Marketing startup Gravity4 and its CEO Gurbaksh Chahal were sued today by Erika Alonso, formerly the company’s senior vice president of global marketing.
Forbes broke the news of the lawsuit. Alonso accuses Chahal and his company of discriminating against her because of her gender, as well as illegally surveilling her during her job interview.
“My client was treated in violation of the law, and … we’ve gone to court to get redress for that,” said Alonso’s attorney Harmeet Dhillon. “People shouldn’t be treated that way in America in 2014 and 15.”
The complaint claims:
Chahal and Gravity4 discriminated against Alonso because of her gender by, among other things, disparaging her, telling her that she, as a woman, should be “appeal” to female reporters, unduly criticizing her while lauding male employees, forcing her to keep pace with men “doing shots”, treating male employees more favorably, and firing her because she was not part of the “boys club” at Gravity4.
[Update: A Gravity4 blog post includes statements from the company’s chief of staff and head of recruiting (both female) denying that the company hires “based on gender, age or ethnicity” or that it operates surveillance equipment for interview purposes. There’s also a statement from Chahal, who says the accusations are “baseless, false, and can not be supported by facts.”]
Chahal made headlines last year for pleading guilty to charges of battery and domestic violence, and for his subsequent ouster from ad-tech company RadiumOne.
Since then, he’s tried to buy the company. There have also been anonymous attempts to spread rumors about RadiumOne’s supposed financial troubles, and although one of those tips reportedly came from a number used by Chahal, he denied involvement.
Alonso’s complaint depicts Chahal as obsessed with “revenge” against RadiumOne. It alleges that during her job interview, Gravity4 executives asked her “loaded, provocative questions” about the case against Chahal, while she was recorded with secret microphones and cameras. Chahal allegedly watched the interview from another room and texted questions to the interviewer.
The complaint says Alonso was the only senior female executive at Gravity4, with Chahal favoring “younger male employees” while making it his “modus operandi” to “humiliate and belittle Alonso.” The complaint says that Alonso was pulled away from her duties because she was “used repeatedly as bait to attract reporters in an attempt to deflect from Chahal’s violent past.”
In one situation, the complaint says Chahal told Alonso to reach out to a female news anchor: “You’re a woman, appeal to her!” At the same time, he was supposedly “badmouthing reporters” all the time, calling a writer “for a major online technology news website a ‘midget’ and his report ‘stupid,’ all while forcing Alonso to reach out to these reporters to promote Chahal’s anti-RadiumOne agenda and deflect from his criminal past.”
On an awkward note, given the details laid out here, as well as the way Chahal responded to one of my stories, I’m pretty certain that last bit is about me — a revelation that does not bother me in the slightest. (Dhillon declined to comment on the identity of the writer in question.)
There’s more (including an account of Alonso’s firing earlier this year, as well as accusations that Chahal was using confidential data obtained from RadiumOne) in the complaint, which you can read below.