NORFOLK, Va. - A local brewery is responding against allegations of a toxic workplace environment.
O'Connor Brewing Company, located in Norfolk, released a statement Wednesday addressing complaints made by two of its former employees. The owners, Kevin and Penny O'Connor, say they they have taken the allegations seriously and have apologized "for any hurt this has caused anyone."
The founders acknowledge that they "should have known" about the complaints sooner and say they should have addressed them more quickly and effectively, taking responsibility.
In response to the allegations, the brewery has voluntarily launched an independent third party investigation led by a former Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) director, who "scrutinize[d]" the company's policies and procedures and interviewed both current and former employees of the brewery.
They say while they cannot disclose the full contents of the report due to "confidentiality reasons," they found some of the findings to be "troubling and heartbreaking."
In an effort to transform the alleged issues in the workplace, O'Connor Brewing Company has implemented a 24/7 anonymous HR hotline for employees to report concerns and has instituted quarterly Culture Surveys to learn of any new concerns employees may have about the work environment, among other changes.
"We also want to say that we are not racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic, as hating others is not who we are. We know that we can do better and will do better going forward by continuing to educate ourselves on these topics. Ensuring an inclusive and diverse workplace with open lines of communication has always been important to us and will be of the utmost importance as our company goes forward. We hope that you will give us a second chance," the O'Connors wrote.
You can read the brewery's full statement below:
We’d like to address the issues that we here at O’Connor Brewing Company have dealt with these last few months. It has not been easy. We sincerely hope that our seeming silence hasn’t come across as tone deaf to the concerns raised on social media, but rather a pause for reflection to enable growth and change.
As you may be aware, two of our former employees posted complaints about a toxic workplace environment at our brewery. We want everyone to know that we have taken all of this seriously and sincerely apologize for any hurt this has caused anyone. We should have known about these workplace issues sooner and/or handled them much faster and more effectively. As the founders, we take responsibility for this and will work diligently to make certain O’Connor Brewing offers a positive environment for all.
In response to the concerns arising from these complaints, we voluntarily launched an independent 3rd party investigation led by a former Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Director. Not only did he scrutinize our policies and procedures, but he also interviewed employees, both current and former, a somewhat lengthy process. For confidentiality reasons, we cannot disclose the entirety of the report. That said, we found some of his findings to be troubling and heartbreaking.
Besides making quality craft beer, our mission has always included generating employment opportunities for Norfolk and our surrounding cities. We succeeded while also constructing a new production facility, developing marketing and distribution teams, and staffing a tasting room for events that have honored inclusivity and raised over a million dollars for local charities.
While aggressively pursuing these goals, we obviously lost sight of some workplace issues. As founder/CEO and Chief Marketing Officer respectively, we assure you that we are working tirelessly to change that. In that regard, we have:
- Implemented a 24/7 anonymous HR hotline for employees to report concerns
- Revised appropriate personnel policies
- Instituted quarterly Culture Surveys to learn of any new concerns and to receive new ideas to nurture a safe and supportive workplace
- Hired an outside firm to conduct DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), sexual harassment and bias training for all employees. Personally, we have begun executive training to establish a leadership approach that is thorough and comprehensive.
With these changes, we believe O’Connor Brewing Company will be a better place to work than ever. We also want to say that we are not racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic, as hating others is not who we are. We know that we can do better and will do better going forward by continuing to educate ourselves on these topics. Ensuring an inclusive and diverse workplace with open lines of communication has always been important to us and will be of the utmost importance as our company goes forward. We hope that you will give us a second chance.
We, Kevin and Penny, and all of our team are working hard to restore faith in O’Connor as a trusted, and well-respected brand across Virginia and other markets we serve. We want to invite everyone to our tasting room with your friends and family. We will continue to support our team, serve our community, and keep O’Connor Brewing a place that offers great experiences for all. Thank you for your understanding, patience, and good wishes.
Sincerely, Kevin and Penny O’Connor