Some of the biggest companies in the tech world have been marked by sexual harassment and gender discrimination allegations over the last few years: from engineer Susan Fowler exposing an allegedly "systemic problem" at Uber, to Ellen Pao suing the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins for discrimination, to the female engineers at Facebook claiming gender bias. The latest allegations concern virtual reality startup UploadVR, which is being sued by Elizabeth Scott, its former director of digital and social media, for sexual harassment, discrimination, and wrongful termination. But even in a culture that’s almost become inured to the shock of yet another sexual harassment lawsuit, the allegations in this one seem particularly egregious.
The complaint paints a picture of a wild frat-house culture where women were allegedly referred to as "mommies" who had to clean up the condoms and underwear left behind in the company's "kink room," where male employees would regularly have sex. According to the complaint, women at the company were allegedly subjected to a daily barrage of insults, sexual comments, and general degradation that made working there a total hell.
Here, we've compiled a list of the most horrendous allegations against UploadVR, taken directly from the complaint, as reported by TechCrunch.
1. "Male employees ... discussed sex at the office on a daily basis. [They] would discuss their sexual exploits in graphic detail at the workplace in front of Plaintiff and other female employees." The sex life of one employee, Greg Gopman, in particular "was a frequent topic of discussion. The other male employees would talk about how he 'refuses to wear a condom' and 'has had sex with over 1,000 people.'"
2. "Male employees stated how they were sexually aroused by female employees and how it was hard to concentrate and be productive when all they could think about was having sex with them."
3. One male employee, Avi Horowitz, "would frequently comment about how attractive one of the female employees was, in Plaintiff's presence. He would talk about how he 'had a boner' and had to go to the bathroom to 'rub one out' so he could focus, meaning that he was going to the bathroom to masturbate."
4. Company founder Taylor Freeman "made it known that he did not find Plaintiff attractive and that she could not be used for marketing purposes because she was 'too big.'"
5. Before a trip to Asia, company executives sent around an email about how they were trying to get "Samurai Girls" — "submissive, Asian women" — for the trip.
6. "Male employees engaged in explicit sexual conduct in the office in the presence of Plaintiff and other female employees." Gopman "brought a female companion to the office and she proceeded to straddle him and kiss him while they were in the shared office space."
7. There was a room at Upload referred to as the "kink room" that contained a bed. "Male employees used that room to have sexual intercourse... often, underwear and condom wrappers would be found in the room."
8. At a party at a rented house in Los Angeles that Scott was required to attend, a male employee invited prostitutes and strippers.
9. At a party at a conference in San Jose, Freeman forced Scott out of her room so he could have sex with a woman he brought to the event.
10. Men at the company separated themselves from the women and sat together in a separate room and refused to allow Scott to sit with them. They also refused to let her come to lunch with them and didn't include her on important emails or meetings.
11. Women at the company had to perform "womanly tasks," including cleaning the kitchen, organizing the refrigerator, and tidying up the workspace. They also had to clean up after parties, including on their days off.
12. The women in the office were referred to as "mommies" who were there to "help the men with whatever they needed."
Scott alleges she was fired in retaliation for complaining about the work environment. According to her suit, Upload’s executives are now “slandering her in the VR community, making her search for new employment very difficult.”
UPDATE, 8:34 p.m.
In a statement emailed to BuzzFeed News, a spokesperson for UploadVR wrote: "We cannot comment directly on any 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. 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."
Doree Shafrir is a senior tech writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Doree Shafrir at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blake Montgomery is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
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