STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We have news this morning about the American Red Cross. The charity organization acknowledges it forced out a senior executive amid allegations of sexual harassment and worse in 2012. The dismissed executive was then hired by Save the Children after a favorable recommendation from the Red Cross. The Red Cross has confirmed all of this and apologized for that job recommendation in response to an investigation by two ProPublica reporters, one of whom is Justin Elliott and is on the line.
JUSTIN ELLIOTT: Good morning.
INSKEEP: Who's the official, and what did he allegedly do?
ELLIOTT: So the official's name is Jerry Anderson, and he was a veteran Red Cross staffer. He had run two very large programs, the relief efforts after the Indian Ocean tsunami in the early 2000s, and then later the relief effort after the Haiti earthquake. Two young women who had worked at the Red Cross when they were in their early 20s later came forward to the management of the organization with allegations of in one case sexual harassment.
Another young staffer at the Red Cross attended a happy hour with him in Washington and then the next morning woke up in his apartment. She couldn't remember what happened, has a memory gap, went to the hospital and got a rape kit done. Jerry Anderson denies any sexual misconduct, but the Red Cross did bring in one of their lawyers to do an investigation, and they concluded that he had violated their policies and forced him out.
INSKEEP: Before we get to that, were the police ever brought in as the woman spread word of what she thought had happened?
ELLIOTT: She decided she didn't want to report it to police. And actually in both cases, the women initially didn't report what had happened, even to Red Cross management. They were very young, you know, in their first jobs out of college, and both feared that it would hurt their careers. About a year and a half later, the allegations did make their way to management, and that's when the investigation began.
INSKEEP: And we should mention these accusers are now giving their names. They're named in your story, Eliza Paul and Camille Herland. And you said that the Red Cross did push out the executive back in 2012. What makes this story different in your mind from so many other stories we've heard about in recent months?
ELLIOTT: We feel like we really got a window into how institutions have dealt with these cases. In this case, David Meltzer, who at the time was the head of the international division of the Red Cross, now is the general counsel of the organization, sent an email announcing Jerry Anderson's departure in which he praised him, said that Anderson himself was choosing to leave, thanked him for his leadership.
Meltzer also then gave a staff meeting in which he repeated those comments, which was very upsetting to some people in the audience. And then the Red Cross gave positive references to Anderson very shortly thereafter when Save the Children was considering hiring him. And Save the Children says that they were never told that this person had just been fired after an investigation found that he committed a serious misconduct.
INSKEEP: Were they just not told, or did they actually get a glowing reference about this gentleman?
ELLIOTT: Save the Children has told us that the Red Cross gave only positive references. So we don't know sort of all the details there, but the Red Cross has acknowledged that laudatory reference was given, and they have said that they are now taking unspecified disciplinary action. They say that shouldn't have happened.
INSKEEP: Are employers legally required when a former employee applies somewhere else to disclose everything that's in the personnel file?
ELLIOTT: Employers are generally not required to say much of anything about an employee who has left. We were told by experts in this area that a lot of large employers have adopted the policy of just giving sort of name and dates of employment. But we were also told by people that even if that's the policy, there are often sort of informal networks in which you do get more information about somebody you're considering hiring. The humanitarian industry sort of as a whole has actually been looking at these issues. There was a report recently issued by a task force in the industry identifying this question of information sharing about people who've committed serious misconduct and whether it should be done better and whether how it's been done in the past is actually working.
INSKEEP: Justin Elliott of ProPublica, who reported this story with Ariana Tobin. Thanks very much.
ELLIOTT: Thank you.
INSKEEP: Anderson responded to ProPublica through his attorney. He denies any sexual misconduct. You can read ProPublica's full report at propublica.org.
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