Startup Had Masturbation Zone, Exec Who Took Off Pants in Meeting: Lawsuit

By Olivia Messer

A Silicon Valley startup’s “sexually charged office culture” included a “designated area” for masturbation and a chief technology officer who took his pants off in a meeting with one of his employees, according to a lawsuit filed this week.

Plaintiff Rachel Moore, a former director of product for the company, is suing Pilot AI Labs, which reportedly sells artificially intelligent algorithms. Her suit was filed Wednesday in San Francisco County Superior Court and first covered by The Mercury News.

Moore has said that she was one of the startup’s few female employees and that Chief Technology Officer Robert English frequently made sexual remarks about her body, including commenting on her buttocks and asking if she was wearing “fuck me” boots.

“One of the servers [she] was supposed to work on was named ‘Deep Head,’ a reference to oral sex,” according to the lawsuit. “English told [her] that he participated in an anal sex workshop at Burning Man led by a famous porn star.”

The 24-year-old’s lawsuit claims that men watched pornography at the office and that the “server area” was used for masturbation. According to the complaint, “An intimate knowledge of the porn industry and lingo appeared to be a job requirement.”

When Moore did not use the kind of language allegedly being deployed by the company’s founders, English and CEO Jonathan Su, who is also named in the suit, “tended to ignore her and not take her seriously,” the lawsuit claims.

When she tried participating “on a very limited basis,” she was immediately given a $20,000 raise and taken more seriously, the complaint states.

In December 2017, Moore claims that she was called into English’s office, where he closed the door and took off his pants. She asked to leave, but English would not let her, the complaint alleges. He “proceeded to discuss his ex-girlfriend, including that she was not warm, supportive, and responsive, and other personal matters,” per the lawsuit.

Once Moore rejected English’s apparent advances and made clear she was uninterested, he “immediately began retaliating against her,” according to the court documents. She reported the incident to Su, but it was allegedly dismissed by the CEO as “English being ‘sexually frustrated.’”

Su is a veteran of Microsoft and eBay, according to The Mercury News.

Over the next several weeks, the men allegedly retaliated by “yelling at her, leaving her out of important meetings, having her duties taken over by a male product manager with less seniority, and being assigned trivial and meaningly tasks.” Moore eventually “started to be criticized for things like not taking good notes, being ‘too emotional,’ not being a good enough ‘cheerleader,’ and not being understanding enough of English’s sexual frustrations,” the suit claims.

Eventually, in April, the company allegedly stopped paying her and cut off her access to the company’s computer systems, leaving her to believe she had been terminated.

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Moore is seeking unspecified damages and injunctive relief.