Another Silicon Valley startup has been accused for having an office with “rampant sexual behaviour” and discriminating against female employees.
On May 8, UploadVR was sued by a former female employee, for allegations of a hostile work environment, gender discrimination, failure to prevent harassment, and retaliation.
The startup is a catalyst for the nascent virtual reality and augmented reality industries, providing everything from online skills classes to incubating startups, as well as operating an eponymous industry news site, UploadVR. Its cofounders, editor-in-chief Will Mason and CEO Taylor Freeman, were named in January to the “Forbes 30 under 30” media list for their work to draw more people into the emerging industry.
Yet inside the company, the plaintiff claims that UploadVR was a “boy’s club” that didn’t welcome anyone else into the fold. She worked as the company’s director of digital and social media from May 2016 until she was let go in March for what she claims was retaliation for complaining to her boss about the office environment.
Among the litany of accusations in her complaint, the former employee alleges that:
- The company “purposefully and expressly created a ‘boy’s club’ environment.” Male employees talked about sex on a daily basis including one employee’s sex life who had had sex with “over 1000 people”, the plaintiff says in the complaint.
- UploadVR allegedly set up a room with a bed at the office and called it the “kink room.” “Male employees used that room to have sexual intercourse, which was disruptive and inappropriate. Often, underwear and condom wrappers would be found in the room,” the plaintiff wrote in the complaint.
- Male employees would allegedly “micro-dose” on drugs throughout the day and would “further ostracize” employees who refused to participate.
- Before a fundraising trip to Asia, top executives allegedly emailed the staff “in attempts to secure ‘Samurai Girls,’ submissive, Asian women, for their trip.” Another top executive allegedly emailed his STD test results to the company.
- During work trips, the former employee says she was repeatedly kicked out of her bedroom so that executives could have sex during parties.
Upload VR’s founders Freeman and Mason told Business Insider in an emailed statement that the allegations are “entirely without merit” but cannot comment directly on pending litigation.
“What we want to express is that our employees are our greatest asset and the sole reason for the success of this company,” the founders said in a statement. “We are committed to creating a positive community in VR/AR as well as within our company culture and will work to further develop that mission in the future. We are confident that the true nature of how we treat our employees and how we operate as leaders will shine through this unfortunate situation and confirm that these allegations are entirely without merit.”
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