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Former Everyrealm Directors Sue Company Over Sexual Harassment, Racial Discrimination • londonbusinessblog.com

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Everyrealm, a metaverse real estate company that emerged from Republic’s crypto arm in February faces two lawsuits first filed in August by former company executives, alleging they each faced numerous, separate cases of discrimination and harassment while they worked there. In addition to the company itself, several Everyrealm executives are also named as defendants in the lawsuit, including CEO Janine Yorio and co-founder Julia Schwartz.

Today Seppinni LLP, the employment law firm representing both plaintiffs, filed amended complaints on behalf of each of them in federal court in the Southern District of New York, hearing the case. The amended complaints from ex-NFL player Teyo Johnsonwho worked as Everyrealm’s director of strategic partnerships, and Katherine Yost, former HR director of the companycontain several new allegations of sexual harassment they believe have taken place at the company.

If the judge overseeing the proceedings determines that these allegations constitute a dispute over sexual harassment under a bipartisan bill President Biden signed in March to end forced arbitration for such cases, both lawsuits will go to trial. , despite Everyrealm’s efforts to enforce arbitration. If that happens, these could be the very first cases in the US where the new law – the Termination of Forced Arbitration of Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment (EFA) — will ever be applied in court, plaintiffs’ attorney Shane Seppinni told londonbusinessblog.com in an interview.

The new allegations in Johnson’s amended complaint state that he “unremitting sexual harassment” during his time with the company, including instances of sexually explicit comments, jokes and diatribes. In particular, Johnson’s modified lawsuit alleges that Yorio and Schwartz made unwanted comments about his sex life and his then-girlfriend’s menstrual cycle and that Yorio pressured him to have intercourse with co-workers and clients as part of a “game” where employees referred to as “Know Your Staff.”

Both Johnson and Yost’s amended complaints also include what Seppini alleges are screenshots of text messages between Yorio and an Everyrealm employee who Seppini refused to identify that show Yorio allegedly referred to other employees with terms like “pussy” and ‘dolt’. The plaintiffs added these images to support their claim that Yorio has created a hostile work environment at the company.

Johnson’s original August lawsuit already contained a claim that Yorio made inappropriate comments about his appearance, which his team believes constitutes sexual harassment. The full complaint also includes allegations independent of sexual harassment, such as that Johnson, who is black, faced pay discrimination at the company and that Yorio made racist comments toward Johnson, such as calling him “a stupid black person,” “the whitest black person.” ” to call. ,’ and threatened to ‘swap’ him if he didn’t fill his role.

An Everyrealm spokesperson denied the allegations in an emailed statement to londonbusinessblog.com, pointing to the company’s publicly filed legal motions in the matter, but offering no further comment. Yorio, meanwhile, had not responded to londonbusinessblog.com’s request for comment on the lawsuits at the time of going to press.

Both Johnson and Yost were fired from their employment at Everyrealm before filing the lawsuits. Yost’s lawsuit suggests that her firing was unlawful company retaliation against her for talking about the leave policy, while Johnson’s lawsuit alleges he was fired because of his race as a result of discrimination. Johnson also claims he faced retaliation from the company after alerting executives that a proposed crypto gambling initiative they were planning to undertake may have been illegal.

Everyrealm’s journey through the metavers

Everyrealm emerged from the crypto arm of alternative asset crowdfunding platform Republic in February, the company told londonbusinessblog.com at the time. The startup, that describes himself as “building the gateway to the entire metaverse ecosystem”, simultaneously announced that it had increased $60 million in a Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) at what Pitchbook data says was a $195 million valuation.

The company buys and develops virtual land properties, which are sold as NFTs, in metaverse worlds such as Decentraland and The Sandbox. It also runs a virtual educational academy in the Somnium Space metaverse, for which students pay $1,000+ each to learn about web3 concepts.

While Everyrealm is an independent entity separate from Republic, Republic and its subsidiary Republic Crypto are both named as co-defendants alongside Everyrealm in Johnson and Yost’s lawsuits. As of March, Andrew Durgee, head of crypto and tokenization at Republicalso served as general manager at Everyrealm and served on the board of directors, shows an SEC file.

“OpenDeal Inc. dba Republic and its subsidiaries were wrongly named in the Yost and Johnson lawsuits; the complaints and related pleas and motions do not contain specific allegations against individuals currently employed by, nor any entities under Republic’s control,” a spokesperson for the office of Republic’s general counsel wrote in an emailed statement to londonbusinessblog.com.

The statement noted that Republic Crypto “continues to be a service provider to numerous customers in the Web3 space, including certain Everyrealm affiliates.”

Yorio, who began leading the Republic’s real estate metaverse investments in 2020, told londonbusinessblog.com in February that the fundraiser for Everyrealm was one of the largest Series A rounds ever by a company with a female CEO. gathered. Coinbase Ventures, Lightspeed and Dapper Labs also participated in the round, as well as several famous angel investors, including Paris Hilton.

In Johnson’s amended lawsuit, he alleges that Everyrealm’s general counsel, William Kerr, and other corporate executives, repeatedly referred to Hilton as “A Night in Paris,” which Johnson’s team believes constitutes sexual harassment. The nickname, according to Johnson’s indictment, refers to a revenge porn video of Hilton that was leaked online in 2004 without her permission.

A16z’s Cultural Leadership Fund (CLF), whose mission is to support black workers in technology, is said to have played a key role in facilitating many of the introductions between Everyrealm and its celebrity investors, Johnson said. The venture company has not publicly commented on the allegations in Johnson or Yost’s lawsuits.

Spokespersons for a16z and a16z’s CLF had not responded in time to londonbusinessblog.com’s requests for comment on the lawsuits.

Will the cases go to court?

After Johnson and Yost filed their lawsuits in August, Everyrealm responded by filing a motion and counterclaims against both plaintiffs to force them to drop their lawsuits and instead go through an outside arbitration process, court records show. Everyrealm alleges that Johnson and Yost signed contracts agreeing to arbitrate legal action against the company when hired, and that they violate those contracts and are therefore required to go through the arbitration process.

Johnson and Yost, for their part, argue that Everyrealm does not have the legal grounds to force them to go through the arbitration process, because the alleged sexual harassment cases they notice in their lawsuits came after the EFA was already signed into law and in effect. entered into force on March 3.

On October 9, court records show that District Judge Paul Engelmayer authorized both plaintiffs to modify their complaints to include more details about their sexual harassment allegations. Judge Engelmayer will then determine whether the cases will go to trial in their entirety or to arbitration, although the expected timing of that decision remains unclear.

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