Modern Times Beer announced new policy changes and initiatives over the weekend, as well as an official launch of its search for a new CEO.
The update outlined seven areas of change being put into effect in the coming weeks — the first steps by the brewery in its “path towards a safe, more inclusive work environment for its employee-owners.”
“We feel that it’s important to maintain the maximum level of transparency regarding these changes not just with the MT team, but with our supporters and community alike,” the blog post published on Friday. “We clearly have a long road ahead, but these initial steps have elicited a new sense of hope for the future of our company.”
Modern Times was named several times in the wave of harassment and discrimination stories that came out this spring, published on the @ratmagnet and @emboldenactadvance Instagram accounts. Complaints alleged a toxic workplace rife with favoritism, harassment, and indifferent management.
One step the company is taking in response is partnering with Engage to Change — an anti-racism and anti-oppression training, facilitation, and consulting group. The group is working in tandem with Modern Times’ Employee Resource Group (ERG) to develop a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) committee as part of the company’s effort to decentralize leadership, according to the blog post. The committee will work with executive leadership on critical topics, including hiring a DEI manager, creating a framework for outreach efforts, and collecting and anonymizing DEI-related feedback for leadership.
Additionally, the company said it has begun the process of adding external members to its board. The first task of the new board will be facilitating the search for a CEO to replace founder Jacob McKean, who announced his resignation on May 18 following complaints that McKean had responded insensitively to internal discussion about antiracism.
“In order to navigate us out of this extremely difficult moment, we need leadership with the skill and experience to handle it effectively. It’s time for a change,” McKean wrote in a blog post.
The search for a new CEO, along with all future open positions, will include additional reference requirements, including mandatory personal and work history reference checks, Modern Times said.
Engage to Change is also facilitating at least four anti-oppression and anti-racism training sessions for Modern Times employees. The first two sessions will be specifically for “people managers.” The company has also partnered with Hollaback, a nonprofit organization to raise awareness about and combat harassment. “Different cross-sections” of the Modern Times team have completed mandatory bystander, de-escalation, and/or street harassment training through Hollaback, with more practically oriented training in development, according to the release.
To address the company’s reported HR problems, it will launch a new reporting system in the next week through STOPit Solutions, which will allow employees to report safety concerns and harassment complaints through an external, anonymous outlet. The system allows employees to submit their concerns through an app, with the option to send their report directly to Van Dermyden Makus Investigations law firm for immediate third-party investigation.
Modern Times said it is also on the verge of releasing a code of conduct for all patrons, which will be posted at its own-premise outlets. The code will detail company expectations for beer club members and other guests and how they should interact with staff members. The company ensured that employees have “the full authority and support of the company” to remove guests who violate conduct rules, and encouraged them to report any incidents with the STOPit reporting tool.
The company has also begun updating it’s HR database of payroll and employee information to submit to OutSolve, which will begin a pay equity audit of the company, identifying any pay equity discrepancies based on gender and/or race and ethnicity.
“These discrepancies will be the main focus of compensation adjustments in the company in the immediate future; a priority that will remain number one — above and beyond any other budgetary item — until the discrepancies are rectified,” the blog said.
“This isn’t to say we won’t need to reassess our strategies at some point, or that the path ahead will be smooth by any means,” the company concluded. “By holding ourselves accountable, listening to our people, upholding transparency, and continually committing to creating a safe, equitable work environment, we are doing our utmost to ensure that Modern Times stays on the right track.”
Modern Times did not respond to Brewbound’s request for comment.
Update (July 6, 6:50 p.m. ET): Modern times director of marketing Dan Reed told Brewbound that the brewery’s external board was completed last week and will be announced shortly. As the new board was just formed, the company does not yet have a definitive timeline or list of requirements in finding its next CEO, he added.
“While we hate to be a bit nebulous on some of this, some of these broad, systemic changes will take time and internal work,” Reed wrote in an email. “We owe it to both our staff and supporters to make sure we prioritize doing things right over doing things quickly, and to ensure that our fundamental approaches to these issues are sound and meaningfully effective in the long term, even if they don’t provide the most satisfying optics in the short term.”
In regards to the new reference requirements, Reed wrote that Modern Times did not previously ask for references in its hiring process, but since making the change has “already found value in the professional reference checks performed to date.” While the company recognizes the inherent positive bias of personal references, Reed added that the new requirement allows the company to check for immediate red flags, such as a candidate being marked as ineligible for rehire by a previous employer.
Additionally, Reed wrote that the new training sessions would be an annual requirement for employees, with sessions offered every few weeks.