Actual Brewing CEO steps down after sexual harassment allegations

Local News

With three locations, Ohio based Actual Brewing Company employs 37 people. 

When Lisa Watkowski started there in 2017, she was going through a divorce. 

“I was a sales rep,” she said. 

Shortly after the job offer, she says Actual Brewing founder Fred Lee made another one.

“It was alot of offering to relieve frustrations or suggesting one of the brewers is cute you guys should get together in the brewery,” she said.

Watkowski clarified what frustrations he meant. “Sexual Frustrations.”

 She left the company after just 6-months because she said he crude comments came daily. 

“Pretty regularly. Pretty regularly. Yeah daily,” she said. 

And she’s not the only one. 

The allegations formally came to light when Natalie Phillips filed a police report as well as a complaint with the equal employment opportunity commission after she says Lee made multiple sexual advances on her and sexually inappropriate comments. 

By email, Phillips conveyed to NBC4, “I am grateful to see the acknowledgment from Actual Brewing that there is an issue with the safety of their work environment. “

She added, “I do not place blame on the individual investors or employees of Actual Brewing for the violence done to me. I do however take great issue with the fact that Fred Lee will still be receiving the financial benefits of his company.”

Columbus Ale Trail, a local buyer’s reward program with local brewers, also released a statement stating, “We take the allegations against Actual Brewing founder Fred Lee very seriously and have decided to remove Actual Brewing from the Columbus Ale Trail.”

Womenhaveoptions.org, a self-described statewide abortion fund also released a statement that begins with, “Women have options Ohio is officially announcing that we will no longer partner or accept support of any kind from Actual Brewing Company while Fred Lee is at or benefitting from the organization.”

With the allegations and fallout coming to a head, Lisa Watkowski just hopes it all means change is on tap and not just within Actual Brewing Company. 

“I would just like to see a shift and a change overall in the industry and just overall how men are, they need to be held accountable. Not just men I mean anybody who’s a predator, accountable,” she said. 

In response to the allegations, Lee’s lawyer emailed a written statement pointing out that of all the women making similar allegations, only 1 filed a police report. He goes on to state that the majority of the woman’s claims are that Lee made lewd comments. In closing, Lee’s lawyer states “Mr. Lee categorically denies ever forcing himself upon anyone, or engaging in unwanted sexual contact in any way.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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