You can not turn on the news these days without hearing about new claims of sexual harassment. Most of the time, these claims involve well-known Hollywood figures like Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K., political power players like Al Franken and Roy Moore, and even newsmen like Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer. The fact of the matter is that sexual harassment occurs in all kinds of situations that do not involve famous people. Recently, Silicon Valley’s Upload VR has been sued for allegations of company-wide sexual harassment and misbehavior that goes well beyond isolated instances of misconduct. If the allegations are true, Upload VR takes sexual harassment to a whole new level.
The lawsuit, filed in May of 2017, outlines a culture of hostility toward women, sexual harassment, retaliation, gender discrimination, and, ultimately, wrongful termination. The complaint asserts that the actions were condoned and carried out by the company’s founders, William Mason and Taylor Freeman, who openly referred to the office as a “boy’s club.” The grievances of lewdness include conversations and activities that are truly indefensible:
- It was expected that females would clean up after events and perform other “womanly tasks” that males were not asked to do.
- Male employees shared graphic details of their sex lives with one another in the presence of female employees, providing particulars regarding the number of sexual conquests they were having, threesome activities, and prophylactic preferences;
- Males, including the founders, told female employees that the women caused them to have erotic thoughts, and the physical reactions to those thoughts needed to be handled in the men’s room;
- One manager took employees to South Korea for a business trip, where escorts were hired after the staff received emails asking for information regarding Samurai Girls.
- A male employee emailed the results of his STD tests to employees.
- A kink room was established on the workplace premises, where male employees were encouraged to engage in sexual intercourse. (Female employees were later expected to make the bed and clean the room.)
- Females who refused to participate in the workplace antics, including “microdosing” and Marijuana use, were punished with exclusion from company meetings and social ostracism.
- Females were not paid commensurate with males who did essentially the same work.
- Females were not made aware of opportunities for professional growth.
- The plaintiff was fired after making complaints.
Response of the Founders
To be fair, it should be noted that Freeman and Mason deny all allegations, and say they have a commitment to creating a positive community in the workplace. It will be interesting to see how the whole thing plays out in court.
State and federal law are clear on the issues of hostile work environment, gender, and sexual discrimination, and wrongful termination. If you are experiencing even mild occurrences of these issues, the experienced team at HKM in Los Angeles can help. Contact us today for a personal consultation.