A senior MediaWorks employee engaged in sexual activity with a teenager at a promotional event after she'd been served drinks all evening and became "heavily intoxicated", a wide-ranging review into the company says.
No staff at the 2019 event intervened and the young woman said she was left with "serious psychological harm", a report by Maria Dew QC found.
Dew today released an executive summary of findings in her independent workplace conduct review after speaking with 100 current MediaWorks staff, 25 former staff and the young female who was a guest at the 2019 promo event.
Dew also surveyed 480 people at MediaWorks, which owns radio stations and ran TV3 before its sale last year.
The review also uncovered six allegations of sexual assault, a harmful "Boys' Club" culture, bullying and harassment.
MediaWorks has acknowledged it failed to "respond adequately to complaints of misconduct" today. A post on the Beneath the Glass Ceiling Instagram site says chief executive Cam Wallace made three apologies in the first 10 minutes of his address to staff.
Wallace described the review as a "pivotal moment in MediaWorks' history".
"I would like to unreservedly apologise on behalf of MediaWorks to current and former staff for MediaWorks' failures over the past years to inadequately respond to complaints of misconduct, and for the harm that this has caused," he said in a statement.
He said MediaWorks had clear direction for creating long-term change and would move forward with all 32 recommendations from the workplace review.
An action plan to addressing the recommednations would be unveiled by the company in spring, Wallace said.
"The harmful aspects of the MediaWorks culture cannot be denied or minimised by the leadership of MediaWorks. There is simply too much evidence," Dew said.
Dew found most review participants believe that a very dominant "Boys' Club" has been in play for many years within MediaWorks.
The report says "only a small group of MediaWorks employees came forward ... to say they did not see anything wrong with the culture".
"They believed it was only a small number of disgruntled staff complaining on social media or in this review. These participants were generally MediaWorks managers (mostly male but some female also) who had been with the business for many years and generally saw those few unhappy people as not 'cut out' for the industry," Dew said.
Dew said many people she interviewed were afraid for their careers and that certain managers didn't know they had spoken out.
Dew said the survey results showed that 26 per cent of female and 17 per cent of male survey participants "had witnessed some form of sexual harassment in the last three years".
The survey also revealed 18 per cent of female survey participants had experienced some form of sexual harassment.
"The conduct described by interview participants disturbingly included four serious allegations of sexual assault on females in the past three years and two historic sexual assault allegations. In each case, the female reported that either it was not dealt with adequately by MediaWorks at the time or they did not feel safe to make a complaint," Dew said.
Dew said "younger females reported that the older or more senior males did not appreciate that the 'smile of acceptance' at work or the 'friendly reply' on social media is not encouragement. It is more often that the junior female is unable to rebuff the offensive or uncomfortable conduct, as they do not want to risk offending the senior male who may hold influence over their role at work."
Dew said 45 per cent of females surveyed and 34 per cent of males have witnessed some form of bullying.
"While the reports of bullying were high, it appears to mainly relate to specific managers or senior employees in the Radio Brands and sales teams. This was reported as behaviour that has gone unchecked by MediaWorks on the basis that 'that is just how they are' or 'that's just radio'," she said.
Four matters were referred from the Dew report for independent employment investigation. These have now commenced or are already completed.
Wallace said in his statement the terms of reference for the investigation "provided Maria Dew QC to exercise her discretion to admit participants outside the three-year period, where she considered it warranted. They also provided for any serious allegations to be referred for a separate external employment investigation. During the review, several participants did disclose matters of this nature, with employees encouraged to come forward with their complaints so they could be the subject of an external independent employment investigation. There were six employment investigations which have either concluded or are still being worked through."
Included are allegations of illegal drugs at a MediaWorks function, bullying and pressure to perform unpaid work, harassment by a work colleague and an Inappropriate workplace relationship between a senior male and a junior female team member.
Dew wrote that she had referred two further matters to MediaWorks to commence independent employment investigations. These involve alleged sexist and bullying conduct as well as sexual harassment by a work colleague.
