NEW YORK, N.Y. – The company that publishes Us Weekly, the National Enquirer and other gossip publications is hiring outside human resources experts to train its managers in “sexual harassment prevention and sensitivity,” an internal email shows. This comes one week after The Associated Press revealed that the company’s top editor had twice been the subject of sexual misconduct investigations.
The decision, disclosed to employees of American Media Inc. in a companywide email Tuesday, follows AP reports that Dylan Howard, AMI’s chief content officer, had been accused by former employees of harassing female and male employees while he was a top editor at AMI in 2012 and subsequently at another employer. Howard has denied acting improperly.
“As you are aware, there have been a lot of articles regarding sexual harassment in workplaces throughout the United States,” Kenneth Slivken, the company’s top HR official, wrote to employees, according to a copy of the email obtained by AP.
Slivken’s email did not mention Howard by name. It reminded employees to “re-familiarize yourself” with the company’s harassment policies and encouraged them to report behaviour using an anonymous email hotline.
An AMI spokesman did not respond when asked whether the email and training plans were made in response to the disclosure of allegations against Howard. Howard did not return a phone call or text message seeking comment about the email.
Companies from various industries in recent months, including the AP, have reminded employees about sexual misconduct rules and encouraged them to report inappropriate behaviour as tales of sexual misconduct in the workplace have been made public.
Howard, 35, is one of the country’s top gossip editors, overseeing the newsrooms of the Enquirer, RardarOnline, Star and other gossip sites and publications.
The company in March purchased Us Weekly for a reported $100 million, boosting its readership among women at a time when stories about sexual misconduct against them in various industries have seized the nation. Just this week, the magazine branded 2017 “The Year of the Woman!” on its front cover.
The AP interviewed 12 former AMI employees who knew about the 2012 outside HR investigation and recounted details of Howard’s behaviour. A senior editor made a formal complaint to HR on behalf of two women and the company hired an outside HR consultant to investigate.
Howard has called the allegations “baseless,” and the company has said it supports him, saying its investigation revealed no serious wrongdoing.
Howard left AMI after the investigation to run a startup celebrity news site called Celebuzz, where he was again accused by former employees of inappropriate behaviour. Documents obtained by AP show an HR investigator concluded that he had violated the company’s sexual harassment policy. Howard was accused of, among other things, talking in the office about which subordinates he wanted to have sex with.
Howard denied those allegations and said he resigned from Celebuzz due to the way the company handled the investigation into what he called “unfounded” allegations against him.
AMI has said it was unaware of the Celebuzz investigation before hiring Howard back with a promotion in April 2013.