On Sunday night, the attorney general of New York filed a 38-page suit against the Weinstein Company and its founders, describing “vicious and exploitative mistreatment of company employees.” Also, Nancy Ashbrooke, a New York-based human resources professional who was vice president of Miramax’s ineffectual HR department in the ‘90s and was later accused of covering up sexual harassment at Vice, probably walked into her latest office with a bad case of the Mondays.
While Ashbrooke isn’t named in the the lawsuit addressing Weinstein’s horrific decades-long pattern of sexual abuse and cover-up, a person would have had to have been quite obtuse not to notice any “unprofessional” behavior as the vice president of HR at the Miramax company between 1991 and 2000—a time during which the once-acclaimed producer allegedly assaulted and raped a number of women, including assistants and people who worked for the firm, as well as paid them out hefty settlements to buy silence.
Even employees who insist they had no idea about the abuse recall a “toxic” environment at Miramax; a New York Times story describes the company’s HR reporting structures as being considered so “weak” that female employees sometimes chaperoned each other to meetings.
But perhaps such willful blindness could be expected from a person who told the Columbia Journalism Review in 2015 that Vice Media hadn’t “had any cases of sexual harassment to deal with.” As the global director of HR at Vice from 2014 until 2017, Ashbrooke repeatedly quashed reports of assault and harassment, as alleged in December’s New York Times story about the company. According to various employees, Ashbrooke told women a single incident wasn’t enough to file a report, blamed harassment on an employee’s level of attractiveness, and told assaulted employees to “forget about it and laugh it off.”
It appears Ashbrooke left the company in the months during which the long-rumored Vice expose was being reported. And it also seems she managed to get a new job after she departed: as the vice president of human resources at Systemax, a beleaguered consumer technology and e-commerce company with a history of fraud, money-laundering, and run-ins with the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to Glassdoor, the average salary for such a position is around $160,000.
Haven’t we gotten to the point in the conversation where we are looking at this systemically, and considering ousting not just the men, but the people who are happy to take their money and look the other way?
And who, in this environment, would think it’s a good idea to hire a HR professional with a history of glossing over women’s complaints about harassment?