Reykjavík Energy Addresses Workplace Harassment Accusations

Reyjavík Energy (OR) is now working toward changes to address the conclusions of a thorough assessment of the company’s work culture, RÚV reports. Around two months ago, the company was accused of sustaining a toxic work environment. The accusations were connected in part to the departure of two directors within the company. This prompted a detailed investigation into the company’s work culture, the results of which were released earlier this week.

Sexual harassment complaints

Reykjavík Energy is an energy and utility company owned almost exclusively by the City of Reykjavík. The company’s CEO Bjarni Bjarnason requested temporary leave during the investigation, purportedly to ensure the impartiality of the investigation. Bjarni Bjarnason has been implicated in a workplace harassment scandal which originally centered around the “inappropriate behaviour” of Bjarni Már Júlíusson, former CEO of ON Power, a subsidiary of Reykjavík Energy. Former ON Power employee Áslaug Thelma Einarsdóttir says Bjarni knew of her complains of sexual harassment at the company but failed to address them.

Some felt silenced

The assessment concluded that employees at the company generally experience support from their colleagues and superiors and feel good at work. Five out of six Reykjavík Energy employees measure their trust for their superiors highly, though a rather smaller proportion express trust in the company’s senior management.

Hildur Björnsdóttir, city councillor and Reykjavík Energy board member expressed satisfaction that the results of the assessment showed most of the company’s employees are happy with their work environment. She stated, however, that the report brought to light violations the company must address, and criticises that parts of the assessment have not been made available either to the company’s board or the public. “I know of people who experienced that as a sort of silencing,” she remarked.

Reykjavík Energy considers further investigation

According to the report, 30% of the company’s employees have experienced bullying in the workplace, and 104 employees left the company over the last four years. Hildur stated the company’s board would take the conclusions to heart and was considering whether additional investigation was called for.

Former EFTA Chairman Takes Over as Temporary CEO of Reykjavík Energy

Helga Jónsdóttir, a former chairman of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is temporarily stepping in as CEO of Reykjavík Energy, RÚV reports. Helga’s two-month appointment was unanimously approved by the board. She is taking over for Bjarni Bjarnason, who temporarily stepped down while the organization conducts an investigation of its “workplace culture.”

Bjarni Bjarnason has been implicated in a still-unfolding workplace harassment scandal which originally centered around the “inappropriate behaviour” of Bjarni Már Júlíusson, the former CEO of ON Power, which is a subsidiary of Reykjavík Energy. Bjarni Már has been fired from his position, while Bjarni Bjarnason, his former boss, has been accused of knowingly turning a blind eye to his behavior.

According to former employee Áslaug Thelma Einarsdóttir, she spoke up about the CEO’s misogynistic behaviour over a period of 18 months and was fired for doing so. In a Facebook post, Áslaug claimed that Bjarni Bjarnason had known about her several complaints for months but done nothing about them because Bjarni Már ‘had been running the company so well’.

Sexist Behaviour at ON Power ‘a Can of Worms’

Berglind Rán Ólafsdóttir has been appointed CEO of ON Power, subsidiary of Reykjavík Energy after former CEO Bjarni Már Júlíusson was fired due to misogynistic conduct last week, RÚV reports. It had previously been announced that Þórður Ásmundsson would assume the position but the board of Reykjavík Energy was informed that Þórður had been accused of ‘serious sexual misconduct’. Bjarni Bjarnason, CEO of Reykjavík Energy, has temporarily stepped down while the ‘workplace culture’ is looked at.

Þórður had been working as a director within the On Power. Last Thursday, it was announced that he would be temporarily appointed CEO of ON Power but late last Friday, the management of Reykjavík Energy were informed that Þórður had been accused of serious sexual misconduct. Þórður is currently on leave. RÚV has confirmed that the accusations of sexual misconduct are not connected to his work at ON Power and the alleged misconduct is supposed to have taken place before he started working there.

Other complaints of sexual harassment have also surfaced, such as the matter of Reykjavík Energy’s financial director Ingvar Stefánsson, who received a written warning after sexually harassing two female colleagues at a company event in 2015, according to RÚV. He has confirmed the claim but has stated that he has regretted the event ever since and that he immediately sought treatment for his alcoholism and other issues. City council members Hildur Björnsdóttir and Þórdís Lóa Þórhallsdóttir confirmed in an interview with RÚV that since the matter became public they had received a considerable amount of stories of inappropriate behaviour towards the staff of Reykjavík Energy. Hildur is a Reykjavík Energy board member. She stated that “In the wake of this case, I’ve received a considerable amount of information and accounts that paint a picture of a harmful working environment. There’s every reason to investigate further to see if this situation is normal.” Þórdís told RÚV, “I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this. I think more and more cases are coming to the surface from within Reykjavík Energy and other companies in the same vein. A can of worms has been opened and I think it’s important that we deal with the matter with discipline and composure.”

