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Boulevard Brewing Company fires executive, vows change amid harassment claims

Boulevard Brewing
Posted at 7:34 PM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-26 20:42:29-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Boulevard Brewing Company issued a second apology and vowed in a statement on its website to change its workplace culture after a former employee complained about pervasive harassment that went unchecked at the brewery on Southwest Boulevard in Kansas City, Missouri.

The company also said Tuesday that it has fired “a company executive” and will hire an independent human resources firm to investigate its corporate culture.

A woman, who said she left Boulevard Brewing Company in March 2020, posted a thread over the weekend on Reddit detailing “a sexist work environment that takes advantage of its employees.”

The unidentified former employee said she was harassed over her pregnancy and that other female employees were subjected to repeated unwanted advances over several years from a male coworker.

She said in the post that she and others tried to address the issues, including through complaints to Boulevard’s human resources department, but the situation never improved.

“It was made clear that I was the problem for not handling it better,” the post said. “They had asked me in my interview if I could handle working with men, so it was my problem.”

The post also claims that Boulevard was biased against women in its hiring practices.

“I am no longer in the brewing industry,” the woman wrote in the post. “I loved my job, I worked hard to get there, and I am extremely proud of the work I did. I think it is important for everyone to know Boulevard is not a good place for women to work. It is not a ‘family’ company.”

The post said at least one other woman she knows of quit over the way female employees were treated at the brewery.

Boulevard issued a statement on its Facebook page Monday which read, in part, “we take these charges very seriously.”

The brewery said in that post that “these charges were thoroughly and impartially examined a year ago,” and it was determined “certain situations could and should have been handled with greater sensitivity, but clearly established that there was no harassment or discrimination.”

The initial response from Boulevard, which went on to say it was an opportunity “to learn and to grow,” was greeted with criticism from commenters, calling it “tone-deaf” and “pitiful PR spin” among other things.

Boulevard issued a more robust response Tuesday entitled “Reflecting” on its website, backtracking on claims that no harassment had occurred at the brewery.

The new apology said Boulevard has been shaken to the core by the “accounts of personal experiences ... we have heard from our employees, our former employees and our community” since the Reddit post and public backlash.

“Based on additional, corroborated information, we parted ways with a company executive,” Boulevard said without identifying the employee.

The company also promised to undertake “an independent, third-party human resources firm to undertake an independent investigation of all issues that have been raised, with full access to all our people and all our records.”

Boulevard now says it also will institute a system for anonymous reports of workplace concerns and how those reports are handled along with new “enhanced and mandatory harassment, bias and discrimination training.”

“This is the beginning of a long but necessary journey, a journey that has begun too late,” Boulevard said in a statement. “While we cannot undo the mistakes of our past, we are resolved to do better, and to be better."

The Kansas City-based Boulevard Brewing Company was acquired in 2013 by Duvel Moortgat Brewery, which is based in Belgium.

Duvel, which also owns breweries in California and New York, was the fifth-largest craft brewing company in the U.S. and 12th-largest brewing company overall based on 2019 sales volume, according to the Brewers Association.