The FIA claims that ‘due process was followed’ in an employee exit following allegations of sexism against the president.
The FIA claims that “due process was followed” in the departure of a former employee following sexism complaints against its head.
Before leaving in December, Shaila-Ann Rao sent a letter accusing President Mohammed Ben Sulayem of sexist behavior, according to the Telegraph.
Rao was the FIA’s former interim secretary general for motorsport, leaving after only six months.
According to an FIA official, Rao left after a “amicable discussion.”
A top source told BBC Sport that the letter indeed exist.
According to the FIA’s regulations, any investigation into whether the president of motorsport’s governing body has violated its code of ethics must be considered by the organization’s Senate.
In response to a series of questions from BBC Sport about the specific allegations and Ben Sulayem’s overall behavior raised by the report, the FIA said in a statement: “Due process was followed, with an amicable negotiation conducted by the president of the senate and, as a result, no referrals to the ethics committee were made.”
“As previously stated, both parties agreed she would leave her position in November 2022, and mutual privacy terms were agreed, as is common business practice.”
The statement claimed, in reference to broader charges of bullying and abusive behavior by Ben Sulayem, “there have been no complaints received against the president.”
“The FIA takes allegations of abuse very seriously and addresses all complaints using robust and clear procedures,” the statement continued.
“As part of this, the FIA has an anti-harassment policy, an anonymous whistleblowing facility, and an investigation procedure, and all staff are made aware of these through induction and regular training.”
The claims against Rao are the latest in a string of issues that have dogged Ben Sulayem since he took over as FIA president in December 2021.
His approach to a series of regulatory issues, including blocking for six months a plan to increase the number of’sprint’ events for 2023, and a ban on drivers wearing jewelry, which many saw as a targeted attack on Lewis Hamilton, enraged teams and commercial rights holder F1.
During the winter, his comments on the worth of F1 in response to a report regarding a prospective sale of the sport resulted in a ‘stop and desist’ letter from F1’s attorneys, emphasizing that he had no authority to engage in commercial affairs and threatening legal action.
He was also compelled to reverse a new regulation that prohibited drivers from speaking out on controversial matters.
And there was great uproar in the sport when ancient sexist statements from an old website surfaced, in which Ben Sulayem stated that he “does not like women who think they are smarter than men… for they are not in truth.”
At the time, the FIA stated that his words did not reflect his current opinions.
Following the issues, Ben Sulayem announced his departure from day-to-day engagement in F1 and the formation of a new management structure to handle the FIA’s marquee category.
Ben Sulayem has named Natalie Robyn, a former automotive industry executive, as the FIA’s first chief executive officer, as well as Tanya Kutsenko, a Ukrainian, as its first equality, diversity, and inclusion advisor.
“As part of the FIA’s restructuring, initiated by the President and led by our new CEO, we are actively reviewing the entire FIA organization with a deliberate and sustained effort to create an excellent culture that fosters collaboration, empowerment, and purpose among our employees,” the FIA statement continued.
“If the FIA ethics committee or compliance officer receives a complaint from a member of staff, our panel of independent elected ethics committee members, which has been in place since 2012, will investigate it thoroughly.”