Venture firm CMEA is being sued by three executive assistants for retaliation and harassment, according to Reuters. A former partner of the firm is also named in the lawsuit. This is the third suit in less than a year claiming unfair treatment of women in Silicon Valley’s venture capital industry.
The lawsuit was filed in San Francisco Superior Court of California in February and it claims that the operating partner at the time, John Haag, made inappropriate sexual comments to the women. A couple of times the comments were made in front of other partners who did not stop him.
“CMEA treats all employees with absolute dignity and respect, and CMEA bent over backward to treat these administrative assistants with absolute professionalism,” said Lara Villreal Hutner, a lawyer for CMEA. “CMEA is confident it will prevail in this matter.”
The firm was founded in 1989 and centers its work around energy and materials, the life sciences, and information technology.
“John Haag looks forward to the truth coming out in the course of this lawsuit and plans to vigorously defend himself,” said his lawyer, Marcie Isom. “He trusts the justice system will completely vindicate him.”
Margaret Hines and Shannon Schlagenhauf are two of the plaintiffs in the case. They both claim that the comments date back to 2009, which is when they were hired at the firm. The third plaintiff is Dawn-Shemain Weeks, who joined in 2011.
According to the plaintiffs, they lost their opportunities for overtime, usually around 25 to 30 percent of their income, when they reported the harassment. They also claim that some managing directors still make inappropriate comments. Weeks resigned her position towards the end of January. The lawsuit says the following about Weeks:
“Weeks is not comfortable working in a work environment that continues to condone inappropriate sexual conduct and retaliation.”
The women are asking for an unspecified amount of damages and legal fees.