The suit describes an environment hostile to women, and a harrowing physical encounter.
A former employee is suing the performance-tracking startup BetterWorks and its CEO, Kris Duggan, for alleged sexual harassment, discrimination, assault, and battery. Court filings on behalf of the plaintiff, Bea Kim, describe an environment of frequent sexist comments from top executives, an incident in which Duggan touched Kim inappropriately, and an inadequate response by the company.
In a statement to TechCrunch, Kim’s lawyers said they “intend to prove that BetterWorks CEO Kris Duggan assaulted Plaintiff Bea Kim in a sexually suggestive manner, ignoring her protests and attempts to free herself from Duggan until a co-worker had to physically intervene.” Duggan has declined to comment on ongoing litigation.
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The alleged incident at the heart of the suit, described in court documents, took place at a company retreat. Duggan is alleged to have entered a cabin where Kim was reclining on a bed. Duggan then, according to the statement, “began pumping and pounding [Kim’s] legs up and down.” Even after Kim demanded he stop, Duggan is said to have continued, while “drawing his pelvis closer to her buttocks and genitalia.” A co-worker is said to have finally “intervened and pulsed Plaintiff away from Duggan.”
Kim and her lawyers also say that an internal review of the incident yielded little action against Duggan, and that it took place in an environment where Duggan and another executive, Matt Hart, regularly made “vulgar and graphic jokes and comments about women, rape, and female body parts.”
BetterWorks builds software for employee feedback and performance management. Its investors include Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Emergence Capital Partners. It has raised at least $35 million in funding and was valued at $90 million in early 2016.