People walk by a CVS Pharmacy store in the Manhattan borough of New York City.
Shannon Stapleton | Reuters
CVS Health said Friday that it fired several employees, including executives, following an internal investigation into how the company handled sexual harassment complaints.
The company also said it will shake up how it handles similar complaints in the future, according to a CVS statement. CEO Karen Lynch will oversee the effort.
CVS did not say how many employees were fired.
In a statement, the drugstore chain and health-care company said it received an anonymous report in late 2021 that alleged misconduct by an employee in field management. It said it hired an outside firm to conduct an independent review. After the probe concluded and substantiated those complaints, CVS said it “terminated the individual and others have since been exited from the company for failing to treat allegations with the seriousness we expect.”
“We absolutely do not tolerate behavior or actions that are harassing, hostile, abusive or discriminatory,” the company said in a statement.
Companies have been under heightened scrutiny over their handling of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct, particularly in the years that followed film producer Harvey Weinstein’s conviction for rape and sexual assault. The #MeToo movement, which began in Hollywood, has ricocheted across the corporate world from fast-food chains to apparel companies.
It has led to the downfall of prominent business leaders, including former McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook. The company’s board fired him for violating its fraternization policy and later clawed back his severance payment valued at $105 million, alleging that he committed fraud and lied about having more consensual relationships with employees.
Leslie Wexner, the billionaire founder of Victoria Secret‘s former parent company L Brands, stepped down as CEO after he faced backlash for his close ties with Jeffrey Epstein, the late sex criminal and financier.
Jide Zeitlin was pushed out as CEO of Tapestry, as the owner of Coach and Kate Spade, after the company investigated an allegation that posed as a photographer and tried to a lure a woman into a romantic relationship.
On Friday, a CVS spokesperson confirmed that Lynch learned about complaints made by at least two female employees who alleged that a New Jersey-based regional store manager touched them inappropriately or harassed them at work. That manager oversaw hundreds of the company’s stores.
CNBC obtained a memo that Lynch sent to all employees on Friday. In the memo, Lynch said Chief Pharmacy Officer Prem Shah and Chief Customer Officer Michelle Peluso have met with employees across the company to talk about the situation and the action that CVS is taking.
“I want to be crystal clear: this company does not tolerate harassment or hostile, abusive or discriminatory behaviors of any kind from any employee – regardless of position,” Lynch wrote. “We also will not tolerate inaction from leaders who are responsible for escalating concerns or allegations raised by our colleagues.”
In the memo, she said the company is stepping up how it handles internal reports and investigations. She said it has created the Office of Workplace Assistance, which she will personally oversee along with the company’s chief policy officer and general counsel, Tom Moriarty.
“We want to make sure that you have access to a trusted resource to report anything concerning that you have experienced, witnessed, or are made aware of,” she said in the memo. “And, regardless of how you report concerns, we want to assure you that these issues will be reviewed by a team with an independent and impartial lens.”
The Wall Street Journal first reported the ousters.