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The Billy Graham rule and the modern law firm

Randy Evans and Shari Klevens write, "Billy Graham, the 'Pastor to the Presidents,' had a rule: avoid being alone with any woman other than his wife. His maxim became so well known that writers named it the "Billy Graham Rule." Notably, Billy Graham was not the only proponent of the Billy Graham Rule. In an effort to avoid even the appearance of impropriety, some business leaders across the country adopted the rule as their own standard for interacting with members of the opposite sex in the workplace.

With the diversification of law firms, some attorneys decided that following the Billy Graham Rule was the safest strategy for handling interactions between men and women in the workplace. Some male attorneys would refuse to travel with female attorneys and would insist on keeping the office door open when meeting with a female colleague. Likewise, many female attorneys avoided drinks or dinners with male attorneys for fear that the invitation might be misconstrued or might send an unintentional message.

That was the 20th century. There is little question now that bright line rules regarding male-female workplace interactions, like the Billy Graham Rule, resulted in women having fewer opportunities and greater roadblocks to success when working in an environment where men were largely at the top of the organization. Still, some attorneys continue to apply the Billy Graham Rule, or other similar bright-line rules, at a substantial risk.

The federal government and the state of California have enacted laws to address this type of conduct in the workplace. The Fair Employment and Housing Act is the primary California statute prohibiting employment discrimination based on race or color, religion, national origin or ancestry, physical disability, mental disability or medical condition, marital status, sex or sexual orientation, age and pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions. Its federal counterpart is Section 703(d) of the Civil Rights Act.

That the Billy Graham Rule cuts both ways—men never alone with women and women never alone with men—is of little consequence..."  READ MORE>>

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