Even though its media production has been hailed as the wave of the future, Vice Media‘s workplace culture has been outed as sexist and misogynistic, according to a recent report from The New York Times.
The Times released the latest in an ongoing series of reports about sexual harassment in the American media today, this time targeting the culture at punk rock-esque media giant turned Disney-partnering production company Vice.
The profile, which involved interviews with more than 100 Vice employees, past and present—revealed a number of harassment settlements the company has made over the years, mostly with women who alleged that superiors pressured them into sexual relationships, and then punished them when they refused those advances.
The investigation uncovered four settlements for alleged sexual harassment and defamation against the Brooklyn-based media company’s employees, including its president, Andrew Creighton.
Some of the blame for these incidents has also been placed on the company’s co-founder and current CEO, Shane Smith, who helped create and propagate its culture of calculated cool in the early 2000s. Although Smith has largely cleaned up his act in recent years; no longer looking “to get wasted, take coke and have sex with girls in the bathroom,” as he once spoke of his younger self—the picture painted of his company is still of one where cultivated debauchery, especially by male employees, was a sought-after part of the brand.
The allegations include unwanted advances, faced kissing and groping from Vice’s former news editor and a retaliatory firing of a woman who refused a relationship with Creighton.
The Times report suggests that Vice, which now has its own TV network, along with production deals with big channels like HBO, has worked over the last year to curb harassment complaints, at least in part because company management knew the Times piece was in the works.
The company recently fired a few employees, including the former head of its documentary film unit, Jason Mojica, who’d been named in multiple harassment accounts. (Meanwhile, back at the time of the incidents, they were reportedly brushed off by the company’s HR department as guys like Mojica just “making a pass” at subordinates, trivial events that women “should just forget about it and laugh it off.”)
Vice recently appointed feminist icon Gloria Steinem, who has her own show on Viceland, to its new “Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board” in a ditch effort to change attitudes toward the corporation. The company also released a statement on its culture to employees and the public at large, admitting that “The truth is inescapable: 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.”