Lawsuit reveals working culture at Penthouse
Jess McCabe // 27 February 2009
Penthouse is being sued by a former employee, who alleges she was fired without cause from her job on one of their websites, reports Gawker.
Without commenting on the impact of the porn Penthouse produces, the lawsuit has brought up some interesting insights into what it’s like for women working for companies that produce mainstream porn. The former employee in the lawsuit, Natalie Cedeno, worked as HR director for a porn company that was taken over by Penthouse, and describes a total change in workplace environment.
Here’s a description of when the company was under previous management:
According to Cedeno, Various operated Adult FriendFinder and other X-rated adult sites for seven years without drawing a single sexual-harassment lawsuit from employees. The company was as buttoned-down as nearby NASA contractors. Office rules restricted employees from posting any photos on office walls, or even having naughty screensavers. Cedeno says the company’s longtime postman had to ask her, after six years of delivering mail, what the company actually did.
Under new management:
When management announced that the venerable porn magazine’s stable of nude models would be stopping by the office to serve ice cream, one female employee objected, as Cedeno tells the story. When they arrived, one of the scantily clad Pets made a beeline for the dissenter. “They came into her office and placed her breasts on her head in an attempt to humiliate her, and they had someone ready to take pictures,” Cedeno says. The employee quit soon after the incident.
So, they instructed one of their female employees to humiliate (sexually harrass?) another of their female employees. There are all kinds of interesting layers to this, aren’t there? Not least that one set of employees is described as and expects a totally different standard of workplace behaviour than the others, who are described as a “stable of nude models”, animalising them.
Then we have this:
The evening before Cedeno was terminated last month, she says she brought up at a meeting of executives an employee who had charged thousands of dollars in lapdances to the company — an expense the company’s pre-Penthouse management wouldn’t have tolerated. “The president laughed and said the CEO had paid for lapdances for investment bankers with company money last weekend,” Cedeno says.
And there’s more:
She also says that in January 2008, Rob Brackett, president of the company’s Internet group, told her that CEO Marc Bell had complained to him in December — the first day he came to visit Penthouse’s new acquisition — that the women in FriendFinder’s technology department were “ugly” and that Cedeno should get rid of them and replace them with more attractive workers to keep the male employees happy. Brackett pressed Cedeno, asking her how she was going to satisfy Bell. She refused the request.