Vice Media said today it is investigating allegations stemming from a Daily Beast report that a manager at the media company sexually harassed a female employee. The story, published today, said it interviewed several current and former Vice employees who claimed the millennial-skewing media company operated in a culture of harassing behavior.
“We do not tolerate harassment, abusive behavior, assault or retaliation and we will discipline anyone who engages in such conduct through a range of actions, including termination, as appropriate. We have immediately begun an investigation into this matter,” a Vice spokesperson said this afternoon.
The Daily Beast report cited former Los Angeles-based associate producer Phoebe Barghouty, who accused then-Los Angeles bureau chief Kaj Larsen of inappropriate touching and behavior after she was hired there in the summer of 2015. She said later she felt he threatened after an exchange between the two after she had gone to human resources with her concerns.
Barghouty also said after she called then-Editor in Chief Jason Mojica to tell him she didn’t want to be in the same room with Larson, Mojica deflected her concerns. “The thing about working in this industry,” Barghouty says Mojica told her, according to the report, “is that we have people going into war zones and the only people willing to do that are sociopaths. And you just have to deal with that because that’s the only kind of person who can get that story.”
Mojica refuted the substance of the call to the Daily Beast, as well as Barghouty’s claim that he asked her if she was “flexible” while they attended an L.A. Press Club event.
Barghouty and Larson are no longer with the company; Larson’s contract was not renewed last year. Mojica is currently heading Vice’s feature documentary unit.
Vice Media has new employees sign a “non-traditional workplace agreement” which states in part that “While working at VICE, I acknowledge that I may be exposed to highly provocative material, some of it containing extremely explicit sexual and controversial content.” But the Vice spokesperson said today the agreement “does not in any way sanction conduct that is disrespectful or biased, and we will investigate all allegations of such behavior, including any incidents where employees purportedly attempted to justify their conduct through the agreement.”
Added the spokesperson: “The nature of Vice’s content runs the gamut, from travelogues and news series to more provocative programming like our shows exploring drug culture, Weediquette and Bong Appétit. A non-traditional workplace agreement is often used by companies to certify employees’ comfort with content that could be considered edgy.
However, it does not in any way sanction conduct that is disrespectful or biased, and we will investigate all allegations of such behavior, including any incidents where employees purportedly attempted to justify their conduct through the agreement. We have immediately begun reviewing this matter.”
Vice’s employee handbook “spells out in no uncertain terms that we do not tolerate harassment, abusive behavior, assault or retaliation and that all accusations of this nature will be subject to an investigation and, as necessary, action will be taken,” the spokesperson said.