Jason Mojica, head of Vice Media’s documentary films unit, has been put on leave as the company looks into his interactions with an employee who alleges she was sexually harassed, Variety has confirmed.
A Vice rep declined to comment. Asked for comment, Mojica said in an email, “Nobody has suggested to me that I’ve been suspended.” He did not provide further comment.
Mojica, in a Daily Beast report published Wednesday, was accused of making sexually charged jokes to a former Vice producer, who left the company last year. The ex-employee, Phoebe Barghouty, also said that Mojica waved off her concerns about Kaj Larsen, previously Vice News’ L.A. bureau chief, whom she said had engaged in repeated sexually inappropriate behavior toward her.
Vice said it launched an investigation into the claims after the Daily Beast story came out.
In the Daily Beast article — which painted a picture of a pervasive culture at Vice of hostility toward women — Barghouty claimed that Mojica once asked her how “flexible” she was. That was allegedly after Mojica cited Vice’s nontraditional workplace agreement, which requires employees to agree that they will not object to “offensive, indecent, violent or disturbing” material they are exposed to in the workplace. (Mojica denied to the Daily Beast the exchange occurred.)
Barghouty also said she told Mojica, who was ViceNews.com’s editor-in-chief at the time, about Larsen’s behavior toward her, including her claim that Larsen touched her inappropriately at work. According to her account, Mojica responded that “you just have to deal with that” because Vice News employs “sociopaths” who are willing to travel into war zones, the Daily Beast reported.
Vice has defended the “nontraditional workplace agreement” employee contract. The company says such agreements are not unique to Vice and that it in no way sanctions sexual harassment or biased treatment of employees. “A nontraditional workplace agreement is often used by companies to certify employees’ comfort with content that could be considered edgy,” a company rep said in an emailed statement.
Mojica was hired by Vice in 2011 as a producer. Prior to that, he worked for Al Jazeera English in London as a producer and was founder and editor of The Modernist, a publication described as “The online journal of sex, art, and the New Internationalism” (Mojica’s Twitter handle is @elmodernisto).