Kris Duggan is stepping down from his role as CEO of BetterWorks — a Silicon Valley HR startup — following accusations of assault and sexual harassment. Duggan will transition to the role of president, but serve as acting-CEO while the board of directors searches for a replacement.
The company announced the change in a press release on Wednesday, though it did not mention the lawsuit or provide any reason for Duggan’s changing role.
Duggan, who co-founded the company in 2013, was named in a lawsuit filed against BetterWorks in the San Francisco Superior Court on July 13, which alleged a hostile work environment in which sexist behaviour was tolerated by management.
A person familiar with the situation said that Duggan made the choice to step down as CEO himself in order to “lessen the distraction.”
Both the board and Duggan dispute many of the claims in the lawsuit.
The plantiff in the complaint, Beatrice Kim, was a customer programs lead at BetterWorks for two years before she resigned in November. According to the lawsuit, she left the company one month after an incident in which Duggan allegedly got drunk during an offsite work retreat, entered Kim’s cabin, and touched her legs as she asked him to stop.
Several other managers are also named as culprits in creating a hostile work environment, primarily for their response to Kim’s complaints.