How Scientologist Execs at Media Company e.Republic Made Workers’ Lives a Living Hell

Tarpley Hitt
·14 min read
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos via Getty
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos via Getty

Ryan Gallant needed a change of pace. He taught French at a local California middle school, but his salary barely covered his bills. To supplement his income, he worked the late shift at a Mendocino Farms deli. Then, in January of 2019, Gallant finally found an upgrade: a research analyst position at a Folsom-based marketing and media firm called e.Republic. Glassdoor reviews for the company were mixed. Some staff were effusive. “Healthy environment, great people!!!” one employee wrote in 2018. The rest were unequivocally negative. One reviewer titled their assessment: “Worst Job I Ever Had.” Another called theirs: “Beware!”

The bad reviews shared a common theme: The company’s owners, executives, and much of its upper management were high-ranking members of the Church of Scientology. “The company made me right [sic] a positive review to counteract all the negative reviews they were getting because of their affiliation with Scientology,” an ex-employee wrote. “As one reviewer stated, the best day at e.Republic is the day you leave.”

Gallant took the job anyway. He figured his new bosses’ religion wouldn’t impact much. It hadn’t, after all, kept the firm from dealing with dozens of big-name tech companies—Google, AT&T, Verizon, IBM, Cisco—or maintaining relationships with well-known politicians, like Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum. (The offices of Garcetti and Burgum did not respond to requests for comment.)

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After he started, Gallant noticed the company had some quirks. Its infrastructure seemed antiquated, and priorities seemed almost random. One executive gave frequent seminars on building a “personal brand,” occasionally ruminating on the importance of “cute hats”; the C-suite regularly gave out CDs of Christmas-themed New Jazz, recorded by the president and her husband. But some peculiarities concerned Gallant more than others. For one, the pay was meager; internal payroll documents from 2013 showed starting salaries as low as $24,960, even as executives were compensated more than $10,000 per hour. The days were long—he regularly clocked 10-hour shifts. And the staff was highly-surveilled. Managers would take long, curving sweeps around the office so frequently, an ex-research director claimed, that workers developed a code word for them: sentries.

“It was like a ‘70s factory,’ another former researcher said. “They would call people out for taking slightly too long of breaks… like, ‘Reminder staff: Your breaks are to be 10 minutes. Some of you are going for walks and it’s clearly over 10 minutes.’”

Gallant said he had informed his boss that he suffered from Crohn’s disease, a condition that can cause chronic fatigue. About a year into his employment he was diagnosed with another rare condition: secondary polycythemia. “I was physically and mentally exhausted,” he said. “They knew I was dealing with medical issues, knew I was overworked, but did absolutely nothing.” Gallant relied heavily on his therapist, though the services weren’t covered by the company’s insurance. He also started to see a psychiatrist for the stress. Over the course of his two-year employment, according to receipts reviewed by The Daily Beast, he would pay over $9,000 in out-of-pocket expenses for mental health care.

Gallant’s experience wasn’t unique. A half-dozen former and current e.Republic employees told The Daily Beast that the company fostered a brutal work environment, which took a toll on their physical and mental health. “I had instances where I needed to work from home just for health reasons,” said Ashley Subramani, an ex-researcher who quit in Oct. 2020. “They would deny it because they wouldn’t be able to monitor what I was doing.” Three sources independently confirmed that another employee, an Army veteran who has been diagnosed with PTSD, took a full year of mental health leave under federal provisions through the Department of Veterans Affairs, solely due to work-related stress. All of them attributed the company’s atmosphere to the influence of Scientology, which they saw not only as the religion of about a quarter of staff—primarily executives—but an organizing principle around which the entire business was based.

The company’s leadership rejects this. From their end, the beliefs of company leadership have no bearing on the business. They see their company as comparable to many others, organized with an eye toward profits and cost-cutting. Accusations of Scientology’s involvement, e.Republic COO Paul Harney wrote in a statement, “are based on inaccurate and false assumptions, information that is fifteen to twenty years old and way out of date, and items which have been addressed numerous times but continue to be repeated regardless of a basis in fact.” (The Church of Scientology did not respond to requests for comment.)

But a trove of internal company documents reviewed by The Daily Beast appear to support the staffers’ claims. Dozens of files, which existed on the company’s shared drive as recently as this week, reveal a corporate structure that bears distinct similarity to the management principles laid out by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Some documents detail the Scientology courses executives have taken; others employ Hubbard-specific vocabulary. A seminar guide from 2016 is comprised exclusively of Hubbard’s quotes and axioms. One training document, when opened in Microsoft Word, still has the track changes where an employee edited out Hubbard citations to replace them with secular ones.

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>A Church of Scientology building in Los Angeles, California</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Kevork Djansezian/Getty</div>

A Church of Scientology building in Los Angeles, California

Kevork Djansezian/Getty

“It seems a hodgepodge of disrelated, inaccurate, or old pieces of information that are being conflated into a context and narrative that is not factual,” Harney said of the files.

