Former Everyrealm execs sue company for sexual harassment, race discrimination • TechCrunch
Everyrealm, a metaverse The real estate company, which spun off from Republic’s crypto arm in February, is facing two lawsuits first filed in August from the company’s former directors, who accuse them of faced numerous instances of discrimination and harassment while working there. In addition to the company itself, multiple Everyrealm executives are also named in the lawsuit, including CEO Janine Yorio and co-founder Julia Schwartz.
Today, Seppinni LLP, the employment law firm representing both plaintiffs, filed an amended complaint on behalf of each plaintiff in federal court in the Southern District of New York, where the case is being heard. judge. Complaints have been amended, from former NFL player Teyo Johnsonwho served as the strategic partner director of Everyrealm, and Katherine Yost, the company’s former head of human resourcescontains several new allegations of sexual harassment that they allege happened at the company.
If the judge overseeing the proceedings determines that these charges constitute a sexual harassment dispute under a bipartisan law that President Biden signed in March to end forced arbitration of cases thus, both cases will go to trial despite Everyrealm’s push for mandatory arbitration. If that happens, these could be the first cases in the United States where the new law – End the Forced Arbitration of the Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act (EFA) – has been filed in court, the plaintiff’s attorney Shane Seppinni told TechCrunch in an interview.
New charges in Johnson’s revised complaint say he experienced “non-stop sexual harassment” during his time at the company, including cases of sexual comments, jokes and objections. Specifically, Johnson’s revised lawsuit claims that Yorio and Schwartz made unwelcome comments regarding his sex life and his girlfriend’s menstrual cycle and that Yorio caused pressured him to have sex with co-workers and clients as part of a “game” the employee called “Know Your HR. “
The revised complaints from both Johnson and Yost also include what Seppinni claims are screenshots of text messages between Yorio and an Everyrealm employee (whose Seppinni declined to identify) showing Yorio the defendant forced to refer to other employees by terms like “vulva” and “damn. The plaintiffs included these images to support their allegation that Yorio created a hostile work environment at the company.
Johnson’s original lawsuit from August included a claim that Yorio made inappropriate comments about his appearance, which his team is calling sexual harassment. The full complaint also includes allegations that are separate from sexual harassment, such that Johnson, who is black, faced pay discrimination at the company and Yorio made the comments. racist towards Johnson such as calling him “a stupid black man,” “the whitest black man ever,” and threatening to “trade” him out if he didn’t perform his role properly. .
A spokesperson for Everyrealm denied the allegations in an emailed statement to TechCrunch and pointed to the company’s publicly filed legal actions in the case but did not comment further. Yorio, meanwhile, did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for comment on the lawsuits at press time.
Both Johnson and Yost had their employment contracts terminated at Everyrealm before they filed the lawsuit. Yost’s lawsuit shows her termination was an illegal act of retaliation from the company against her for speaking out about the company’s severance policy, while Johnson’s lawsuit alleges He was terminated for race due to discrimination. Johnson also claims he faces retaliation from the company after he indicated to executives that a proposed crypto gambling initiative they want to take on is possible. illegal ability.
Everyrealm’s Journey Through the Metaverse
Everyrealm spun off the alternative asset crowdfunding platform Republic’s Crypto Branch in February, the company told TechCrunch at the time. Start up, that describe itself is “building a gateway to the entire metaverse ecosystem”, and announced that it has raised $60 million in Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) on what PitchBook data suggests is a $195 million valuation.
The company buys and develops virtual land assets, which are sold as NFTs, in metaverse worlds like Decentraland and The Sandbox. It also runs a virtual education academy in the Somnium Space metaverse, for which students pay $1,000+ each to learn about web3 concepts.
Although Everyrealm is an independent entity separate from Republic, Republic and its subsidiary Republic Crypto are both treated as co-defendants along with Everyrealm in the Johnson and Yost lawsuits. Since March, Andrew Durgee, the head of crypto and cryptography at Republicalso serves as an executive at Everyrealm and serves on the board of directors, an SEC filing shows.
“OpenDeal Inc. dba Republic and its subsidiaries were improperly named in the Yost and Johnson lawsuits; A spokesperson for the Republic’s office of general counsel wrote in an emailed statement to TechCrunch.
The statement noted that Republic Crypto “remains a service provider for many customers in the Web3 space, including certain Everyrealm affiliates.”
Yorio, who began leading Republic’s diversified real estate investment efforts in 2020, told TechCrunch in February that the Everyrealm fundraiser was one of the largest Series A rounds ever raised by a company. companies with female CEOs. Coinbase Ventures, Lightspeed, and Dapper Labs also participated in the round, as did several prominent angel investors, including Paris Hilton.
In Johnson’s revised lawsuit, he claims that Everyrealm’s general counsel, William Kerr and other company executives, repeatedly referred to Hilton by the nickname “A Night in Paris,” which Johnson’s team believe constitutes sexual harassment. The nickname, according to Johnson’s complaint, refers to a revenge porn video of Hilton that was leaked online in 2004 without her consent.
The a16z Cultural Leadership Foundation (CLF), whose mission is to support Black employees in the tech sector, is credited with playing a key role in facilitating the many referrals between Everyrealm and other companies. his famous investor, according to Johnson’s lawsuit. The joint venture has not commented publicly on any of the allegations made in the lawsuits by Johnson or Yost.
A spokesperson for a16z and a16z’s CLF did not respond to TechCrunch’s request for comment on the lawsuits at press time.
Will the cases go to trial?
After Johnson and Yost filed their lawsuit in August, Everyrealm responded by filing and opposing both plaintiffs to force them to drop their lawsuits and go through a due process instead. outside assets, court records show. Everyrealm is contesting Johnson’s signed contracts and Yost’s agreeing to arbitrate any legal action against the company when it was hired and that it breached those contracts and is therefore obligated to do so. the arbitration process.
For their part, Johnson and Yost argued that Everyrealm had no legal basis to force them to undergo arbitration because the alleged sexual harassment cases they documented in their lawsuits occurred. after the EFA has been signed into law. and came into effect on 3/3.
On October 9, court filings show that District Judge Paul Engelmayer granted both plaintiffs leave to amend their complaints to include more detail around the sexual harassment allegations by the plaintiffs. surname. Judge Engelmayer will then determine whether the entire case will go to trial or will be heard in arbitration, although the expected timing of that decision remains unclear.