The state of internal affairs at ON Power first raised attention when Áslaug Thelma Einarsdóttir spoke up about the CEO’s misogynistic behaviour over a period of 18 months and was fired for doing so. In a Facebook post, Áslaug claimed that Bjarni Bjarnason had known about her several complaints for months but done nothing about them because Bjarni Már ‘had been running the company so well’. Bjarni Bjarnason asked to step down of his own accord, according to Vísir. In an announcement, he wished that all matters that have arisen would be looked into and that the workplace culture of the company would be investigated.

Fired for Calling Out Sexist Behaviour

Áslaug Thelma Einarsdóttir says she spoke up about former ON Power CEO Bjarni Már Júlíusson’s misogynistic behaviour over a period of 18 months, and was eventually fired for doing so. The former Managing Director of Consumer Markets at the company condemns ON Power and the City of Reykjavík for their handling of the case and says she will take legal action. RÚV reported first.

ON Power is a subsidiary of Reykjavík Energy, whose majority owner is the City of Reykjavík. Former ON Power CEO Bjarni Már Júlíusson was fired due to misogynistic conduct last week. Áslaug condemns the action as too little, too late.

“In a number of cases for over 18 months I commented on the conduct of this director to the Human Resources Director of Reykjavík Energy,” Áslaug stated in a Facebook post today. “This had to do with his conduct in public and at meetings with clients and in private meetings he called my female colleagues inside and outside ON names that no one should use. He accused my subordinate of not being horny or organised enough when he tried openly in front of witnesses to “cure” her of the illness of being single. Then at one meeting he accused me in front of the employee manager of flirting my way to a higher salary in talks with the previous managing director. Ergo: I wasn’t worth my salary and or plainly that I was a prostitute. I could go on forever.”

Bjarni Bjarnason, CEO of Reykjavík Energy, stated last week that Bjarni Már was fired because of a single inappropriate email. Áslaug’s asserts however that the Reykjavík Energy CEO had known about multiple instances of inappropriate behaviour for some time.

“Today at 2.00pm I will meet a lawyer as I do not see that ON Power, Reykjavík Energy, or the City of Reykjavik is showing any effort to discuss with me further, and consequently to correct the damage I have suffered – to be fired for doing the right thing. Fired for trying to protect myself and my female colleagues,” stated Áslaug in her post. “I will in consultation with him, demand my rights in full.”

Firing of ON Power’s CEO a “Sign of the Times”

Bjarni Már Júlíusson, the CEO of ON Power has been fired for improper conduct toward his colleagues, RÚV reports. According to an announcement issued by the company, Þórður Ásmundsson will take over as interim CEO for the time being.

ON Power is a subsidiary of Reykjavík Energy, an Icelandic utilities company whose majority owner is the City of Reykjavík. Although the nature of Bjarni Már’s actions were not explicitly stated, the announcement said that they were “taken seriously by ON Power management.” The day before Bjarni Már was fired, however, a Facebook post written by former communications director for the City of Hafnarfjörður Einar Bardarson alluded to the inappropriate behavior. “Are we absolutely sure there was a Me Too movement here this winter?” the post began.

“I met a remarkable man today, or rather, an unremarkable one. He’s the CEO of a large corporation, with a [CEO under him] who manages a number of entities for him. He revealed to me that he thinks it’s okay for a manager on his watch to send pornographic emails to female subordinates on Saturday nights…” The post continued to say that the man in question routinely referred to women in crass and misogynistic terms, and spoke crudely to them in front of their colleagues. “Would you be satisfied having a man like this work for you?” the post concluded. “What would you do if he was working for you?”

The post led to a great deal of speculation about who the CEO and offending manager were, until eventually it was confirmed that Einar was writing about Bjarni Bjarnason, the CEO of Reykjavík Energy, and his subordinate and the now-former CEO of ON Power, Bjarni Már Júlíusson.

Þórdís Lóa Þórhallsdóttir, president of the executive board for the City of Reykjavik, was asked by reporters whether she thought a situation of this nature would have been similarly dealt with five to ten years ago. “I naturally would like to be able to answer that the response would have been the same…but I’m afraid that it wouldn’t have. That’s to say, I think the Me Too movement has opened all of our eyes a bit about what kind of social problems we’re fighting against and I think that this is kind of a sign of the times now.”