“These things are all Scientology,” former Church of Scientology executive Mike Rinder said after reviewing the documents. “They simply remove religious language, and often Hubbard’s name, and publish them as ‘secular.’”

The company’s origin story began in 1984, when two Scientologists named Dennis McKenna and Robert Graves founded GMW Communications, Inc. The idea was to start a media and research corporation focused on connecting tech companies with state and local governments. Over the years, the firm evolved in both name and purpose into a complex corporate structure: e.Republic now does corporate research and sales, plans conferences, and operates several publications, including Techwire, GovTech100, and the once well-known municipal publication Governing, which relaunched last January, after briefly shuttering in 2019.

It’s a fairly lucrative enterprise—generating $30.72 million in annual sales revenue, according to D&B Hoovers—and one connected with countless politicians below the federal level. In the past eight weeks alone, public officials for San Jose, Washington, Maryland, and Georgia have spoken on their webinars. Garcetti has appeared on their podcast, In the Arena, as have the mayors of Dayton, Ohio, Columbia, South Carolina, and Louisville, Kentucky. In 2018, company promo materials cited a Garcetti quote: “I’m a Governing junkie.”

From its inception, e.Republic’s ties to Scientology were no secret. Both McKenna and Graves are long-time, high-ranking members and generous donors to the church. According to the Tampa Bay Times, McKenna has donated at least $1.5 million; Graves, now e.Republic’s majority stakeholder, has donated at least $1 million. “McKenna is a very, very, very well-known Scientologist,” Rinder said. “Bob Graves is another one. Bob Graves is married to Judy Norton Taylor, a very prominent, well-known Scientologist. Their daughter… works for [Scientology President] David Miscavige.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Getty</div>

Church of Scientology leader David Miscavige

Getty

The association trickled down to the workplace. A Sacramento News and Review article from 2001 reported that the company had been giving out copies of L. Ron Hubbard’s management training manual, Speaking From Experience, to every employee on their first day of work and requiring courses on its contents. The book summarized Hubbard’s philosophy of management, or what he called “Administration Technology,” which he had laid out over the course of 10 volumes. At the crux of Hubbard’s “technology,” Rinder said, was a focus on statistics, monitoring productivity, and constantly requiring an increased level of worker output. “You reward those who do well and you penalize those who don't,” he explained. “It is a very complicated and very arcane system of how you discipline people, how you reward them, how you make them do better and be more compliant.”

The Church of Scientology implements these practices (and more) in its own businesses, some of which have led to well-publicized scandals. In 2011, the Tampa Bay Times reported on a lawsuit from a former church member who claimed he’d been forced to sign a billion-year contract at 6, under which he’d worked between 40- and 100-hour weeks for $35-$50 per week. A 2013 exposé from the Times provided a detailed account of a brutal work climate at a Los Angeles Scientology outpost. “It became a place of confinement and humiliation where Scientology's management culture—always demanding—grew extreme,” the Times reporters wrote. “Inside, a who’s who of Scientology leadership went at each other with brutal tongue lashings, and even hands and fists.” (No e.Republic employees have accused anyone of corporal punishment.)

Implementing Hubbard’s management principles in the secular workplace has proved controversial in the past. Most notoriously, in the 1990s, Allstate Insurance came under fire when the Wall Street Journal reported they’d hired a contractor named Don Pearson to conduct training seminars using Hubbard’s technology. After three years, the company fired Pearson, but not until after he’d trained some 3,500 employees in over 200 seminars, leading to several lawsuits and dozens of Equal Employment Opportunity complaints. The same year, Pearson took a position at e.Republic, where he stayed in upper management until 2014.

e.Republic firmly rejects any association with Hubbard’s personal performance metrics or the organization that sells his technology, the World Institute of Scientology Enterprises (WISE did not respond to a request for comment). But GMW Communications and e.Republic both appeared in WISE member directories from at least 2001 to 2004. Testimonies of former employees and internal documents indicate that elements of the philosophy persisted at e.Republic into the 2010s. When one woman joined the company in 2016, she saw Hubbard’s book on several colleagues’ desks. The use of his training materials had officially been phased out, she said, but the traces were visible; the head of H.R. kept an inspirational poster of him hanging in her office.

Several current and former e.Republic employees said they recognized Hubbard’s principles in the firm’s organization. Most pointed to common Scientology phrases: “Org Board,” meaning a chart that lays out the bureaucratic structure of an organization into divisions, departments, and hierarchy of personnel; “know-how,” for comprehension; and “hat,” to mean one’s particular duties or responsibilities.

The same phrases appear throughout files on the company drive. “The proper use of hats and hatting preserves valuable know-how in a group,” a document titled “Hat Write-Up Jason” reads. “It all too often occurs that ‘the new broom sweeps clean,’ referring to an individual new to a post who wipes out all the policies and standards being used by that post’s predecessor. This practice is generally very detrimental… Entire professions, industries and even civilizations have collapsed because they ignored this point.”

