The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the main British employers’ organization, is going through its most serious crisis since its creation in 1965. Accused of sexual harassment, Tony Danker, its director general, was dismissed with immediate effect on Tuesday 11 April. Added to this case are suspicions of rape and sexual assault dating from 2019 and targeting other leaders of the organization. These scandals undermine a body that had brandished the fight against discrimination as a standard.
The dismissal of Mr. Danker was announced Tuesday morning through a pithy press release. The man, who had headed the CBI since November 2020, is formally targeted by “specific complaints about poor behavior in the workplace”. The CBI does not publicly detail the charges, but the case broke on March 6, when the daily Tea Guardian revealed that an employee had filed an internal complaint against Mr Danker in January.
She accused him “unwanted contacts”which she considered to be ” sexual harassment “. In the aftermath, the CBI board suspended Mr Danker and brought in law firm Fox Williams to investigate. The latter has just submitted his preliminary report, which led to the decision to dismiss Mr. Danker. The matter is deemed serious enough for the CBI to claim to be “in connection” with the police for a possible criminal investigation. Mr. Danker, for his part, defends himself with virulence, saying to himself “shocked” of his dismissal and considering that “many accusations against [lui] have been deformed”.
A “toxic atmosphere”
The crisis within the CBI was amplified by a second case, which came to light on Monday 3 April. Always according to Guardian, which collected a dozen testimonies, a CBI party on a boat in 2019, before Mr. Danker joined the organization, had gone very wrong. A woman accuses a colleague of rape and another of sexual assault on the same evening. Everything would have taken place in a “toxic atmosphere”, with cocaine use, alcohol abuse and sexist remarks. On Tuesday, in addition to the dismissal of Mr. Danker, three employees of the CBI were suspended.
The organization is thus exposed to accusations of hypocrisy, after having published numerous reports on the fight against discrimination at work, whether sexual, racial, or relating to age. At the beginning of March, Mr. Danker himself insisted on the need for companies to have a culture “progressive”, “with strong societal values, a deep purpose, a commitment to improving the lives of employees and an active strategy of inclusion and diversity”.
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