Vox Media Removes Open Bar From Holiday Party Amid Fears of Sexual Harassment



Vox Media told its employees on Thursday that it will not have an open bar at this year's holiday party amid the flood of recent sexual harassment allegations levied against individuals at media companies—including Vox.

In an invitation sent out to Vox Media's New York staff, the company explained that, "instead of an open bar, each attendee will receive two drink tickets with which they can get alcoholic drinks if they choose," HuffPost reported. After attendees are given two drink tickets, only non-alcoholic drinks will be available.

Vox explained in the email that the change is to help curb any potential "unprofessional behavior."

The invitation comes after Vox fired its editorial director, Lockhart Steele, last month after a former employee published a blog post on Medium in which she accused a former unnamed boss of sexual harassment. The employee did not name Vox in her piece but did say she had reported multiple incidents to colleagues to little avail.

"I was fired a month later due to lack of productivity. No longer fearful of losing my job, I reached out to a few of the people I had worked with. I reported what had happened with the VP," the employee wrote. "A year later, I found out that an investigation had been done. That he had multiple victims within the company. That his punishment was being told he could not drink at corporate events any longer. He had too many shares in the company. There was nothing they could do."

Vox Media has hired an outside law firm to investigate sexual harassment allegations within the company.

Here is the text of Vox's email invitation sent out Thursday:

Hello all,

We invite you and a guest to join us at Vox Media’s holiday party on December 12 at Freehold. Details are in the invite – please click to RSVP by Wednesday, December 6th.

A note on alcohol at this event: This year, at the request of many of you, we will ramp up the food and cut down on the drinks. There will be more passed hors d’oeuvres to keep everyone well-fed. And instead of an open bar, each attendee will receive two drink tickets with which they can get alcoholic drinks if they choose. After that only non-alcoholic drinks will be available.

We recognize that even though alcohol isn’t always the reason for unprofessional behavior, creating an environment that encourages overconsumption certainly contributes to it. We hope that you all appreciate the spirit of this change and we look forward to celebrating with you!

Sincerely, The Experiential Team

Vox Media did not return HuffPost‘s request for comment.

The party invitation keeps in line with a memo that Vox CEO Jim Bankoff sent to staffers on Nov. 3 listing a number of initiatives aimed at improving the company's work culture. One of the initiatives was to consider "tighter policies around alcoholic beverages at company events and meetings and generally ensuring work events and interactions meet the highest standard of professionalism."

Here is the email that Bankoff sent last month:

I have asked Erin Bakst, who heads our People Operations group, to lead efforts to assemble and execute a plan that will evaluate, initiating and/or strengthening the following and other efforts:

  • Continued push for diversity and inclusion at all levels of the company
  • Continued iteration on our Code of Conduct as we listen to employees and learn from other organizations with values consistent with ours
  • Implementing and exploring initiatives to ensure that the Code of Conduct and company values become embedded into our culture and practices including, but not limited to:
    • Increased professional development training and resources for managers and employees
    • Increased resources and training for those recruiting and on-boarding new employees
    • Mandatory anti-harassment training for all employees
    • Mandatory Code of Conduct training for managers
  • Specific procedures around how to escalate complaints regarding Vox employees or others in our professional ecosystem (clients, partners, vendors, sources, etc.) when needed, while protecting those coming forward. Some of these are currently spelled out in our Code of Conduct and our Employee Handbook, but we will evaluate how we can make them more specific and train managers accordingly.
  • Increased training and development for our legal and people teams around best practices leading inquiries and investigations
  • Tighter policies around alcoholic beverages at company events and meetings and generally ensuring work events and interactions meet the highest standard of professionalism
  • Provide clarity to managers and employees regarding consensual relationships among co-workers

UPDATED 3:05 P.M.: This story was updated to clarify that the former Vox employee who accused a co-worker of sexual harassment had first reached out to colleagues to little avail, not to a human relations department as was originally stated.

Charles Russell

Charles Russell   Email Charles | Full Bio | RSS
Charles Russell is a Media Analyst for the Washington Free Beacon. Before joining the Beacon he worked at America Rising and has spent several years on multiple campaigns. Charles can be reached at russell@freebeacon.com, his twitter handle is @charleswrussell.

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