Thursday, May 10, 2018

NBC News takes the unprecedented step to release its internal Matt Lauer harassment report

Image by Max Goldberg via Wiki Commons
Yesterday morning, NBC News released the complete report into its months long investigation of Matt Lauer.

I was astounded by NBC’s transparency. It is extraordinarily rare for a private company to release an internal investigative report of one of its employees. In fact, it runs counter to conventional wisdom that harassment investigations should be kept as confidential as possible under the circumstances. Perhaps the combination of NBC’s status as a news agency and the high profile nature of the allegations spurred its decision.

According to the report:
  • “The investigation team found credible the four complainants’ allegations that Lauer engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.”
  • “The team also found credible the statements of NBC News and Today Show leadership, News HR and others in positions of authority in the News Division, as well as numerous other News and Today Show employees, that they did not know about his behavior.”
  • “The investigation team also found that Lauer frequently engaged in sexual banter or joking in open working environments with other employees present or in a position to overhear his comments. While the nature and frequency of that conduct did not rise to the level of creating a hostile work environment, and no witnesses described it as such, it may have contributed to an atmosphere where some employees who may have had concerns assumed nothing would be done to address them, particularly given Lauer’s perceived importance to the News Division.”
  • “The investigation team does not believe that there is a current widespread or systemic pattern of behavior that violates Company policy or a current culture of harassment in the News Division.”

Despite the lack of a “systemic pattern of behavior” or a “current culture of harassment,” the report made the following three recommendations, each of which falls under the category “Best Practices” for any employer:
  1. Improve Training  — “Although a vast majority of the News Division completed the mandatory online “Preventing Workplace Harassment” training when it was last offered, the investigation team recommended interactive in-person training for the entire News Division shortly after the investigation began in order to jump start a shared knowledge of behavioral expectations in the workplace and a deeper understanding of complaint reporting channels and investigation procedures.”

  2. Improve Communication from Management — “It is also important that News Division leadership consistently set the tone from the top by emphasizing as often as possible the Company’s commitment to a safe and respectful workplace, a willingness to take appropriate action no matter who is involved, and no tolerance for retaliation.”

  3. Improve Use of Reporting Channels — “Within the News Division, steps should be taken to improve the visibility of News HR and their familiarity with the employee base. Employees need to develop confidence that News HR offers a safe space to report concerns and will act as employee advocates when necessary and appropriate. We also recommend considering whether additional independent reporting channels should be established for the News Division specifically until the level of comfort with existing internal channels improves. Of course, the investigation team will remain available to hear concerns from News Division employees at any time.”

You can read the full report here [pdf].