to her sexist remarks, such as “I don’t care if you you’re doing here or not” (01.03.52).

As it appears from the initial conversation between Reese and Derek, the detective had assumed things about him, even before the whole matter got properly investigated: “When you “rejected” her (Lisa) she tried to commit suicide naked in your bed in your hotel room?” (01.02.41). This, of course, serves as another proof as to Reese’s professional inadequacy – there were absolutely no good reasons for Reese to doubt the truthfulness of Derek’s statements, except for the fact that he is a Black. Thus, it is not only that Reese seemed to be incapable of investigating in a truly unengaged manner, as it should have been the case, but she is also being presented to us as an individual filled with racist prejudices. Given the fact that Reese works for law enforcement, her ignorant attitudes represent a legal issue, within the context of how Derek’s case is being dealt with.

The scene in which Sharon tells Derek to “get out of my house” (01.08.07), allow us to conclude that Derek’s wife would hardly be able to succeed with her studies in the college, as she intended to, due to her inability to recognize the most basic legal

implications of the concept of “private property”. As it appears from the movie’s context, Sharon did not have the source of income of her own, while solely relying on Derek’s money to enjoy the luxury of living in upscale “white suburbia”. Therefore, the house in which she and Derek lived could not possibly be considered as “her”. It goes without saying, of course, that as Derek’s wife, Sharon was entitled to half of what he owned.

However, it was legally inappropriate, on her part, to chase Derek out of his own house. In its turn, this allows us to conclude that Derek’s affection towards his wife might result in him becoming financially ruined if it continues to remain quite as intense, simply because the scene with Sharon yelling “get out of my house” to Derek, provides us with the insight on her as being quite as mentally deranged as Lisa herself.

In the meanwhile, detective Reese continues to expose her professional incompetence. The analysis of the scene, in which Reese visits hospitalized Lisa (01.09.00) proves the validity of this statement. Despite being fully aware of the fact that Lisa was being put on suicide watch (which means that Lisa is not mentally stable, with the legal “value” of her statements equaling zero), Reese presents Derek’s “lover” with a set of questions, while trying to figure out what had happened between Lisa and Derek in reality. Moreover, as Lisa continues to talk, the expression on Reese’s face suggests that she believes her! This can only have one implication – before coming to interview Lisa, Reese did not even bother to run a background check on the interviewee.

As if it was not enough, later in the movie Reese confronts Derek with sexually graphic excerpts from Lisa’s diary as the objective proof that Derek did have sex with her: “According to this diary, you (Derek) have made some promises to her, promises to divorce your wife…”. After Derek slams, this diary closed and tells the detective that “all of this is bullshit”, Reese comes up with the statement that should have gotten her fired on the spot: “Look, the only thing that matters is that she believes that” (01.14.21). We can only wonder how the clear lack of analytical abilities, on Reese’s part, allowed her to become a police investigator in the first place, especially given the fact that she could not possibly qualify for getting a job with police under “affirmative action” program.

The last on the long list of Reese’s professional failures is her advice to Derek not to file a restraining order against Lisa, simply because the detective had assumed that Lisa would be going to California with her sister: “You could file a restraining order, but this might not be necessary, because Lisa’s sister flew down from San Francisco and took Lisa back with her earlier today” (01.14.36). Initially, Reese had assumed that Lisa was telling the truth. Nevertheless, after it proved not to be quite the case, the detective continued to endanger the well-being of Derek’s family by adopting an utterly ignorant attitude towards the problem he faced. In its turn, this strengthens our thesis as to Reese’s professional incompetence as such that represented a legal issue of utter importance, within the context of the movie.

The scene in which Lisa comes to Charles’ house and takes Kyle away with her (01.19.36), can be discussed in terms of an act of kidnapping, which American jurisprudence considers one of the worst crimes. If the court of law finds the defendant is guilty on account of kidnapping, he or she can be easily sentenced to a lifetime in prison, especially if kidnapping of children is being concerned – that is, of course, if the defendant is not being affected by mental illness of any sort. Given the fact that throughout the movie Lisa had exhibited the signs of mental wackiness, it is highly unlikely that she would have ended up in jail for the rest of her life, but spending at least 5 years in a psychiatric clinic for what she had done to Kyle would have probably accounted for her punishment.

As we have already pointed out earlier, there are no good reasons for us to think of Sharon as such that represents “moral virtuousness”, when compared to the “embodiment of evil” – Lisa. It is because many times Sharon had proven herself capable of acting in just as emotionally charged manner, as Lisa herself. The scene, in which Sharon calls Lisa and leaves her threatening message: “I’ll show you crazy! Just try me bitch!” (01.27.25) fully validates our suggestion. What Sharon had failed to realize, though, is that the message she left on Lisa’s phone can be easily qualified as “life-threatening”. And, people that are being found guilty of uttering life threats risk a good chance of imprisonment. Therefore, it was utterly inappropriate, on Sharon’s part, to call Lisa just for the sake of relieving its anger by telling Lisa off.

Before Lisa had found its way into Charles’ house for the first time, there is also a scene in the movie, in which Patrick reveals personal information about Derek and Sharon, while talking to Lisa on the phone: “Sharon is leaving this afternoon (to her parents’ thirtieth anniversary in San Diego) and Derek is driving down there first thing in the morning” (01.30.30). Such type of behavior, on Patrick’s part, should have resulted in him being laid off, simply because he seems to be incapable of observing the basic rules of corporate fidelity while communicating with people at work.

It is not only that Patrick possesses an unhealthy appetite for gossiping, as if was a woman, but he also seems to derive pleasure out of indulging in meaningless chatter at the expense of neglecting his professional duties. It is because of gossipers like Patrick that the commercial effectiveness of many financial institutions is being often undermined by informational leaks, which originate within these institutions. Therefore, Patrick’s behavior represents an HR issue.

Watching “Obsessed” movie had brought me to the following set of conclusions as to how Derek should have dealt with Lisa’s unwanted sexual advances:

  1. He should have addressed the issue of these advances as soon as he felt he became their target.
  2. He should have never gone about trying to view Lisa as an individual first, and as a coworker later.
  3. He should have never allowed Sharon to exercise quite as much control over him, as it is being shown in the movie – then, the accusations of infidelity, on Sharon’s part, would not be perceived by him as the end of the world.

The conclusions, in regards to how Derek’s company should have addressed the issue of sexual harassment among its employees, can be articulated as follows:

  1. The company’s HR department should have forbidden female employees to wear short skirts and to have excessive amounts of makeup applied to their faces.
  2. The company’s corporate parties should have never become subject to regulations that forbid employees from showing up to these parties along with their spouses.
  3. The representatives of the HR department should have paid closer attention to how male employees suffer from women’s sexism, as opposed to being only concerned with combating “male chauvinism”.

The conclusions as to what can be done to enhance the operating efficiency of representatives of law enforcement are as follows:

  1. Female detectives should not be allowed to investigate matters related to sexual harassment, simply because they rarely seem to be capable of remaining thoroughly impersonal while proceeding with the task, as it is being shown in the movie.
  2. While being asked to investigate sexual harassment accusations, cops should first analyze whether there are any objective preconditions for such accusations to take place.

Bibliography

Blackmail (2009). The Online Farlex Legal Dictionary. Web.

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