Second HSUS Exec Accused of Sexual Harassment; Board Member Attacks Victims
On the heels of the Washington Post’s story revealing that HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle is under internal investigation for sexually harassing three employees, last night POLITICO reported that HSUS vice president Paul Shapiro has also been accused of being a serial sexual harasser. Even more startling? Though a half-dozen women complained to HR, Shapiro continued to be a vice president and, even after leaving HSUS this month to hawk his book, was still consulting for the organization.
Shapiro’s alleged behavior includes discussing his philosophy of having sex with as many people as possible, emailing pornography, suggesting a female employee sleep with a donor, and other creepy conduct. His behavior reportedly led to the resignation of at least 5 employees.
After 6 women complained to HR, Shapiro was merely transferred to a new vice president role—with a company-wide announcement that made it seem like the move was a promotion. Shapiro is friends with HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle.
If that’s not bad enough, HSUS board member Erika Brunson, a Hollywood-based interior designer, blames the victims. When a female Tofurky executive emailed the HSUS board in November asking the body to look into sexual harassment complaints, Brunson ridiculed the request, writing, “Are you out of your mind? Don’t you have anything better to do in life than air your repressed sexual fantasies in public?”
Brunson doubled down on that sentiment when contacted for comment by POLITICO, saying women should “get tougher, don’t go around whining, saying you’ve been sexually harassed.” Tell that to the woman stuck with Shapiro in an Airbnb rental.
We’ve been aware of allegations of Shapiro harassment/bullying for over a year. In October 2016, we even put a truck (pictured above) outside of HSUS’s main office in Gaithersburg, MD, calling out Wayne Pacelle for protecting Shapiro. The board has known about problems but has been weak. You’d think a humane organization that claims to speak for the voiceless would stand up for the vulnerable inside its own office.
The HSUS board has two choices: To side with enablers and abusers, or to hold them accountable. Board chairman Rick Bernthal sent out a memo, pasted below, to HSUS staff yesterday afternoon. To us, it reads like the board is telling female employees to stay in their lane while it looks into “Wayne”—referred to chummily on a first-name basis.
Despite all of the evidence supplied to the Board, Pacelle is still on the job without even an announcement that he has been suspended from operations during the investigation (by a Pacelle-friendly law firm). The list of people who were not so protected include a number of women. Want to know why Predator Pacelle is being treated with kid gloves? We’ll have more soon.
January 30 Letter from HSUS Board to HSUS Staff
Sent: Tuesday, January 30, 2018 4:47 PM
Subject: A Message from Rick Bernthal, Chair of the HSUS Board of Directors
Dear District and Deputy District Leaders,
The below is an update sent to HSUS employees, that we want to share with you as well.
I wrote to you last week about the investigation being conducted by the Board of Directors and outside counsel around allegations of workplace misconduct against Wayne. I know you have likely seen the press coverage this morning, and I’m sure that’s caused much concern.
I promise you that the Board is taking these issues very seriously, and we are engaged in a thorough process for investigating the allegations. We hope to have these issues resolved very soon, and I pledge to you that we will reach out to our staff first with all the information we can responsibly share. In the meantime, please remember that headlines and rumors are not facts, and we remain totally committed to getting to a reasoned, fair resolution of these charges.
Now, more than ever, our mission as an organization needs to be top of mind. Each of us needs to set anxiety and uncertainty aside and recommit personally to our work for animals. This is the passion and commitment that we all share, and it’s where we need to redouble our time and attention.
The Board knows that this is a difficult time for our staff. We have great confidence in all of you and deeply value your commitment and dedication to HSUS.
Thank you, and I will remain in touch.
Chair, Board of Directors
The Humane Society of the United States