The Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas is moving to expel six members following an investigation into 22 who were accused of sexual harassment in a New York Times story last year, the organization announced Wednesday.
The Times spoke with 21 female sommeliers who said they had been sexually manipulated, harassed or assaulted by male master sommeliers.
The story prompted the sommeliers association to hire outside investigators to corroborate the claims, who found the six men exhibited behaviors ranging from “inappropriate comments and flirting to nonconsensual touching and exploiting a mentoring relationship for a perceived quid pro quo,” according to the statement.
Among those the organization is seeking to expell is Fred Dame, the co-founder of the Americas branch of the group and the subject of a 2012 documentary, Somm.
A hearing will be held on terminating the six men’s memberships within thirty days.
At least 11 master sommeliers were suspended following the accusations, though Wednesday’s statement said the investigation’s findings warranted no further action and some members have been removed from suspension.
The group’s entire board of directors resigned following the Times report.
“This reckoning in our industry and organization has been incredibly painful,” said Emily Wines, chair of the board of directors. “Most painful of all for the survivors who felt unsafe or compromised by those they trusted.”
“Sexual aggression is a constant for women somms,” said Madeleine Thompson, a wine director who told The Times she was harassed by several master sommeliers. “We can’t escape it, so we learn to live with it.”
The Times cited several accusations of sexual misconduct by members, including an instance of rape. Male sommeliers allegedly offered recommendation letters and other favors to female peers in exchange for sex. Dame was accused of slapping female sommeliers on the rear end at court events and making unwanted sexual remarks.
144. That’s how many of the 172 total members of the prestigious group are men.