CEO claims allegations that he behaved inappropriately towards staff are 'totally false'
The chief executive of Scottish beer giant Brewdog has announced he’s taking legal action against the BBC for publishing claims that he allegedly behaved inappropriately towards staff. James Watt said on Twitter that the allegations published by BBC are "totally false" and were posted "despite evidence" proving they were not true.
The BBC published claims which are totally false & they published them despite the extensive evidence we provided to demonstrate that they were false.— James Watt (@BrewDogJames) January 24, 2022
Reluctantly, I am now forced to take legal action against the BBC to protect my reputation.
The allegations were published by the BBC in a story online and through its Disclosures programme which aired on Monday night. On the show, 15 ex-workers of the company have come forward with allegations of inappropriate behaviour and abuse of power against Watt. One of the ex-employees claimed she received "unwelcome attention" from the Brewdog CEO, according to BBC's report, with managers also saying they had to schedule female employees to avoid Watt's visits.
Prior to the incidents, the Brewdog CEO was embroiled in a controversy that alleged the workplace was "built on a cult of personality."
The employees then pinned the responsibility for the "rotten culture" on Watt, stating that the company's success was built at the expense of "those who delivered your dreams."
"In the wake of your success are people left burnt out, afraid and miserable. The true culture of Brewdog is, and seemingly always has been, fear," added the letter.
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It was signed by almost 300 former and current employees last year, prompting a response from Watt himself, who took responsibility for the workplace culture there.
"I am ultimately responsible for the culture of our business. The letter that ex-colleagues wrote to us is 100% my fault. To all of the signatories and to all of our team and community who were affected by the letter, I am sorry," he said in his LinkedIn response.
Social media backlash
The emergence of the allegations drew backlash against the Brewdog CEO, with some calling for him to step down.
We stand with the workers, @PunksWPurpose and all those who have come forward. If you work in a non-managerial position for BrewDog and need support or advice in your workplace, feel free to contact us. @BrewDogJames it's time to go! #iww #brewdog #bwu https://t.co/lO87F2EspL— Brewery Workers Union (@BreweryUnion) January 24, 2022
Member of Scottish Parliament Murdo Fraser also commended the BBC story that came out.
Very impressive piece of investigative journalism by @BBCMarkDaly tonight looking at @BrewDog - some serious concerns being raised #BBCDisclosure— Murdo Fraser (@murdo_fraser) January 24, 2022
How should HR handle accusations of workplace harassment?
Tom Miller, co-founder and CEO of ClearForce, a cyber and employee risk management company, said that employers should "create an element of trust" in order for staff to report cases of alleged harassment.
Even amid the pandemic, Miller told HRD that employees should still be encouraged to contact HR through email or over phone to report issues regarding their workplaces. They must also ensure that such lines of communication are confidential and will be dealt with accordingly.
"It's essential for employers to find opportunities to bring more channels of communication into this process," Miller told HRD in an interview.