A number of current and former WBUR employees have filed a complaint with the Boston-based NPR news station alleging a hostile work environment at the hands of Tom Ashbrook, host of the radio show “On Point.”
Eleven young men and women filed the “multi-page” complaint Thursday with WBUR and Boston University, the news station’s owner, WBUR reported.
The complaint details a toxic work environment for “On Point” staffers, including ‘“creepy’ sex talk, hugs and back or neck rubs after reprimands,” name-calling and angry outbursts at young women while in the station.
As of Friday, Ashbrook was placed on leave while the investigation into the allegations occurs.
“I worry that Tom’s behavior discourages young women from continuing in journalism,” one former producer who signed the complaint told WBUR. WBUR is withholding the woman’s name.
“Working at On Point as a young woman in journalism sets up a very bizarre understanding of expectations," she added. "It has taken several years to adjust my understanding of what is normal behavior and what is not in the workplace."
In a statement, Ashbrook addressed the allegations against him and noted the “pressure” that accompanies hosting a live two-hour news radio show, which he said caused him to “at times [be] a tough and demanding boss.”
“We aspire to put out a top-notch show. Many people have thrived in that environment; a few have not,” he said.
Ashbrook also said that he is “stunned that a few former colleagues have apparently come forward with allegations that have not been shared with me.”
He said that he does not know what specifically is being alleged about him, or by whom, and that he tries to be “fair-minded and courteous” to everyone.
At least three former producers told WBUR that they had “screamed back” at Ashbrook or told him to stop berating a colleague. Five current or former producers told the station that they “met with station managers multiple times, dating back at least five years, to raise concerns about Ashbrook.” One producer reportedly warned the station of the high turnover rate specifically with “On Point” staffers.
Ashbrook has been the host of “On Point” for 16 years. The show is carried by more than 290 NPR stations across the country.