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Guthrie to investigate after ex-worker alleges 'sexist culture'

A former carpenter in the Guthrie shop resigned Tuesday, citing sexism and harassment. (Photo by Bruce Bisping/Star Tribune)

The Guthrie Theater will investigate claims from a former employee that the "organization breeds a culture that has kept and continues to keep women down." 

On Facebook, a woman who worked as a carpenter in the Guthrie shop shared her resignation letter Tuesday. In it, she describes a culture of sexual harassment and inequity. It reads, in part: 

Management is aware of the scene shops concerns about our manager. He breeds a sexist culture and continues to encourage it. I have seen him stand by while women are mocked and belittled, none of the managers even noticed the off color jokes and behavior. Even when a coworker told a crude rape joke at morning meeting the two ATD’s laughed at it. This is the Guthrie I worked at. I hoped so badly that they could change, if not for me then for the female carpenters to come after me. I don’t want another woman to hate coming to work for fear of what might be said to her, I don’t want her to cry in the bathroom, to have to remind herself that this is the dream just stick it out you have to tolerate it. I don’t want her to brush off the fact that the men put their hands on her, even when repeatedly asked to stop. I don’t want her to be physically blocked after an assault by another man from going to HR to report it. That is my Guthrie, those are my experiences. I wanted so badly for it to change, my dream is shattered.

The woman said that she reached out to Guthrie management "countless times." But despite being "listened to every time," silence followed, she said.

In a statement, the Guthrie's artistic director Joe Haj said the Guthrie is taking the allegation "very seriously," and will launch an independent investigation. Here is that statement, in full:

Over the last two years we’ve been actively working to address cultural and workplace issues to ensure a workplace where everyone is valued and respected. This work has been done throughout the organization, and specifically in our scene shop, based on concerns that were raised by employees.

This week, executive leadership was made aware of a specific allegation of unwanted and inappropriate behavior, and that an employee was prevented from reporting that behavior to Human Resources.  We take this allegation very seriously. We have moved immediately to take action, meeting with board leadership and engaging an independent party to launch a full and complete investigation.

We are committed to learning all of the facts and to taking appropriate actions. We remain fully committed to achieving meaningful cultural change within our organization.

Meanwhile, a fellow employee says he has resigned in solidarity with his co-worker, the carpenter. In a Facebook post, that person called for the Guthrie to "own and publicly acknowledge the fact that their current culture is one of fear: fear of retaliation for speaking out and standing up."

NBC's Lester Holt preps for bustle and 'brrr' of Minnesota Super Bowl

Lester Holt/AP photo

Don't be surprised to find Lester Holt taking a stroll to chat up strangers and get a lay of the land during Super Bowl Weekend in the Twin Cities, no matter how low the temperatures dip.

"Wait a second, How cold are we talking here?" said the NBC News anchor Wednesday, shortly after signing off from his weeknight broadcast. "The weather is part of what makes this Super Bowl interesting. It sounds like Minneapolis is embracing the idea. 'Yeah, we're a cold-weather place and we love it.'"

Holt, who will read headlines from Nicollet Mall on Friday, Feb.2,  and inside U.S. Bank Stadium the following evening, has some experience with frigid weather, spending part of his youth in Anchorage and working out of Chicago for 14 years. But he hasn't logged much time in the Twin Cities.

"This is really embarrassing, but I've never been to the Mall of America," said Holt, 58, who also hopes to take in some jazz music during any time off.

Holt, who will be covering his first Super Bowl as the lead NBC anchor, will be racking up the frequent-flier miles in upcoming weeks. In addition to shuttling from New York City to Washington DC for the State of the Union Address, he'll be in South Korea for the Winter Olympics, which is also being covered by his network.

"Part of the signature of 'NBC Nightly News' is taking the broadcast on the road a lot, whether it's for news or a fun, exciting event," he said. "The NFL is a major news story right now with the anthem protest, which caught the attention of the president. The concussion story remains a major story. The Super Bowl is when the spotlight is on the league and it's a good time for us to be there."

Holt admits his plans may get thrown for a loop if President Trump invites him to the White House that weekend for an in-person interview. In recent years, the leader of the country has traditionally agreed to a one-on-one interview during Super Bowl weekend with someone from the network that has the rights to the game. Holt said discussions between NBC and the White House are taking place, but that nothing has been determined yet.

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