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A memo from the Chief of Staff dated March 25, 2016, includes bullet points titled “Exec Hats,” “Org board,” and “HCOPL Basic Management Tools.” According to the Free Dictionary acronym database, HCOPL stands for “Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter.” A document from April 13 of the same year is a bit more explicit. Titled “Conquering Life Postulate Seminar References,” the packet compiles 25 pages of quotes and axioms from Hubbard in a range of legibility. “THE DEGREES OF SIMPLICITY IS PROPORTIONAL TO THE DEGREE OF NONCONFRONT,” the first reads. “Reversing this: THE DEGREE OF SIMPLICITY IS PROPORTIONAL TO THE DEGREE OF CONFRONT.”

Some of the files shared with the Daily Beast were not work-related. A 2005 document titled “Contributions” recounts a current executive’s church levels from 1979 to when she completed the highest course, OT8. “When I returned home from OT 6 and auditing on OT 7,” she wrote at one point, “I and my husband knew we needed to make a change and help LRH [L. Ron Hubbard].”

Efforts have been taken to erase Hubbard terminology. A training document titled “Glossary for Basics on Study” still has track changes in it from Oct. 19, 2012. At the top, an editor deleted a sentence noting that “definitions taken from the following are definitions by L. Ron Hubbard.” Throughout the document, Hubbard’s phrases have been removed, leaving only those from secular sources like Merriam-Webster.

None of the employees found the phrases as troubling as the work philosophy they seemed to represent—a high degree of micromanagement, a persistent focus on performance failures, and retribution when staff stepped outside the norm. “I don’t even know how to describe it,” the ex-research director said, figuratively, “other than taking someone to the shed and beating them. That’s what it brings to my mind.”

A document titled “Research & Navigator Department Analysis 2015” captures a snapshot of the criticism she described. “Research Coordinator [name redacted], found to be dishonest and lying, spreading disaffection; underutilized,” the first bullet reads. Elsewhere, the author singled out another employee’s “quality control issues,” “poor quality results,” and “inadequacies in being able to deliver high quality products,” adding “3 clients he’s flubbed on as of recent.”

<div class="inline-image__caption"><p>Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard</p></div> <div class="inline-image__credit">Los Angeles Daily News</div>

Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard

Los Angeles Daily News

“It was 100 percent surveilled,” one worker said. “They’d read all your emails. They would read all your instant messaging through the company.” When one former researcher gave notice, three sources recalled, she’d told colleagues prior to telling the executives, asking them to keep it discrete. She wiped her work computer, but management restored her files. When they learned colleagues had known about her departure, three of them were brought in for questioning. “I got called into [an executive’s] office who said, ‘You know, I went through and read all the emails,’” one of them remembered, “‘So I know that she told you.’”

It was the culture that Gallant and others say led them to seek mental health treatment. But none felt they could discuss it at work. Scientology is strictly opposed to psychiatry—the Scientology-affiliated Citizens Commission on Human Rights, for example, operates the Los Angeles-based museum, Psychiatry: An Industry of Death, which blames both 9/11 and the Holocaust on psychiatry. In a 1969 Hubbard Communications Office Policy Letter titled “TARGETS, DEFENSE,” the church’s founder outlined his opposition to the profession:

The names and connections, at this time, of the bitterly opposing enemy are:

  1. Psychiatry and psychology (not medicine).

  2. The heads of news media who are also directors of psychiatric front groups.

  3. A few key political figures in the fields of “mental health” and education.

  4. A decline of monetary stability caused by the current planning of bankers who are also directors of psychiatric front organizations [that] would make us unable to function.

The company’s benefits do cover in-network mental health care, as is mandated by the Affordable Care Act, and e.Republic wholly rejects ever dissuading workers from using it. “Maintaining a sustainable business requires having a healthy work-life balance among all of our team,” e.Republic COO Paul Harney said. “This means being sensitive to the different requirements and work styles for all the people at e.Republic.”

Multiple upper managers, however, are alleged to have advocated against psychiatric treatment—the H.R. department’s Medical Privacy Officer has been photographed at anti-psychiatry protests. According to the Sacramento News and Review, longtime-executive Pearson founded a local chapter of the Citizens Commission and a political action committee—the Association of Citizens for Social Reform—dedicated to eliminating public funding for mental health care.

In January, Gallant invoked the Family and Medical Leave Act so he could take two weeks mental health leave without explanation. When it ended, he quit to do research on his own. “I would work there for 10 hours a day—I was stressed, I’d get berated by my bosses, make no headway, and was made to feel like I’m insane,” he said. “I’ve got to deal with actual life. I had a little baby, whom I love to death… I’ve got to try to have some semblance of my own life.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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