The report recommended MediaWorks provide an apology and make amends to the young female guest for the failure to keep her safe at the 2019 promo event and for its handling of her complaint.
Sex between senior staffer and 19yo guest at promo event
A senior MediaWorks employee engaged in sexual activity with a young woman at a promotional event, the report reveals.
The young woman shared her social media post about the incident with Dew and came forward to be interviewed. In the social media post she said she was 19.
The teenager - a guest at a MediaWorks promotional 2019 event - was heavily intoxicated after being served drinks during the event.
The senior MediaWorks staffer was 20 years older than the woman.
The woman woke up the next day "unable to fully recall the events of that evening" and did not recall the sexual conduct.
"On returning to Auckland later that day, she became distressed and sought medical attention and Police advice. She also contacted the male employee to confirm the extent of the sexual conduct between them
"Since that time, the woman has reported suffering with serious psychological harm caused by the events of that evening and needing specialist counselling over a lengthy period. The impact of that evening has been significant for her.
"The respondent denies any unlawful conduct but accepts and regrets the harm caused to the young woman by events that evening. He states this was an isolated incident by him."
It was not until the father of the woman approached the company chief executive that the matter was taken further, Dew's report said.
"As a result, the employee was suspended from work and MediaWorks commenced an internal investigation. During a meeting with the young woman, MediaWorks offered an apology, and she was asked if she was open to the male employee contacting her, if he wanted to make an apology.
"There was a short internal investigation conducted by MediaWorks People & Culture. There was no written report of the investigation ever made by MediaWorks. The investigation concluded with an oral discussion, between key senior executives, that the male employee's conduct did not warrant termination. However, some formal consequences were imposed on the employee.
"The young woman was not informed of the outcome of her complaint until she followed up with MediaWorks. The young woman was deeply upset with MediaWorks' response but did not have the resource or will to pursue the matter further."
Dew said in her assessment, the promotional event and the company's response were "poorly managed, with serious consequences for the young female".
This included the lack of host responsibility, communication around behaviour beforehand, the way the complaint was handled, the lack of expertise of the MediaWorks People and Culture team, and the lack of support for the complainant.
"The failings... are not of just one individual but a collective responsibility of the senior management team involved. The CEO and ultimately the Board at the time , all had some involvement in the decision-making.
"The poor management of this incident, in the face of staff knowledge of the issues has damaged trust and confidence in the leadership of MediaWorks."
The report recommended MediaWorks provide an apology and make amends to the young female guest for the failure to keep her safe at the 2019 promotional event and for its handling of her complaint after the event.
It said the leadership of the People & Culture (P&C) function should be strengthened with senior and experienced leadership with knowledge and skills in organisational development, employee relations and culture change.
The report also called for the P&C team to receive funding to deal with sensitive sexual complaints or other serious misconduct allegations, by way of an external independent complaint service and external independent investigation when required.
As well as this policies on bullying prevention, host responsibility at work social functions and workplace relationships were advised.
MediaWorks was also asked to stop referring to on air workers as "talent", as the report said all roles at the business require talent and the description is seen as a marker of the "old" culture that staff want to change.
What interviewees told Dew:
• "No female is given a leg up. There is an attitude of 'you are one of the sons or you're not'. There is the inner-circle and females don't get let into that circle.
• "Yes, it was a Boys' Club. I was disturbed at the way younger women were talked to. They were not given the same opportunities as males".
• "Only hire hot," referring to female applicants for roles.
• "Boys, this is why you don't hire mums."
• "There are constant gross comments made by men while working promos. Derogatory language like 'slut ' and 'hoe' is used in the office."
• Manager comments that they cannot have a radio show with two female announcers and only one male because "the show will be too bitchy" or "Don't hire a female as she'll get knocked up in five minutes."
The full report can be read here:
Where to get help:
• If it's an emergency and you feel that you or someone else is at risk, call 111.
• If you've ever experienced sexual assault or abuse and need to talk to someone call the confidential crisis helpline
on: 0800 044 334 or text 4334.
• Alternatively contact your local police station
• If you have been abused, remember it's not your fault.