Vice Media fired three employees for behavior ranging 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,” a company executive said in a memo to employees.
The memo was posted online Thursday night and signed by the company’s newly installed chief human resources officer, Susan Tohyama.
It mentioned “a handful of workplace complaints” that were brought to Tohyama’s attention since she was hired four weeks ago. She did not offer specifics about the complaints, however.
“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,” Tohyama wrote.
A spokesman for Vice declined to comment further and the company did not name the employees who were dismissed. But according to two people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal decisions, the three comprised Jason Mojica, head of Vice’s documentary films unit, as well as an editor and a producer for the company.
Mojica did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Vice, which is based in Brooklyn, New York, began in Canada 23 years ago as a free punk magazine and retained much of its brazen attitude as it evolved into a corporate behemoth with a presence in film production, publishing, music, cable television and more.
Minority owners of Vice include Twenty-First Century Fox and the Walt Disney Co. With the documentary series “Vice News Tonight,” it is also a prominent part of HBO, a Time Warner property.
The company has recently faced questions about its corporate culture. An article by the Daily Beast last month cited complaints from various Vice employees about pervasive sexual harassment in the workplace that were said to be largely ignored by management.
Phoebe Barghouty, a former associate producer at Vice, told The Daily Beast that she repeatedly experienced sexually inappropriate behavior from a Vice bureau chief who is no longer with the company. She said that Mojica, then editor-in-chief of ViceNews.com, brushed off her concerns.
Vice later put Mojica on leave.
Tohyama, who helped lead the National Basketball Association’s human resources team for several years, wrote Thursday that Vice had a “zero tolerance policy” toward inappropriate behavior. “In light of the need for speed and efficiency,” she added, the company turned to outside investigators to look into the complaints.
Vice is the latest media organization to terminate employees over allegations of harassment. In the weeks since accusations of sexual assault against entertainment magnate Harvey Weinstein were made public, similar complaints have caused high-profile media figures such as political journalist Mark Halperin, Matt Lauer of NBC’s “Today” show, CBS and PBS anchor Charlie Rose and others to lose their jobs.
Vice said in a memo accompanying Tohyama’s that, as the company evolved, its “workplace culture has fallen short.” The company pledged to seek pay parity for its male and female employees by the end of 2018 and said that it had started sensitivity training, updated the reporting process for inappropriate behavior, and reshuffled and diversified its board.
Soon after the Daily Beast report was published, Vice announced an advisory board to review corporate policies. Members include Gloria Steinem, whose “Woman” documentary series for Vice was nominated for an Emmy last year; Tina Tchen, who was Michelle Obama’s chief of staff; and Maya Harris, a senior policy adviser for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.