Former Wormtown Employees Explore Legal Options; BrewDog’s B Corp Status At Risk

Two former employees of Wormtown Brewery in Worcester, Massachusetts, are exploring their legal options after alleged sexual harassment and racially charged comments by fellow staff members, according to The Boston Globe.

Nearly all members of Wormtown’s ownership group stepped down from their day-to-day roles in the company last month, with the exception of co-founder Ben Roesch, after the brewery was named several times in a collection of workplace discrimination and sexual harrasment and assault claims submitted to and published by Brienne Allan, production manager for Notch Brewing, on her Instagram account (@ratmagnet).

Former taproom employees Kate Mastro and Sarah Gibbons told The Globe that this toxic culture not only exists at Wormtown, but that management is unable to police themselves, and detailed specific incidents in which Roesch allegedly was involved. Ashley Pileika, the attorney for Gibbons and Mastro, sent a letter to Wormtown earlier this month outlining their allegations and indicating that she was prepared to file a lawsuit.

Mastro and Gibbons have alleged that they were compensated less than their male colleagues, and faced descrimination when trying to advance, while male employees were held to different standards that led to what Gibbons described as “a culture where crass (or worse) statements could be made in the presence of employees without penalty.”

Mastro, who is Asian American, said Roesch specifically targeted her ethinic background, allegedly telling the former bartender that “the company should brew a rice beer in her honor and call it ‘Me So Thirsty.’” She also shared incidents in which other employees made sexually charged comments to women working, including an incident at a Pink Boots event celebrating women in the beery industry, The Globe reported.

Gibbons alleged that Roesch told her she was “literally the bottom of the totem pole,” at the company, while another male employee “jokingly” said to her: “doesn’t it suck that I make more money than you.”

Both Mastro and Gibbons said they grew so uncomfortable at work that they had to seek therapy to deal with the stress.

Scott Metzger, Wormtown’s general manager, told The Globe, that the allegations made by Gibbons and Mastro were not previously reported to the company, and if they had been, they “would have investigated them immediately.”

BrewDog’s B Corp Status In Jeopardy, Co-Founder James Watt Apologizes

BrewDog’s B Corp certification is under review by B Lab after the New York-based certification administrator received a complaint from a former employee stating the company failed to conduct business “as if people matter,” and without “causing significant harm through their business practices,” according to The Times.

The move comes after an open letter, now signed by 300 former BrewDog staff members calling themselves Punks with Purpose, was published last week accusing the company “built on a cult of personality” of allegedly having “unmanageable” and “damaging” work expectations, falsifying achievements on social media, and touting eco-friendly goals while causing ecology harm.

“I am ultimately responsible for the culture of our business,” BrewDog co-founder and CEO James Watt wrote in a statement on LinkedIn Thursday. “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.”

In his response, Watt detailed the company’s plans to address the concerns expressed by past employees, including:

  • Conducting an anonymous survey through an independent agency, which will be used to determine key aspects of the company needing improvement;
  • Conducting a full review of department leadership structures;
  • Conducting exit interviews in the next two weeks with everyone who has left the company in the past 12 months, as well as with all future “leavers;”
  • Holding annual salary reviews that were postponed “as a results of the ongoing impact of COVID lockdown;”
  • Forming an employee representative group.

“These are just the first steps, and we’ll keep everyone updated with further actions that result from this listening and learning phase. The correct way to approach this situation is to focus all our energy on how we can use this as a platform to think differently, challenging ourselves to build a team and company that we can all continue to be very proud to be a part of,” Watt continued. “Although this situation hurts a lot, I am determined to ensure that we use it as a catalyst to become a better business.”

While B Labs “does not comment publicly on details of open cases,” B Corp UK responded to the allegations on Twitter Tuesday: “We take seriously any material, credible, and specific claims that may indicate a B Corp is not operating in alignment with this vision.

“Identifying and investigating allegations of misconduct by B Corps is essential to maintaining the integrity and value of the B Corp certification and our formal public complaints procedure is an integral part of the review and verification process,” the Twitter thread continued.

Retailers Begin to Respond to Beer Industry Misconduct Allegations

Alewife Bottleshop and Tasting Room in Jacksonville, Florida, will no longer sell beers from suppliers accused of misogyny and misconduct, according to First Coast News.

Kelly Pickard, who owns the Five Points neighborhood retailer, told the local news station that she could not support businesses with allegations against them.

“It’s our responsibility that the products on our shelves are matching the own culture we are trying to put out there and create in our own space,” she told First Coast.

Pickard did not disclose specifically which offerings were pulled from sale.