The founders of Silicon Valley startup UploadVR were sued for a number of damning sexual harassment allegations in May, and according to TechCrunch, have settled the case with former employee Elizabeth Scott.
UploadVR founder Will Mason is seen in VR gear at a conference. Photo: AP
While the lawsuit has been settled, a former employee expressed concern to TechCrunch over the fact that the co-founders accused remain in leadership.
In the aftermath of the allegations, UploadVR brought in virtual reality pioneer Jacquelyn Morie to lead education efforts. “You can’t judge an entire company on one incident,” Morie told TechCrunch. She added, “I believe that this is a learning opportunity… If I thought they were not going to address it or deal with and were trying to sweep it under the rug, I wouldn’t be there.”
“One incident” is an egregious understatement. For the uninitiated, the lawsuit included a litany of gross allegations against co-founders Taylor Freeman and Will Mason, which included keeping a so-called “kink room” in the workplace, and often “underwear and condom wrappers would be found in the room”. The purpose of the room was allegedly to encourage people to have sex.
The court document also revealed that a top executive based in Thailand allegedly emailed the company his STD test results and that the company’s founders emailed the staff looking for “Samurai Girls” for a fundraising trip in Asia. The suit also paints a picture of a work environment rife with targeted harassment toward women.
“For example, 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,” the court document states. It also states that female employees were asked to do “womanly tasks” such as clean the kitchen as well as come in on their days off to clean up after parties they weren’t invited to, disposing of discarded condoms and underwear.
And in other accusations pervading Silicon Valley, the founders allegedly fostered a “boy’s club” environment that purposefully excluded women from both social and professional gatherings.
A former employee expressed their concern over the lack of change or humility from the company’s co-founders. Freeman and Mason, the heads of the company accused in the lawsuit, remain in leadership positions and have remained mostly silent regarding the damning allegations. The employee told TechCrunch:
From the other cases that happened along the same lines, either with Uber or 500 Startups, something happened with the people that did those things. They stepped down or publicly apologised or they put processes in place or they got HR or they did something. [Upload’s co-founders] said one little quote and then they dragged a settlement case out for long enough that it wasn’t even news anymore.