Comcast criticized by women’s advocacy groups over Matt Lauer handling

Comcast Center headquarters in Philadelphia. Image: Comcast
Advocacy groups UltraViolet and the National Organization for Women said Comcast should have known about the Lauer issue much sooner. (Comcast)

Two women’s advocacy groups are calling on Comcast and its CEO, Brian Roberts, to do more to improve its corporate culture after an internal review cleared the conglomerate’s NBC News division of wrongdoing in the Matt Lauer sexual harassment scandal.

Lauer was the longtime host of NBC’s “Today Show” who resigned last fall amid numerous sexual harassment complaints dating back years. Last month, an internal NBCUniversal investigation determined that NBC News had not received—and thus, mishandled—any complaints leading into the fateful Nov. 27 sexual harassment filing that broke the dam loose for Lauer.

Publishing a letter (PDF) addressed to Roberts ahead of Comcast’s annual shareholder meeting today, advocacy groups UltraViolet and the National Organization for Women said Comcast should have known about the Lauer issue much sooner. Likewise, the news division should have had a better handle on reported long-standing issues with former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw.

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“NBC’s investigation ultimately concluded that because there were no formal complaints, NBC News executives had done nothing wrong,” the letter said. “Yet, there is clearly something wrong with a work environment reluctant to hold high-status employees accountable. That's what allowed Lauer's and reportedly Tom Brokaw's behavior to continue unchecked. NBC News executives could have and can still do more to shift their work culture and prevent harassment.”

“The lack of formal complaints at a company does not necessarily indicate the absence of harassment,” the groups added. “Often, it means women are being silenced.”

The groups called on Comcast to not to take the fact that an employee has had no complaints as a “face value” determiner of innocence. “Over the next few years, consider an increase in complaints a success because it means your workplace is getting safer for people to report harassment.

They also called on Comcast to mandate anti-harassment training, eliminate broad nondisclosure agreements and employee contracts, do away with arbitration contracts that keep victims from pursuing legal claims, and develop anonymous climate surveys as well as trusted avenues to file complaints.

Comcast has yet to publish a formal response to the letter.