‘Sexist and sexual environment’ and retaliatory career sabotage at Binary Capital alleged in ex-employee’s lawsuit

A female former employee of disgraced Silicon Valley venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck and his firm Binary Capital has filed a lawsuit alleging that after she quit over treatment of women, attempts were made to wreck her career.

The suit by Ann Lai follows a dramatic series of events that captured the attention of Silicon Valley, where sexual harassment has been spotlighted once again after claims of sexual harassment at Uber forced CEO Travis Kalanick to resign June 20.

The unraveling of Binary and managing partner Caldbeck began with a June 22 article in online tech magazine The Information, which interviewed six women, all of them alleging inappropriate advances by Caldbeck and three putting their names to the claims.

Under fire, Caldbeck fought back, denying the allegations, then changed course, offering up an abject apology. Less than a week later, he quit Binary.

On June 28, Lai filed suit in San Mateo County California Superior Court against Caldbeck and Binary, claiming the firm’s workplace was a “sexist and sexual environment.” Gender-related problems there included “statements that Binary needed an attractive receptionist … inappropriate conduct with female staff at company outings and otherwise … a female-specific dress code … (and) statements about the attractiveness of Lai and other women, including female founders.”

The suit said Lai complained about these issues but “nothing was done.”

But when she told Caldbeck in May 2016 that she wanted to resign, a number of things were done, according to the lawsuit.

Lai alleges that her talk with Caldbeck triggered a campaign of threats and career sabotage against her. Binary did not immediately respond to a request for a response to the lawsuit’s allegations.

Caldbeck, Lai claims, told her that if she quit Binary, “she would never work again.” Though frightened, Lai resigned three days later, according to the suit.

Then Caldbeck, or co-founder Jonathan Teo, or both of them, took measures to sabotage Lai’s future, the suit claims.

“Binary reached out to her contacts and potential employers,” the suit says. “Caldbeck and/or Teo falsely told them she had been fired or asked to leave Binary for poor performance.”

Lai claims two companies declined to offer her consulting work as a result of Binary’s lies about her departure.

Binary has argued that Lai breached her “non-disparagement obligations” to Binary, according to the suit, which was posted June 29 by news site Axios.

Lai in her lawsuit is seeking unspecified damages and civil penalties.

 

Image: A screenshot from Justin Caldbeck’s LinkedIn profile

 

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