NEWS
01/02/2018 9:07 AM AEDT | Updated 02/02/2018 12:21 AM AEDT

Monster Energy Vice President Accused Of Sexual Harassment Resigns

HuffPost’s reporting revealed text messages in which he called a female employee a “whore.”

John Kenneally, a Monster Energy vice president accused of sexually harassing two different women at the company, has resigned after HuffPost published details of his behavior last week.

Yet the company is standing by two other men also embroiled in misconduct accusations and related lawsuits. The company’s head of music marketing, Brent Hamilton, is awaiting trial on felony charges for allegedly strangling his ex-girlfriend. Phillip Deitrich, another manager, stands accused of bullying a female subordinate in front of her male colleagues and sabotaging her ability to work.

Both men still work at Monster. The female Monster employees involved lost their jobs.

Kenneally, a 60 year-old Atlanta-based executive named in two sexual discrimination lawsuits filed last year against the drinkmaker, was gone by Friday, according to one current and one former employee at Monster Energy. A spokesman for Monster would only confirm that the company “accepted his resignation,” meaning it didn’t implore him to stay.

His interim replacement is Andrew Wilkinson, another executive at Monster, the company confirmed. A former female employee’s lawsuit describes Wilkinson as enabling Kenneally’s behavior.

LinkedIn
John Kenneally resigned from Monster Energy, the company confirmed.

During his time at Monster, Kenneally started up a romance with a colleague, Page Zeringue, convincing her to take a promotion working for him. When their relationship soured, he turned abusive, sending her lengthy text messages in which he called her a “bitch” and a “whore” and once made a racially charged comment about “black dicks.” He eventually helped engineer Zeringue’s firing, according to her lawsuit.

HuffPost published those texts, shocking many current and former employees, who said they hadn’t been aware of the extent of Kenneally’s misconduct. 

HuffPost
Texts between former Monster executive John Kenneally and his subordinate Page Zeringue shocked many inside the company

Zeringue, who remains unemployed, was only slightly mollified by the news.

“This is only a small step towards greater justice,” Zeringue told HuffPost in an email. “John was enabled by the founders of Monster ― Rodney Sacks and Hilton Schlosberg ― who routinely turned a blind eye to internal abuse while people such as us lost our jobs, life savings, and our futures.”

A Monster spokesman disputed some of Zeringue’s claims when HuffPost reached him on Wednesday. “Messrs. Sacks and Schlosberg,” the spokesman said in a statement, “Take these issues seriously.”

“Monster Energy has zero-tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind,” the company said in a statement to HuffPost. “If the company’s discrimination and harassment policies are violated, appropriate action is taken, up to and including termination of employment.”

“It is also worth noting that Mr. Kenneally’s resignation was accepted by the Company,” the statement says.

Kenneally was on paid leave pending an internal investigation after HuffPost contacted Monster earlier this month about its forthcoming article. 

The company, which is partly owned by Coca-Cola, also said the lawsuits women filed against Monster ― five in total ― are unrelated and without merit.

A spokesman for Coca-Cola declined to comment on these cases. He did say that the company recently reminded its own employees of its policies on harassment and discrimination and its commitment to not retaliating if someone comes forward to report abuse.

The departure of a single man accused of misconduct hardly suggests a culture shift at Monster, a drink company that markets primarily to men, promotes itself with “Girls” dressed in skimpy outfits, makes a beverage called Assault and once produced a Monster-branded condom labeled “unleash the beast.”

It’s notable that the company has not chosen to discipline the other men named in these suits.

Fran Pulizzi, a former business development manager at the company who also sued Monster over Kenneally’s behavior, alleged in her own lawsuit that Kenneally’s interim replacement, Wilkinson, helped enable Keneally’s misconduct.

Pulizzi became the target of vicious retaliation after she reported Kenneally’s actions to Monster’s human resources department, according to her lawsuit, which said that Kenneally directed colleagues to stop working with her and addressed her in abusive and derogatory ways. Pulizzi told HuffPost that Keneally also spread harmful rumors about her personal life.

Wilkinson was Pulizzi’s direct supervisor for a few months while this retaliation was ongoing, her suit says. And though he was initially sympathetic to her situation, something quickly changed, according to Pulizzi’s lawsuit. Wilkinson stopped returning her calls and emails, she told HuffPost. He also gave Pulizzi a poor performance review after working with her for only a few months, possibly at Kenneally’s urging, according to the suit.

It’s upsetting that the company replaced one man, credibly accused of sexual harassment, with another man who enabled that behavior, Pulizzi told HuffPost.

“It tells me nothing’s changed at Monster,” she said.

Still, Pulizzi and Zeringue are hopeful that by speaking up about their experiences, something will change.

“In the last week, we have heard from scores of Monster employees who are too afraid to speak up,” Zeringue said.  “We hope that our continued attempt to seek justice ― will help alleviate their fears.”

Do you have a story about harassment or discrimination that you’d like to share? Email: emily.peck@huffpost.com