Two SAP staffers say HR mishandled their work-event rape claims
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Two women who worked at SAP SE filed reports to the software company’s human resources department within 18 months of each other saying that they were raped by colleagues while attending after-work events on business trips.
The incidents – one in Las Vegas and the other near Dallas – provide an unsettling look into how some women at SAP say they struggled to convince their own HR team that they didn’t consent to sexual advances.
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For this story, Bloomberg spoke to the women, as well as seven other current and former employees who say they experienced sexual harassment or assault at company events, or witnessed it. All asked not to be identified because they fear reprisals or because they signed non-disclosure agreements. Bloomberg also reviewed internal emails and documents that detail how SAP, one of the world’s largest tech companies, responded to these complaints.,
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In the two instances of alleged rape, dating back to 2018, the accused attackers said they had sexual relations with the victims and that each woman appeared to be very drunk or acting abnormally, according to summaries of SAP’s internal investigations, which were seen by Bloomberg. The women said they believe they were drugged, and both filed reports with the police. SAP concluded that the men showed poor judgment and that the employees shouldn’t work together in the future, the SAP investigation showed.
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“We take all allegations of misconduct and criminal behaviour extraordinarily seriously. Ensuring the safety and well-being of our employees underlies all our decisions,” Joellen Perry, an SAP spokeswoman, said in an emailed statement in response to questions for this story. “We fully supported their independent investigations as well as opening our own internal enquiries. Law enforcement ultimately did not file any charges in either case. Together with our own findings, this led us to take the actions we deemed appropriate for the accused employees.
“The SAP of 2022 is, moreover, different than the SAP of the past,” Perry said. The company said it has recently commissioned an external review of its policies.
The women’s experiences were at the extreme end of a culture that current and former employees of SAP said allowed sexual harassment to fester. The company often hosted networking events that had a “boys’ club” climate, involving heavy drinking, which was used as an excuse for inappropriate and unwelcome advances from senior male managers, according to the current and former employees. Several women have said they were groped, followed to hotel rooms or forced to put up with lewd comments and other inappropriate behaviour from men they worked with.