In somewhat unsurprising news, the world of energy drinks enters the #MeToo era. A new report from HuffPost accuses management at Monster Energy of harassment, sexual misconduct, and wrongful termination. Senior executives bullied women out of jobs or fired them when they spoke up or complained about misconduct, five lawsuits allege.
The beverage and lifestyle brand, which is partially owned by Coca-Cola, is also known for sponsoring and co-producing extreme sports competitions and music events around the world.
The allegations suggest the company has no problem employing men with a record of abusive behavior, including Brent Hamilton, the current head of music marketing, who is awaiting trial for allegedly strangling his girlfriend during a business trip in 2016. Evidence shows he bit her, drawing blood, and “pulled her hair so hard that clumps were yanked out.” Then there’s the story of VP John Kenneally who called a female employee a “bitch” and “whore” in an effort to force her out of the company, according to one suit.
Like similar exposés in the worlds of hospitality and entertainment, the allegations suggest a systemic problem of discrimination against women in a hostile work environment that rewarded “bad boy” behavior and talk. Even human resources was a part of the problem, HuffPost reports. The women say that while their careers were “derailed... egregious behavior by mainly male executives went without consequence.”
“It’s a guys club and you have to be able to hang,” a former manager at Monster told HuffPost. “You have to put up with some things.”
Monster’s communications team sent Eater a lengthy statement largely defending its employees. The company believes the lawsuits are “without merit” and “had nothing to do with sex discrimination,” and that the plaintiffs are “disgruntled employees.” It also says an internal investigation is ongoing, and claims “it has zero tolerance” for sexual misconduct.
HuffPost writes that after reporters asked about Kenneally earlier this month he was put on paid leave, but the company denied it was related to the pending investigations.
Like its competitors, Monster’s branding is largely directed at a male audience. Its tagline, “Unleash the beast,” is somewhat more aggressive than its chief competitor’s: “Red Bull gives you wings.” The company still appears to make a drink called Assault; its description includes the line, “We’ll leave politics to the politicians and just keep doing what we do best – make the meanest energy drinks on the planet!”
But like alcoholic beverage companies and other energy drink brands, Monster regularly hires women to dress in skimpy clothing to promote its non-alcoholic drinks at events. Perhaps that’s at least one reason why reactions to HuffPo’s exposé weren’t met with much surprise. Instead, many on social media are now calling for a boycott of Monster drinks.