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Virtual Reality Startup Settles Actual Reality Sexual Harassment Suit

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 12, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Virtual reality startup Upload, accused of 'rampant' sexual behavior in the workplace, has settled a lawsuit filed by former director of digital and social media Elizabeth Scott. Scott accused Upload, originally called UploadVR, of "a pattern of gender discrimination, sexual discrimination, harassment, hostile work environment, retaliation, and wrongful termination."

Although the terms of the settlement have not been released, a statement from the company asserted "[t]he matter has been concluded."

Settled and Unsettled

"When we reflect back on our short history, like any startup, there are things we should have done differently," co-founder Taylor Freeman wrote in an email to Upload's employees. "But we are also very proud of what we have accomplished, and remain tremendously excited about our future." Those employees painted an unsettled picture to TechCrunch, wondering if the settlement means few, if any, structural changes at the company.

"From the other cases that happened along the same lines, either with Uber or 500 Startups, something happened with the people that did those things. They stepped down or publicly apologized or they put processes in place or they got HR or they did something," one anonymous former employee told TechCrunch. "[Upload's co-founders] said one little quote and then they dragged a settlement case out for long enough that it wasn't even news anymore." In fact, four full-time staffers immediately quit after Freeman and co-founder Will Mason initially denied the lawsuit's merit.

Harassment and Allegations

Scott's lawsuit cited "rampant sexual behavior and focus" at Upload, allegedly a self-described "boy's club" [sic] where male employees "would discuss their sexual exploits in graphic detail in the workplace" and "speak sexually about women that worked in the office, right in front of them." Scott also claimed Upload had a room in the office designed for workplace sex:

The room was referred to as the "kink room" and contained a bed. Male employees used the room to have sexual intercourse, which was disruptive and inappropriate. Often, underwear and condom wrappers would be found in the room.

According to her lawsuit, Scott was fired after repeatedly complaining about the work environment, the exclusion of female employees from important work decisions, and the gender wage gap that existed at the company.

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