Two law firms hired by Essence Communications have disputed wide-ranging accusations made against senior executives in June, shooting down reports that the workplace was toxic and that CEO Richelieu Dennis had sexually harassed women, according to The New York Times. 

In late June, an anonymous group of Essence employees wrote a letter on Medium calling the brand's dedication to Black women "fraudulent."

The letter, written by a group called Black Female Anonymous, demanded that advertisers like AT&T, Coca Cola, Chase Bank and McDonalds pull their support for the Black publication while also calling for the resignation of Dennis, Essence Ventures board member Michelle Ebanks, Chief Operating Officer Joy Collins Profet and Chief Content Officer Moana Luu.

"The once exalted media brand dedicated to Black women has been hijacked by cultural and corporate greed and an unhinged abuse of power. The company’s longstanding pattern of gross mistreatment and abuse of its Black female employees is the biggest open secret in the media business," the letter read.

"New owner and CEO Richelieu Dennis, Michelle Ebanks, Joy Collins Profet and Moana Luu collaboratively immortalize an extremely unhealthy work culture. Scores of talented Black women have been either wrongfully laid off or forced to resign from the company in the past two years," the anonymous writers said, adding that many women have been "systematically suppressed by pay inequity, sexual harassment, corporate bullying, intimidation, colorism and classism."

In response to the allegations, both Luu and Dennis removed themselves from the day-to-day operations of the company, according to The New York Times. At the time of the letter's publishing, Ebanks had already stepped down as CEO in March but still had a seat on the company's board and Collins Profet had taken a job at another company. 

The company hired two law firms, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and Proskauer Rose, to investigate the claims. 

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius was tasked with examining the workplace allegations and Proskauer Rose looked into the sexual harassment claims against Dennis.

The Proskauer Rose investigation, first reported by The Grio last month, found no suggestions or allegations of sexual harassment, despite a number of explosive accusations in the Medium letter.

After 17 interviews, the law firm said there "were no suggestions or allegations of any sexual harassment by Dennis from witnesses in any of the interviews," but the Medium letter stated Dennis "has a history of sleeping with women" at the company he owned before Essence and "openly sexually harasses" women at work events. 

The letter also claimed that Dennis "tried to force Essence employees and contractors to sign non-disclosure agreements that exclusively protects his family from liability or disparagement after a string of wrongful layoffs and other potentially libelous business activity."

The second investigation into workplace misconduct was concluded recently and Morgan, Lewis & Bockius sent a copy of the report to the New York Times this week. 

That report denies what was stated in the Medium letter about the toxic workplace. The Medium letter listed dozens of accusations including bullying, discrimination, mismanagement and verbal abuse.

Throughout a six-week investigation, the law firm allegedly spoke with 24 current and former Essence employees and "did not find any evidence of conduct that would amount to unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation.”

Both law firms tried to contact the people behind the Medium essay but did not get a response, either over email or through direct messages on Instagram. 

Current leaders at Essence hailed the reports, but the New York Times noted that some allegations were proven correct.

“Several witnesses stated that they feel pressured to work incredibly hard without recognition or reward and there are no boundaries or work-life balance,” the report read.

“According to a number of employees, much of this work is generated by poor planning and a lack of communication from certain members of management. Based on our interviews, there also is a lack of transparency with respect to pay and promotions,” the report added, confirming one of the allegations raised by Black Female Anonymous. 

After selling Sundial Brands, the parent company of SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage, to Unilever in 2018, Dennis bought Essence Communications from Time Inc.

Despite not responding to media requests, Black Female Anonymous posted on social media in July that they felt their efforts were a success. 

The petition the group started is still bringing in signatures, reaching almost 5,000. The magazine is still wildly popular, with millions of subscriptions and page views as well as the now-iconic annual Essence Festival.