A foreign executive at MSD Korea not only sexually harassed a female employee but abused power to ridicule subordinates at a company workshop, employees at the drugmaker said.
Despite the internal criticism, MSD Korea did not impose any punishment on him, they said.
The senior executive director, whose name was withheld, went excessively drunk and sexually harassed the woman worker during the two-day-one-night workshop in February.
An employee who participated in the workshop said, “The senior executive director said at a beer place that he liked to throw a baseball, and he told other workers to catch cookies with the mouth if he throws them. He did this several times.”
The other employees were already used to his irrational drunk behaviors, so they were trying to avoid the situation, the informer said. “Another Korean executive, who could not stand it anymore, persuaded the foreign executive to go inside the lodge and the situation ended there.”
However, the foreign executive’s ugly act did not stop. According to the informant, the executive repeatedly forced the female employee to come into his room in front of the room. Several other employees witnessed the scene.
“At the time, there were other male workers, too. However, the executive told male workers to go away and asked the female employee only to come into his room several times. The female worker said to us that she felt really humiliated and sexually harassed,” the source said.
Another whistleblower said, “I saw the foreign executive telling a female employee to come inside in front of the lodge. I remember that she wanted to end the situation as soon as possible, so she entered the room and got out immediately.”
A third source said the executive stroke down a woman employee’s hair at a dinner during the workshop. “The executive touched the woman’s hair and stroke it down. Another employee sent her to a bathroom and asked another worker to sit at her place so that she could avoid him,” the source said.
The three informers said in a chorus that they reported the foreign executive’s power abuse to the company’s personnel division, but there was no follow-up measure.
“I explained about his sexual harassment case to the personnel division the next day of the workshop. As the employees at the division were also at the scene, they must have been aware of the situation. However, the company did not take any measure,” the first source said.
Last year, MSD Korea came under fire for letting a foreign executive intimidate a subordinate for no good reason. A foreign executive tore up a train ticket and threw the pieces on the face of the subordinate. However, the management did not take any measure.
The Indian executive tore up a train ticket and threw the pieces on the face of the subordinate after getting angry about buying a ticket departing from Yongsan Station, not Seoul Station. The incident got employees furious.
The company did not take any measure at the time, despite growing complaints from employees. However, after a labor union formed at the company late last year, MSD sent the Indian executive to MSD Asia Pacific for scoring low in an employee satisfaction survey, an insider said.
There were only two foreign senior executive directors at MSD Korea. As the Indian executive moved to the Asia Pacific, there is only one foreign senior executive director at the Korean unit of MSD.
Employees attribute foreign executives’ abuse of power against Korean workers to the mindset of Avi Ben-Shoshan, managing director of MSD Korea.
“At a gathering of senior employees, the managing director blatantly said he didn’t trust Koreans to protect his position, and that was why the company strictly kept Self-Assurance program to monitor outside events by an external agent,” an MSD Korea official said, who wished to be unnamed. “Because the company’s leader has such a mindset, other foreign executives can mistreat Korean employees.”
MSD Korea said the company was aware of the internal complaints against the foreign executive.
“The personnel team received the report and is now finding facts. The team asked the victim if she felt uncomfortable and took care of it at the scene,” an MSD Korea official said.
As for why it took so long to take a measure against the foreign executive, the official said, “The company recently learned about the case. We’re investigating it, so it is not possible to comment on the matter.”
“MSD Korea never tolerates discrimination, bullying, or harassment in the workplace. Providing employees with a safe and respected work environment is one of the company's top priorities,” the company said. “The company is taking the sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior seriously and will take stringent measures if those are confirmed as facts. However, an individual issue cannot be disclosed publicly.”