TAMPA, Fla. — In the last two weeks, national newspapers like the Washington Post and the Boston Globe have written about a movement sweeping the craft beer industry. Several women, people of color and LGBTQ+ community members have accused breweries they work at or used to work for contributed to discrimination and abuse.
"I liked the community. I liked how open everybody was, how welcoming they were," Erica Jones said.
Jones said since 2011, the craft beer industry took her in and made her feel at home. She worked as a social media and brand director for several breweries, including one here in Tampa. But shortly after starting, she said she felt like an outsider.
"It was very much a boys club, and I was the only woman in the building," Jones said.
After working there for three years, she said things went downhill fast in 2019.
"Every time I tried to speak to anyone in the building, I would get screamed at and berated and yelled at. I felt less than," Jones said.
So after six months of interviewing with other breweries and getting nowhere, she decided to quit and never look back.
"I left an industry that I loved for a decade, an industry that took me in at probably my worst time. Yeah. That's really difficult," Jones said.
About two weeks ago, a friend of Jones sent her Brienne Allan's Instagram profile. Allan collected and shared hundreds of stories of alleged abuse in a currently 10-part highlight story on her profile. They detail stories of alleged racism, verbal, emotional or sexual abuse and discrimination. Mostly from women, people of color and LGBTQ+ community members.
"We do think that momentum will kind of continue to grow. The more individuals that we're able to reach and to represent, the more likely we can bring the case on a class-wide basis," Attorney Ashley Pileika with Forester Haynie said.
Pileika now represents Jones and three others but believes this could possibly reach the level of a class-action suit. Since no lawsuit has been filed, ABC Action News is not naming the local brewery.
But the lawyer representing the brewery Jones used to work for agreed to talk with ABC Action News through Zoom about what its owners are doing right now.
"They're looking into their current policies. They're working with me to see if any of those can be changed and should be changed to be more accommodating to staff," Attorney Benjamin Strazl said.
Now Jones is hoping for impactful change and reform.
"This isn't cancel culture. This is accountability — 100%. I just want that space. The community that I've always loved to be in do better by the people that support it," Jones said.
The local brewery's lawyer and Jones both said the owners reached out to her. Now, their lawyers are in contact. Both parties said they're willing to do some type of mediation before going to court.
Pileika is urging other people with allegations to step forward. You can contact their law firm at www.brewproblems.com.