Time's Up asks CBS to donate Les Moonves' $120-million severance to groups fighting sexual harassment

Les Moonves resigned from his post as CEO of CBS Corp. on Sunday following allegations of sexual misconduct. (Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP)

Time’s Up has a message for CBS: It’s time to embrace, and invest in, the future.

Following the resignation of CBS Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, Time’s Up is calling on CBS board members to enact sweeping changes to shift the media company’s structure and workplace culture.

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“Sexual harassment, retaliation and toxic work environments exist when workplaces are not fully diverse and inclusive at all levels and employees are not able to feel safe or reach their full potential,” Time’s Up said in an open letter to CBS’ board and senior management on Tuesday. “Full, independent investigations of alleged wrongdoing and the departure of a few executives is only the start. Real progress can only occur with a transparent commitment to long-term structural changes from top to bottom.”

The letter urges CBS’s newly reconfigured board to commit to independent investigations of any and all allegations of sexual harassment; creating a workplace culture that prioritizes “safety, equity and dignity”; establishing inclusive hiring and retention policies and resolving any pay inequities.

Additionally, Time’s Up has asked CBS to donate the $120 million previously reserved for Moonves’ severance to organizations that fight sexual harassment and promote workplace safety.

“We ask that you not dishonor the bravery of those who have come forward by spending that money unwisely,” Time’s Up said.

Moonves resigned Sunday after a new report detailing allegations of sexual harassment and assault by six women was published by the New Yorker. The former CEO was already under investigation for previous sexual misconduct allegations.

CBS had previously announced plans to donate $20 million to organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace following Moonves’ exit.

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Earlier on Tuesday, “CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King also called for full transparency from CBS about the findings of its Moonves investigation.

Read the full text of Time’s Up’s letter below.

Dear Ms. Redstone and Members of the Board of the CBS Corporation:

This is your moment. A cascade of women’s voices has changed the rules. The old playbook no longer applies. As one of the world’s most powerful companies, you have a choice. You can cling to a status quo as it crumbles around you. Or you can demonstrate what happens when true leadership embraces the future. Now is your opportunity to rise.

As Norah O’Donnell said this week on CBS This Morning, “women will never achieve true equality in the workplace and in society until there is a reckoning and an acceptance of responsibility by those in charge.” This is that reckoning. The CBS environment is your responsibility.

It has been an eventful few days with important changes made by CBS: the departure of the CEO, the refresh of the Board of Directors and the oversight that the board has started to assert. But it’s not over yet.

Time’s Up was formed to help workplaces move forward into a new era – a world that insists on safe, fair and dignified work for women of all kinds. We are asking you, the board and senior management, to move into that era with us for the sake of your employees and as an example to your colleagues and corporate peers. We ask that you review and remake not only the structure,but the culture, of CBS and take ongoing responsibility for issues of safety and equity in your company.

Sexual harassment, retaliation and toxic work environments exist when workplaces are not fully diverse and inclusive at all levels and employees are not able to feel safe or reach their full potential. Full, independent investigations of alleged wrongdoing and the departure of a few executives is only the start. Real progress can only occur with a transparent commitment to long-term structural changes from top to bottom.

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We are glad to see the appointment of several new women to the board. But in reconstituting the board so quickly, an opportunity for meaningful inclusion was missed. Women of color and other underrepresented candidates were not added to the board in ways that are reflective of CBS’s vast audiences.

While working on this issue, the new board can also demonstrate leadership in tackling the ongoing issues that hamper women’s advancement and equality in the workplace.

TIME’S UP urges the newly reconstituted Board of CBS to commit to the following:

  • A full, independent investigation of any allegations of sexual harassment, regardless of whether the subject of the investigation resigns or departs. Those who come forward must also be protected from potential retaliation.
  • Establishing a workplace culture that represents the values of safety, equity and dignity,with this tone set from the top of the company. The board should establish regular (not just special committee) oversight of workplace culture as a matter of corporate governance, and senior management should be held accountable with specific and measurable benchmarks.
  • Establishing a hiring, promotion and retention policy that will create an inclusive workforce at all levels, and set and measure goals for achieving a workplace reflective of the American population. This includes aggressive recruitment for truly diverse management talent, as well as the pipeline for entry-level positions. As listed on the company’s website, the nine current most senior members of the CBS Corporation Executive management team and the heads of each of CBS’s Divisions are all men.
  • Providing training at all levels of the company, including the board, on the company’s values, diversity and inclusion, and management skills, and commit to providing this training on a regular basis.
  • Undertaking a pay equity study, and commit to closing any racial, ethnic or gender gaps.

We do not expect these measures to be implemented overnight. We do not ask for miracles. We recognize that meaningful, sustainable change will take time. But by enacting measures such as the above, you can create a model for not only the media and entertainment industry, but companies in general.

As it relates to Mr. Moonves, we ask for a commitment to assure that the results of the investigation will provide transparent integrity in the process. We also urge that the full amount reserved for Mr. Moonves’ severance be contributed to organizations that address sexual harassment and workplace safety. That is $120 million dollars that will either go to Mr. Moonves or back into the coffers of the company that allowed the culture created by Mr. Moonves to continue. Or that $120 million can create change by going to organizations – and there are many impactful organizations – that can help women of all kinds. The choice is yours. But the answer is obvious. We ask that you not dishonor the bravery of those who have come forward by spending that money unwisely.

As we said, now is your opportunity to rise.

We stand ready to work with you and to promote your progress as it occurs.

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