VICE was founded 23 years ago as a punk magazine exploring the subversive culture that the founders, the magazine's contributors and readers were part of. Since then, we have grown into a media company that operates in dozens of countries and is home to thousands of the industry's most talented journalists, producers and content creators.
However, as our company has evolved, our workplace culture has fallen short. We acknowledge this, which is why we have committed ourselves to making the changes necessary to create an inclusive workplace where all our employees can flourish, while being safe and respected.
Our focus right now is listening to our employees and addressing their needs. These changes do not happen overnight, and we have undertaken a number of steps over the past year.
These include: achieving pay parity by the end of 2018, hiring a new global Head of HR (Susan Tohyama), tightening standards and practices, updating reporting processes for any inappropriate behavior, restructuring and diversifying the company's board of directors, implementing sensitivity training in the workplace, and forming an advisory board to work with management and employees to evaluate company culture and make any necessary changes.
Actions also include actively investigating allegations of inappropriate conduct that are brought to our attention.
Today Susan Tohyama, VICE's Chief Human Resources Officer, gave VICE employees the following update around developments in the workplace.
I wanted to update everyone here on the work I’ve been doing since joining the company four weeks ago. In that time, a handful of workplace complaints have been brought to my attention, and we launched thorough investigations into all of them. Today we took disciplinary action, including terminating three employees. The conduct of these employees ranged from verbal and sexual harassment to other behavior that is inconsistent with our policies, our values, and the way in which we believe colleagues should work together.
I know a few people have asked for specifics concerning both the complaints and the discipline we have taken. I believe the confidentiality of the process is necessary to protect all those who wish to bring allegations to me and to create a fair, safe and inclusive environment for all employees.
I’ve been trying to get to meet as many of you as possible over the last four weeks. I’m grateful for the honest feedback and thoughtful suggestions I’ve received and I very much understand your concerns. The proof that we’re turning the page and starting a new chapter lies in the changes we’ve already undertaken, the promise of the Advisory Board and its recommendations, and the hard work we’ve undertaken since I’ve arrived to investigate and take action on workplace-related complaints.
I want to be sure everyone knows what the process is for investigating complaints. I am very serious about ensuring that this company’s policies and procedures are consistent with the best practices in the HR industry. You’re all too talented and engaged to accept anything less, and to be frank, I’ve spent more than 20 years practicing HR, and the reputation I’ve built is too important to me to work in a company that is not the gold standard of these practices.
What’s more, the procedures that are in place for the investigation of complaints have been reviewed and approved by the new Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board. It was important to me -- and to them -- that we investigate complaints in a manner consistent with the company’s zero tolerance policy.
I want everyone to know what the process is for investigating complaints. Below is a clear, easy-to-follow roadmap of how the process works:
Complaints about anything that makes you uncomfortable can be reported in three ways:
1. You can inform your manager, who is obligated to escalate the complaint to HR. 2. You can inform any member of the HR team or the General Counsel. 3. You can anonymously report inappropriate conduct using our hotline, which transcribes complaints and automatically sends them to HR and the General Counsel’s office.
Once a complaint is received, we make an initial determination as to whether the factual investigation into the complaint should be handled within HR or by an external, independent investigator. In light of the need for speed and efficiency, we’ve used an outside investigator for each of the investigations that we’ve launched since I’ve arrived at the company. That may not be the case as we increase the headcount of my team, but for now, we are relying on the expertise of outside investigators.
Generally, VICE HR handles the first conversation with an employee who has reported a complaint. Then the investigator gets involved. The purpose of the investigator is to develop a clear, objective picture of the facts underlying the complaint. The investigator will follow the evidence, reaching out to speak with anyone involved or any potential witnesses – inside and outside of the company – and gathering any other materials or documents deemed relevant or necessary.
All of the fact-finding is done directly by the investigator. At the conclusion of his or her work, the investigator provides a confidential report summarizing and consolidating all information.
Following the submission of the report, we make a decision about the appropriate action or discipline to be taken. This decision is made by the CHRO (me) and the General Counsel. No other members of management are consulted. This process is designed to ensure that determinations are fair and are not in any way affected by relationships, seniority, or hierarchy.
Discipline can take a variety of forms and is documented in employees’ personnel files. Actions taken could include warnings, suspensions, and terminations. All this information can be found in the Employee Handbook.
In closing, I want to say again how important it is that you report any inappropriate conduct that you’ve experienced or witnessed. Using the procedures outlined above, we will investigate all allegations and take all necessary action against those who violate our policies. But we can’t do any of that without hearing from you. Working together we can move forward to ensure this is an inclusive, fair, safe, creative and fun place to be.
I hope this answers some questions. I'll be working with Sarah and others over the coming weeks to respond to additional questions as we move forward.