Naturally, it’s the moment that everyone decamps for SXSW that scandal breaks. Fortune reports that the San Francisco venture firm CMEA Capital and former chief operating partner John Haag have been slapped with allegations of sexual harassment, racial harassment and retaliation by a trio of executive assistants.
Ellen Pao’s gender discrimination lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins came as a shock largely because the prestigious firm has long had a good-guy reputation. This lawsuit, on the other hand, is jaw-dropping for its volume of allegations that are just disgusting. It reads like House of Cards meets Van Wilder. If even a handful of these claims are true, it’s enough to obliterate all our Lean In-inspired optimism.
The complaint alleges that Mr. Haag regularly said things that were “sexually and racially inappropriate” and that off-color remarks and jokes were “a common and tolerated part of the work environment.” The plaintiffs also claim that when they went to management with their complaints, an outside investigation backed them up and Mr. Haag was shown the door. But yet, the accusers say, they’ve still faced retaliation.
The three plaintiffs — Dawn-Shemain Weeks, Margaret Hines and Shannon Schlagenhauf — tell of a hostile work environment and detail 35 different alleged examples of inappropriate sexual comments and advances. Some of the examples are shockingly lurid, and far more explicit than what is normally found in a Silicon Valley harassment lawsuit.
If anything, “shockingly lurid” doesn’t do it justice. The complaint is filled with allegations of shenanigans that would make Don Draper blush.
Some of the low-lights:
On one occasion Plaintiff Schlagenhauf walked into Defendant Haag’s office. Defendant Haag asked her to come around to his side of the desk to help him out with something. Defendant Haag was sitting in the chair with his legs spread open and his crotch thrust out. Defendant Haag maneuvered himself in such a way so as to restrict Plaintiff Schlagenhauf’s movement away from him or to his exit his office.
Then there’s this tidbit sure to many any woman clutch her laundry basket protectively:
During the drive, Defendant Haag mentioned that he had two female tenants. Defendant Haag then told Plaintiff that the female tenants sometimes leave their underwear in the dryer and that Defendant Haag liked to “sniff it.”
There’s also this bit of locker room banter:
On one occasion Plaintiff Hines was answering a question by Defendant Haag stating that she had not eaten and needed some protein and commenced to eat a piece of string-cheese. defendant Haag commented, “You don’t get enough protein at home?” and then used his tongue and hand to simulate oral-sex.
Just for good measure:
On another occasion, Defendant Haag asked the female Investor Relations employee whether they were aware that porn-stars bleach their anuses in order to make them more attractive.
This goes on for pages and pages, each anecdote more revolting than the last. Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to wash our hands.
We’ve reached out to CMEA Capital and Mr. Haag for comment and will update if we hear anything back.
(Update, 5:48 p.m.) Mr. Haag’s attorney responded on his behalf:
John Haag cannot comment on this matter as it is in active litigation other than to say he looks forward to the truth coming out in the course of this lawsuit. He is prepared to defend himself vigorously and trusts the justice system will thoroughly vindicate him.