Some companies in the craft beer space can’t seem to help drawing controversy and criticism on a regular basis, and few would argue that BrewDog isn’t one of the leading contenders. Whether it’s in their original U.K. market, or in the U.S., the global brewery and pub chain tends to be a magnet for bad press, ranging from accusations of intellectual property theft, to chaotic partnerships with equally PR disaster-prone American breweries. This has stigmatized the BrewDog brand to some degree in the craft beer space over the years—unfortunate, considering that they’re honestly making some of the best non-alcoholic craft beer styles on the market today.
This latest story, however, likely won’t be winning BrewDog any new fans, as outgoing workers of the chain’s Indianapolis, IN location are claiming that they were the victim of a mass firing that seemed to be limited exclusively to women and LGBTQA+ employees, which the location’s GM called “a change in culture.”
“This new general manager who we have never met, don’t even know what he looks like, called us one by one and told us that we were all being fired because they wanted a change in culture,” said former employee Erica O’Neill to WISH TV in Indianapolis. Another fired employee, Kyrrha Myers, added that “it’s very strange that we seem to be singled out as a certain type of community that was fired.”
The story first began to break on Twitter a few days ago, when one of the fired employees posted that the Indy location had “fired their woman and non-binary (me) staff, including two trans people.” They added that “they recently replaced our woman GM and head chef with men and called all of this ‘a change in culture.’” The employees had been furloughed for the last few months due to the pandemic and winter weather making outdoor service an impossibility in the Midwest.
The mass firings seemed to be the work of a newly hired GM for the location, who chose to let go the majority of existing employees—including all the LGBTQ ones, and most of the women—while retaining a few predominantly male employees. It initially seemed as if the situation might be amended quickly, when BrewDog USA CEO Jason Block tweeted that “what is claimed is completely at odds with our values,” and promised investigation.
However, after the quick “investigation,” the official company line became that the employees who were let go were all fired purely based “on performance,” and that everything else was a coincidence.
Edit: A BrewDog representative has since contacted Paste and says the investigation remains open, saying the following: “We do believe that the decision to dismiss these team members was based purely on performance, but we are investigating claims of discrimination. We are working with internal HR, as well as Centric, a third-party human resources provider, for an investigation of the situation.”
One might expect the story to end there, except for the testimony that has now come from another one of the location’s non-fired male employees, who stands up for his former fellow employees and decries their firing in the following long Instagram account, saying that the company is lying about any performance issues with the fired female and LGBTQA employees.
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In this post, the male employee explains that the company’s new GM claimed when questioned that the fired employees had previously been written up and reprimanded by the (also recently fired) former female GM—something that said GM denies ever happened. He also goes on to describe how two of the fired employees won an employee contest in October, competing for the most positive Yelp reviews from customers, and were gifted a free trip to the company’s corporate hotel. This is only a few months before they were then furloughed and fired for “performance” issues, while the new male GM describes the process as “a change in culture.” That description is sounding more and more accurate, is it not?
After attracting more negative attention, in classic BrewDog fashion, company founder James Watt then said the “person who instructed these dismissals” (repeated by the Indianapolis BrewDog Instagram account) had also been fired. Which sounds nice, except for the fact that Watt simultaneously doubles down on the idea that the women and LGBTQA employees were indeed all let go for “performance” issues.
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Edit: We assumed that “the person who instructed these dismissals” could refer to no one else but the new male GM of the Indianapolis BrewDog location, but BrewDog PR says this is not the case in a message to Paste. Instead, they say “The new male GM identified in the story was not fired (in refences to the post from James Watt). A senior-level member of the retail team at BrewDog USA was terminated.”
How this all ties together is now hard to say. The Indianapolis GM still has their job, apparently? The corporate chain terminated the unnamed “person who instructed these dismissals,” but simultaneously agrees with the choice to dismiss these employees in the first place? It’s not like they’re offering to hire any of the former employees back, even the ones who won company awards for their performance only a few months earlier. It’s hard to imagine a more half hearted, wishy washy response than this, and it jibes with critics who claim that BrewDog merely pays lip service to diversity rather than genuinely valuing it.
Considering that BrewDog Indianapolis was using photos of these now-fired employees as advertising on its Instagram account only weeks ago, it’s rather hard to deny.