Popular legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin was suspended from The New Yorker and put on leave at CNN earlier this week after an embarrassing Zoom incident. Thinking that his computer camera and audio was turned off, Toobin masturbated during an election simulation between The New Yorker and WNYC radio employees. Toobin claims he unknowingly exposed himself to his colleagues when he thought his camera and microphone were off.
“I am quite sure that Toobin didn’t realize that the people on the New Yorker call could see him,” Gessen said. “I suspect he thought that when the breakout rooms started, he was disconnected, and he didn’t realize we’d all returned to a live camera.” Said Masha Gessen, a New Yorker colleague to the New York Times.
Toobin isn’t the only person who has made an embarrassing mistake on zoom. Who can forget “Potato Boss,” the viral video of an unlucky boss who held a virtual meeting in Microsoft Teams as a potato because she could not figure out how to turn off the filters. The potato video made America chuckle as millions of people could relate to her struggle as they transitioned to remote work due to Covid-19.
While many celebrities spoke out in Toobin’s defense, Toobin’s mistake isn’t just a routine struggle with technology because even if Toobin mistakenly thought his camera and microphone were off, he still knew he was participating in a work meeting. Forgiving Toobin and permitting him to return could expose his employers to liability; the definition of sexual harassment in the workplace is surely broad enough to encompass masturbating during a work meeting!
The incident also brings up an important ethical debate about the professionalism of remote workers, and a new industry of software that allows employers to monitor their workforce by requiring them to download spyware on their computers.
Have you seen or heard something embarrassing during a video conference? What do you think should happen to Toobin? Would you feel comfortable working with him?