Were he seeking any other job, Trump would be flagged by H.R.

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump listens as Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton speaks during their presidential town hall debate with at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, October 9, 2016.
Shannon Stapleton | Reuters

Donald Trump describes himself as a businessman. And he says he wants to run the government more like a business.

But would any business hire Mr. Trump?

It isn't a trivial question. Given the Republican presidential nominee's vulgar boasts about sexually assaulting women and trying to coerce a woman to commit adultery with him — among other things — it is hard to believe he could get past the human resources department of a Fortune 500 company.

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Over the last decade, much of corporate America has put in place strict policies to deal with sexual harassment and other offensive behavior, trying to make amends for an abhorrent history of letting such conduct go unchecked (remember "Mad Men"?). Hiring procedures at large companies, particularly for senior positions, include extensive background checks, which typically include interviewing former colleagues and combing through articles, court records and, yes, social media.

Thousands of employees have been fired or pushed out for using far less repugnant language than Mr. Trump's words about how he gropes women.

Walmart, the nation's largest employer, with some 2.2 million employees, has explicit policies, for example, that prohibit "sexually explicit language, off-color jokes, remarks about a person's body" as well as "using slurs or negative stereotyping," "verbal kidding, teasing or joking" and "intimidating acts, such as bullying or threatening."

By those definitions, it is not clear if Mr. Trump would qualify to be hired as a janitor, let alone a senior executive. A spokesman for Walmart, asked whether Mr. Trump's comments would disqualify him from employment there, said: "We've got a policy of not entertaining hypotheticals."

Mr. Trump has apologized for his language, which he described as "locker room talk." But he used the language while on the job; he was recorded on a live microphone while working to promote "The Apprentice," his popular reality show.

Many actors' and "talent" agreements include a "morality clause" that explicitly makes using such language a fireable offense. Here's the standard, boilerplate language that's often included in such agreements, according to a sample published by Eric Goldman, a professor at Santa Clara University School of Law: "The actor shall not commit any act or do anything which might tend to bring actor into public disrepute, contempt, scandal or ridicule, or which might tend to reflect unfavorably on the network, any sponsor of a program, any such sponsor's advertising agency, any stations broadcasting or scheduled to broadcast a program, or any licensee of the network."

By that definition, an employer might be able to use Mr. Trump's catchphrase: "You're fired."

Something just short of that happened to Billy Bush, the host who played along with Mr. Trump on the 2005 recording. NBC announced his suspension from the "Today" show after the clip surfaced nationally last week. (I should note here that I co-anchor "Squawk Box" on CNBC, which is another unit of NBCUniversal.)

Jack Welch, the former chief executive of General Electric, which owned NBC when Mr. Trump started "The Apprentice," was an impassioned supporter of Mr. Trump's presidential campaign before the lewd comments were made public. Afterward, he took to Twitter to say, "Party must change nominee now."

Jack Welch tweet

Mr. Trump says the country has become "too politically correct." His surrogates, like Rudy Giuliani, have defended him by saying he shouldn't be held accountable because he wasn't running for president when he made those statements over a decade ago.

But times have changed. The days of corporate America and Wall Street as swashbuckling, cigar-chomping, liquor-swilling — and female harassing — playgrounds à la the 1980s and '90s are long over. Susan Antilla wrote a book, "Tales From the Boom-Boom Room: Women vs. Wall Street," that chronicled a pattern of horrific behavior at Smith Barney. The tale ended with $150 million in awards and settlements.

Mr. Trump's casual line on the 2005 tape — "When you're a star, they let you do it, you can do anything" — reminded me of a passage from an interview Mrs. Antilla conducted earlier this year for The Times, in which she quoted Lisa Mays, a Smith Barney executive involved in the suit, about how she had been cornered by a male co-worker. "Before I knew it, he was lifting my skirt to get into my tights, and I was begging him to stop," Ms. Mays said, adding that it had quickly ended when another employee arrived. "And then, he just walked away like nothing happened."

Mr. Trump says his words were just words, and that he has never assaulted any women.

Still, that's not the standard to qualify for a job — either in the private sector, or as the highest official in the land.

"It would be a significant risk for a Fortune 500 company to bring in someone like this," said Tom Spiggle, a former prosecutor who is now a discrimination lawyer who has sounded the alarm about Mr. Trump on social media. "It could be a tremendous liability," he added.

Lawyers say that hiring Mr. Trump now could pose huge problems for a company because if an employee were to ever accuse him of harassment, his earlier comments could be used not only to show a pattern, but also that the company was aware of the issue when it signed him on. "We have these statements," Mr. Spiggle said, adding that if he were litigating such a case, "We'd use them all day long. It doesn't matter it was 11 years ago."