Investors may still be able to look at the virtual reality news hub Upload with rose color glasses after a sexual harassment lawsuit was settled, but the Silicon Valley start-up may have a hard time completely deflecting a sexist reputation.
The fledgling company made a name for itself hosting wild, alcohol-playing parties for the industry, according to The New York Times.
But not everyone at Upload celebrated this decadent image: A former employee, Elizabeth Scott, filed a lawsuit in May, alleging “rampant sexual behavior and focus” at the offices — including the presence of a bed in a so-called “kink room” to encourage sexual relations.
The lawsuit was ultimately settled, and neither CEO Taylor Freeman or president Will Mason, were forced to leave, despite some shocking allegations from Scott, the company’s former digital manager. Among them: That Freeman kicked her out of her room at a house rented by Upload for a conference in San Diego so that he could have sex in there.
She claims she was fired from the three-year-old company after bringing up complaints about the work environment in March.
“There was a lack of leadership to cultivate a healthy work environment, and investors who failed to take a more active role in oversight,” Kent Bye, who hosts the podcast, Voices of VR, told The Times. “The only way to resolve these sorts of problems is to confront them head on, and that is precisely what no one seemed prepared to do.”
After Scott’s suit was filed, several other Upload employees quit in solidarity.
The scandal comes at a time when sexual harassment accusations are surging throughout the tech industry. But unlike Uber, where 20 employees were fired after a probe, these allegations seem to have had little effect on Upload.
Freeman vowed that the company would take measures to polish its image, including establishing an outside HR office. “We’re the strongest as a company that we’ve ever been because of this,” he told The Times.
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