The plaintiffs- Dawn-Shemain Weeks, Margaret Hines, and Shannon Schlagenhauf- formerly worked as executive assistants for CMEA and are making 35 different allegations regarding inappropriate sexual behavior. Most of the complaints are direct at John Haag, who served as CMEA’s chief operating partner between 2006 and 2012.
“Throughout the duration of their employment at CMEA, Haag spoke and/or behaved in sexually and racially inappropriate ways. Comments and “jokes” about women, sex, and race were a common and tolerated part of the work environment at CMEA. CMEA’s owner and partners also spoke and behaved in ways that inappropriately injected sex into the workplace,” as outlined in the lawsuit.
Complaints include watching porn on his work computer, rude nicknames, explicit and vulgar gestures, and threats to fire the plaintiffs if they “did anything to displease him.”
On April 30 2012, the plaintiffs decided to report Haag’s conduct to CMEA’s three managing directors who were aware of it through the reports of other women. They conducted an investigation through the third-party human resources providers, which uncovered years of disgusting behavior, and negotiated a ‘buy-out’ of Haag’s interest in CMEA’s funds. The firm then took nominal measures to improve the workplace atmosphere, but continued to act inappropriately and make comments implying the plaintiffs’ jobs were on the line. Weeks resigned at the end of January.
The plaintiffs are claiming to have suffered significant injuries, trauma and distress that have adversely impacted their mental and emotional health, as well as financial loss. They are asking for a jury trial for all causes of action, general and compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and costs, punitive and exemplary damages, and prejudgement interest on all amounts claimed.
Sexual harassment and gender discrimination are pervasive problems in the male-dominated tech world, and part of why there is a shortage of women. A study conducted by Stanford in conjunction with the Kauffman Foundation and Women 2.0 found that nearly 18 percent of women in tech had experienced discrimination, and the average tech workplace is not an inviting environment for women and minorities.
Last year, there was another major sexual harassment scandal when Ellen Pao brought a sexual harassment and gender discrimination suit against her employer, well-known venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Mistreatment of women in tech extends all the way from executive offices in Sand Hill road to offhand jokes in coworking spaces.
Women represent less than ten percent of venture capitalists, three percent of startup founders, and fourteen percent of executive officer position. While other factors contribute to these low numbers, like socio-cultural gender roles and education, dirtbags like Haag are certainly a big and disgusting part of the problem.
Warning! Not for innocent eyes- read the full suit below:
Haag Case by
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