Turbulence ahead: Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin faces claims of 'toxic' work culture
Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by billionaire Jeff Bezos, is "reassuring" employees that the company has "no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind" as it responds to recent allegations of a toxic and sexist work culture.
The claims surfaced in a recent essay signed by former employee Alexandra Abrams.
In the essay, Abrams – who once served as head of employee communications at Blue Origin – along with 20 other unnamed current and former staff members, recounted instances of "inappropriate behaviour" towards women.
"One senior executive in CEO Bob Smith’s loyal inner circle was reported multiple times to Human Resources for sexual harassment. Even so, Smith personally made him a member of the hiring committee for filling a senior HR role in 2019," the group said.
"Another former executive frequently treated women in a condescending and demeaning manner, calling them 'baby girl,' 'baby doll,' or 'sweetheart' and inquiring about their dating lives. His inappropriate behaviour was so well known that some women at the company took to warning new female hires to stay away from him, all while he was in charge of recruiting employees.
"Additionally, a former NASA astronaut and Blue Origin senior leader once instructed a group of women with whom he was collaborating: 'You should ask my opinion because I am a man.' We found many company leaders to be unapproachable and showing clear bias against women," the group added.
'Reflect, learn, improve'
Smith, who has been at the helm since 2017, issued a company-wide email, which was reviewed by CNBC.
The CEO wrote in an email: "While we reflect on what we can learn and improve, I do want to reassure the team on a few points.
"[We] have no tolerance for discrimination or harassment of any kind. We provide numerous avenues including a 24/7 anonymous hotline for employees, we investigate and act on any findings, and we will promptly investigate any new claims of misconduct.
"As always, I welcome and encourage any member of Team Blue to speak directly with me if they have any concerns on any topic at any time," Smith said.