Last week, longtime Sony Music Australia CEO Denis Handlin exited the company after multiple current and former employees levied toxic-workplace allegations. Now, a number of former staff members are reportedly considering filing a class-action lawsuit against the Big Three record label.
The alleged prevalence of toxic-workplace practices and sexual misconduct at Sony Music Australia entered the spotlight back in April, when higher-ups dismissed VP of commercial music Tony Glover “with immediate effect.” An employee had filed a formal complaint against Glover in February, per The Sydney Morning Herald, prompting SME to enlist “senior counsel” to investigate the claims.
These external investigators then uncovered “several” complaints from other SME Australia employees, including inappropriate conduct at work functions, and observers reportedly corroborated at least one individual’s statements. Glover, it bears noting, denied the accusations and emphasized that he hadn’t before been “sanctioned” by the company.
Nevertheless, reports of Glover’s alleged misconduct (and abrupt dismissal) appeared to spur other SME Australia employees yet to come forward with their own toxic-workplace experiences. Specifically, over a dozen current and former team members spoke with The Sydney Morning Herald about alleged wrongdoing within the workplace, including but not limited to sexual harassment and HR’s failure to address and investigate numerous instances of the latter.
Interestingly, one anonymous source specified that Sony Music execs had known about the workplace-culture claims since “at least the mid-1990s,” and another external investigation, pertaining this time to the newest of the complaints (which don’t directly involve Tony Glover or Denis Handlin himself), is ongoing. Pat Handlin, Denis’s son and the VP of A&R for SME Australia, as well as HR director Mark Stebnicki, have been placed on indefinite leave, however.
A separate report from The Guardian elaborated upon the timetable associated with the alleged misconduct and toxic workplace, with anonymous former Sony Music execs stating that 10 higher-ups had been summoned to New York in 1998, as part of an inquiry into a complaint about workplace culture within the Australian division. This probe resulted “in him [Handlin] being suspended for about three months,” one of these 10 higher-ups disclosed.
And as initially mentioned, 12 former Sony Music Australia staff are considering moving forward with a class-action lawsuit over their experiences while employed by the Big Three record label, criminal attorney Lauren MacDougall has confirmed.
The Sydney-based lawyer informed The Sydney Morning Herald that she’s been approached by “a number of women” who are “seeking legal advice in relation to claims of bullying and harassment during their time at Sony Music Australia.”
One of these women has also enlisted MacDougall’s law firm to provide representation on an individual basis, as Sony Music’s aforementioned investigation continues, and a different former SME Australia employee specified that she doesn’t feel comfortable dealing directly with the company.
“Sony Music has let us down time and time again; many of us don’t feel safe speaking with the organization or its local counsel,” this person indicated. “It’s comforting to know there is finally someone out there representing our rights that can support us in navigating the complexities of this process.”
At the time of writing, Sony Music didn’t appear to have commented publicly on the class-action lawsuit that former employees are reportedly preparing to file. Sony Music acquired Alamo Records last week, whereas Sony Music Publishing on Friday inked a global publishing deal with Relative Music Group.