A wide-ranging investigation by The New York Times published Saturday found that there have been at least four settlements with regard to sexual harassment at Vice Media going back a decade.
A statement released to the newspaper from Vice co-founders Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi acknowledged problems at the company. “From the top down, we have failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive,” according to the statement (which can be viewed in full on Vice.com). Neither Smith nor Alvi are directly accused of any misconduct in the article.
Over 20 women were subject to or witnessed other employees experiencing sexual harassment, according to the piece. Vice’s current president, Andrew Creighton, paid $135,000 to a former Vice employee after she alleged she was terminated after rejecting his suggestion they have a romantic relationship.
While Vice is just the latest in a long series of media businesses tarnished by multiple allegations, the company’s issues with sexual harassment are somewhat unique in that most of its management is relatively young and has always cultivated a libertine culture as part of its corporate ethos.
“To be clear, it was not any kind of intentional, company-level systemic bias,” the statement reads. “This doesn’t excuse our mistakes, but we hope it gives you confidence in our desire and ability to get it right.”
The company also previously made employees sign a “non-traditional workplace agreement” that stated, “I do not find such text, images or information or the workplace environment at Vice to be offensive, indecent, violent or disturbing.” The agreement, which is no longer in use, was interpreted by some as providing cover for sexual harassment, an allegation the company denied.
Vice, which counts Disney, 21st Century Fox and A+E Networks, among its investors, has made moves in recent months to fix its problems, including dismissing a supervisor, Jason Mojica, who was accused of retaliating against another former employee after they engaged in a sexual relationship.
Earlier this month, Vice signaled it had fired three employees stemming from violations to its workplace policies.
As journalists including The New York Times circled the company, Vice moved to form a diversity and inclusion advisory board, updated its policies pertaining to sexual harassment and hired a new head of human resources who is working with an independent investigator to look into current or previous allegations brought to the company’s attention.
But the company’s efforts to clean up its act has not gone smoothly. A “state of the union” event held for employees in November drew criticism after the subject of sexual harassment was not addressed.
Currently valued at approximately $6 billion, Vice received a $450 million infusion in capital from TPG earlier this year.
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