Former Employees Sue Movaz, CEO
Three former employees of Movaz Networks Inc. say they were verbally abused, discriminated against, and sexually harassed by the company's CEO, Bijan Khosravi, according to a lawsuit filed May 17 in the U.S. District Court in Atlanta.
The employees bringing the suit are former marketing coordinator Melissa Simmons, Khosravi's former executive assistant Christy Anderson, and Rhonda Aghaie, who is described in the complaint as the employee solely responsible for human resources at Movaz. The three employees were each employed at four-year-old Movaz for at least two years, but all left the company between August and December 2003.
The trio are asking the court for a jury trial to recoup "damages for pain and suffering and emotional distress" that are "not less than $75,000 per plaintiff," according to the complaint.
Movaz and Khosravi were contacted by Light Reading but declined to comment on pending litigation, although, through a spokesman, Khosravi says he will defend himself against the suit.
The 29-page complaint describes several instances of alleged harassment and verbal abuse by Khosravi and others, though no others are named in the suit. The most serious of Anderson's accusations include an instance where Khosravi allegedly "directed her to come into his office in order to view sexually explicit material he had found on the Internet."
Another accusation involving Anderson is that she was told to use her "feminine charm and sexuality" to lure attendees to Movaz's tradeshow booth. "The Defendant Khosravi even referred to her as the Movaz 'Booth Babe,' " according to the complaint.
Other allegations in the complaint are just plain unappetizing, such as Simmons's allegation that Khosravi asked for his noontime meal by bellowing "Where the f*** is my lunch?"
The three accusers say in the complaint that their protests against any alleged wrongdoing were stunted because "Movaz had no written Employee Manual and no methodology for addressing issues of sexual, racial, age or other harassment."
Aghaie, who claims she was physically assaulted by Khosravi in September 2003, cites one instance where she allegedly prepared an Employee Handbook, only to have her boss indicate that "Movaz did not need an employee handbook and that the company would be better off without one."
From withheld pay raises to sexist jokes, the complaint goes on and on, painting a picture of a hostile workplace for women. Movaz, though, is not devoid of female leaders, as its top ranks include VP and controller Maryjane Stevens.
There were 13,566 sexual harassment charge filings with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) last year. Sex and gender discrimination was the second most frequently alleged discrimination last year, the agency says. About 20 percent of all charges filed with the EEOC last year resulted in a "merit resolution," while 63 percent were deemed to have "no reasonable cause."
— Phil Harvey, News Editor, Light Reading