EXCLUSIVE: CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves will find himself held accountable to a “zero tolerance” policy towards sexual harassment that Moonves himself called for in a company-wide email sent to all employees last year.
Deadline got hold of the sexual harassment policy sent in a March 9, 2017 email. CBS’ strength comes from the caliber of employees it attracts, Moonves noted. The company is committed to providing every employee with a professional work environment that’s free of discrimination and harassment, he wrote.
“Simply put,” Moonves wrote, “CBS has a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination or sexual harassment in our company or related businesses. At every level of the organization, we are all responsible for treating each other in a fair, objective manner and for supporting the Company’s Affirmative Action and EEO policies and practices. And I hold all our managers accountable in this regard.”
Moonves’ own conduct will now be measured against that standard.
The company’s board of directors voted today to retain an outside counsel to conduct an independent investigation of sexual misconduct allegations raised in a New Yorker magazine expose by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Ronan Farrow.
Moonves will remain on the job, while the third-party conducts its probe.
Six women have accused the powerful television executive of unwanted sexual overtures that span decades, saying they suffered professionally after rebuffing his advances. Actress and writer Illeana Douglas told The New Yorker she was fired from a series and told that she would never work at the network again.
CBS’ policy spells out the range of subtle and not-so-subtle behaviors that constitute sexual harassment, such as “unwanted sexual advances” and “touching.” Other out-of-bounds behavior includes verbal abuse of a sexual nature, comments about a person’s body or sexual prowess, insulting or obscene gestures and display of sexually suggestive objects or pictures (including those sent by email).
The anti-harassment policy prohibits such conduct “in the workplace and in any work-related setting outside the workplace” including business related-social events. It also covers employees who engage in harassment via email, voicemail or audio or video devices.
CBS’s policies cover not only employees but also to job applicants. It prohibits retaliation against anyone who reports discrimination and harassment, calling that a “serious violation” of the policy which, like harassment itself, is “subject to disciplinary action.”
“CBS strongly urges the reporting of all incidents of discrimination, harassment or retaliation, regardless of the offender’s identity or position,” the policy notes.
The media company, like any other, spells out the procedures for reporting an incident, bringing complaints to their immediate supervisor, department head, senior manager or human resources. CBS said it strongly urges prompt reporting of complaints or concerns “so that rapid and constructive action can be taken.”
“CBS will make every effort to stop alleged harassment before it becomes severe or pervasive,” the company pledges. “But can only do so with the cooperation of its staff/employees.”
The policy calls for a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of any reported allegation, and outlines a range of responses to misconduct, from a warning or reprimand to withholding of a promotion to reassignment to termination.
“Together, we create great content, attract quality audiences and maintain a forward-thinking, collaborative work environment,” Moonves wrote. “Without your loyalty and hard work, our Company simply cannot be the leader in media that it is … A diverse and healthy workforce is crucial to our success.”
Moonves said CBS is committed to providing all the tools employees need to succeed.
“We want every employee to enjoy recognition for great work, be in a positive work setting and have tolerance and respect for the backgrounds, experiences and perspectives of their co-workers,” Moonves wrote. “We believe it all starts with the basics: ensuring equal employment opportunity without discrimination or harassment.”
Moonves’ email was distributed company-wide months before The Washington Post published a story in which eight women accused former CBS This Morning co-host Charlie Rose of interactions with the journalist, ranging from groping to lewd comments to walking around naked in front of employees.