A New York Times investigation published Saturday has revealed what most women already knew: it's not just older men who are accused of sexual assault and harassment. In an investigation into claims of widespread sexual misconduct at the millennial-focused Vice Media, the New York Times found Vice has settled at least four sexual harassment lawsuits with payouts totaling at least $184,000. What's more, dozens of women told the newspaper they experienced varying degrees of sexual misconduct while working at the company, which many alleged had fostered a toxic work environment for its female employees.
The Times' investigation into Vice found there wasn't just one or two reported incidents of harassment, assault, or misconduct in the media company's more than two-decade-long lifespan. Rather, the Times found that "as Vice Media has built itself from a fringe Canadian magazine into a nearly $6 billion global media company, its boundary-pushing culture created a workplace that was degrading and uncomfortable for women."
In fact, more than 24 women reported having experienced or witnessed sexually inappropriate behavior while at the company, according to the Times. These behaviors included groping, lewd remarks, unwanted kisses or touching, and propositions for sex, among other things. Among the specific allegations detailed in the Times investigation are claims one female employee was forced to touch a male co-worker's crotch; another was pressured into engaging in a sexual relationship with a more senior executive; and a woman who reported unwanted groping to human resources said she was told to "laugh off" the incidents. Moreover, some of the women the Times spoke with who didn't report having been sexually harassed still claimed the media company treated female employees as inferior to their male colleagues.
According to the Times' investigation, Vice has settled at least four lawsuits involving allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct. The report found that earlier this year, the company settled with one former employee who alleged her supervisor had taken retaliatory actions against her after they'd begun a sexual relationship. The company shelled out $24,000 in January to settle with a woman working in Vice's London office who'd sued over allegations of bullying, sexual harassment, and racial and gender discrimination, according to the Times. The woman, who identifies as mixed race, alleged a Vice producer asked her what color her nipples were and if she slept with black men.
The also company settled a lawsuit for $135,000 involving allegations Vice Media President Andrew Creighton had fired a female employee after she rebuffed his advances, according to theTimes. And in 2003, the company reportedly paid $25,000 to settle a defamation lawsuit with a freelance writer who claimed the media company had tweaked an article she'd written to say that she'd agreed to have sex with a rapper she was interviewing. The writer had rejected the rapper's request in the interview, according to the Times.
In a statement to the newspaper, Vice founders Shane Smith and Suroosh Alvi admitted to having "failed as a company to create a safe and inclusive workplace where everyone, especially women, can feel respected and thrive." The two co-founders went on to acknowledge they'd allowed "a detrimental 'boys club' culture" to go unchecked, which they said in turn "fostered inappropriate behavior that permeated throughout the company."
In a statement reportedly released to both the Times and Vice employees on Saturday, Smith and Alvi also outlined a series of actions the company had recently taken in an effort to "make Vice a better place." Those actions included hiring a new chief human resources officer; committing to pay parity by the end of 2018; rolling out sensitivity training sessions for senior management; dropping a controversial Non-Traditional Workplace Agreement the company had previously made employees sign; and forming a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board, chaired by Roberta Kaplan and including Gloria Steinem.
While its investigation made huge waves, the Times wasn't even the first to dig into allegations that Vice had fostered a toxic work environment for women. In November, the Daily Beast detailed reports of sexual harassment and company inaction when confronted with complaints from female employees. Vice isn't the only media outlet to face allegations of sexual misconduct or harassment in recent days, either: in the wake of a series of stories about Harvey Weinstein's alleged predations, accusations of sexual harassment, assault, or misconduct have been brought against at least one employee at CBS News, NPR, MSNBC, NBC News, and even the Times itself. Still, the number of allegations of inappropriate behavior reported to the Times about Vice testifies to just how problematic the "boy's club" culture the media company fostered truly is.