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Zentropa producer Peter Aalbæk is »not familiar with« new rules against harassment

The Danish Working Environment Authority has concluded its inspection of Zentropa after the film company took a number of steps against bullying and sexual harassment and introduced a new code of conduct. But producer and co-owner Peter Aalbæk claims that he does not know the new rules and says that he has no intention of following them.

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Johansen Linda
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Peter Aalbæk Jensen is working at Zentropa as producer. He is member of the board and shares an ownership of 25 percent of the company with director Lars von Trier.

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The Danish film company Zentropa last month completed work on a new set of ethical guidelines after revelations last fall that several current and former employees had been exposed to bullying or sexual harassment.

But producer, co-owner and former CEO of Zentropa, Peter Aalbæk Jensen, who was the target of the accusations and confirmed that most of them were true, has not read the company’s new guidelines on proper workplace behavior.

»I’m not familiar with them«, Mr. Aalbæk Jensen said.

The guidelines stress that »bullying and harassment« are »unacceptable« and that workplace communication should be »outspoken, but never condescending«.

»I’ve never been interested in Boy Scout rules, not when I was CEO of the company and not now«, Mr. Aalbæk Jensen - who stepped down as CEO 2016 - said.

Fondness for butt-slapping

In November, 9 women, all former Zentropa employees, told Politiken that they had been bullied, humiliated and sexually harassed in the workplace. Several of the women later left the film industry because of their experiences.

When the Danish Working Environment Authority visited Zentropa later in November and December, it did not find anything to criticize during the actual inspections. But in its report, which was finalized in January, the authority wrote that »until shortly before the Danish Working Environment began its inquiry into the mental working environment, offensive acts were taking place, acts that we would characterize as bullying, including sexual harassment«.

Asked whether he is the target of the specific cases involving current employees, Mr. Aalbæk Jensen said:

»Absolutely. I know that I’m guilty and that I have been guilty for about 25 years, with my fondness for butt-slapping. And it was delightful until the second I was told to give it up«.

Mr. Aalbæk Jensen has been ordered not to spank interns and refrain from giving them assignments.

Asked whether he intends to continue doing those two things, he said:

»Then I would be disobeying the company’s management«.

Do you disobey the company’s management?

»About 30 times a day«.

Mr. Aalbæk Jensens finds it both »boring and petit bourgeois« that he is no longer allowed to spank employees.

Focus on the films

Zentropa’s CEO, Anders Kjærhauge, has a different view of Mr. Aalbæk Jensen’s knowledge of the new guidelines.

»He is familiar with them. At least, he knows the general principles«.

In the Danish Working Environment Authority’s report from January it is mentioned that Zentropa was supposed to do a series of talks with Mr. Aalbæk Jensen about the new guidelines.

This is also denied by Mr. Aalbæk Jensen who told Politiken:

»There hasn’t been any activities that I would describe as a series of talks«

Mr. Kjærhauge, however, maintains that the talks have been held:

»We have talked about the things that needed to be talked about. Now, we want to make some films and focus on celebrating Lars (von Trier) in Cannes. That’s what we’re supposed to do«.

Peter Aalbæk Jensen steppped down as CEO in 2016. He is still working at Zentropa as producer. He is member of the board and shares an ownership of 25 percent of the company with director Lars von Trier.

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