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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

Silicon Valley Business Ethics Cases

Bullpen Dilemma

Sexual Harassment in Investment Banking

A recent college graduate confronts misconduct in a polarizing work environment.

Victoria, a recent college graduate, recently started a new job as an analyst at a boutique investment bank. The office is a small, all- male environment, known as "The Bullpen.” After her first two months at work, the company is set to hold its annual summer outing.

As the outing is some distance from her house, Victoria is pleased when one of the executives, Luke, offers to drive her home. During the drive, Luke invites Victoria for "a casual dinner." She feels pressured to accept. Since they are currently working together on a deal, she hopes that the dinner will be a great opportunity to collaborate on business. Instead, she is ill at ease when Luke continuously brings up personal matters.

Back in the car, Luke is even more insistent that Victoria comes to his house. She is extremely uncomfortable, but sees no way out of the situation, feeling as if she cannot decline. At his house, Luke makes a direct advance toward Victoria. By this point she has had enough and is visibly upset. Immediately, she confronts Luke as to why he is placing her in such an inappropriate situation. Victoria then calls a cab and departs, mulling over her options.

Victoria is unsure what action to take. Her first two months on the job were going so well and she wonders what impact this incident will have on her work environment. She does not feel comfortable approaching her firm's HR department, a one-man operation who seems to exhibit and condone the firm's “bullpen” attitude. Victoria fears that if she does not speak up the advances will continue, but considering that she has to work with Luke on their current deal, she wonders if forgetting the incident will make it go away faster.

What should Victoria do?