News & Politics
February 22, 2013 |
Lev Ingman and Mira Zaslove claim Redwood City-based Capital Asset Exchange and Trading LLC shamelessly violated labor laws while company managers and co-defendants Ryan Jacob, John Srgo, Nicholas Meissner and David Jackson encouraged a hostile, hypersexual workplace.
Both Ingman and Zaslove began working as capital equipment traders for the company, which is called CAET in the complaints in San Mateo County Court.
Both say they were required to be at their desks more than 12 hours a day, taking their lunch "breaks" at their desks.
Both say they were forced to work three hours every Sunday without pay and, and that even when they finally went home for the evening, were on call 24 hours a day.
Zaslove says in her complaint that CAET managers "directed and required her to provide her personal cellular telephone number to all customers with whom she dealt, to keep the device turned on at all times and to answer the calls of all such people at all times of the day and night, including during her meals and when she was at home with her family. Because CAET did business with customers located in Asia, South America and Europe, it was not unusual for plaintiff to receive such calls at 3:00 a.m."
Ingman claims CAET expected him to be in the office 14 hours per day and eight hours on Fridays, and that when he finally went home at 8 p.m. he was bombarded by calls from management about impending sales.
"If he did not return these calls within 20 minutes of receipt, the sales were reassigned to someone else who would obtain Mr. Ingman's bonus when the sale closed. As a result, Mr. Ingman acclimated himself to sleeping with his cell phone next to his head so that he would not miss more calls," Ingman says in his complaint.
Both Ingman and Zaslove claim that CAET characterized their commissions as bonuses, giving the company "maximum flexibility to dock [their] pay for any type of minor infraction."
CAET also failed to track hours worked, on-call hours or pay overtime, making their wage statements grossly inaccurate, according to the complaints.
Besides the labor code violations, Zaslove and Ingman claim CAET managers cultivated a "continual and pervasive" culture of sexual harassment, which forced Zaslove to resign.
She claims that when women performed well at CAET, "defendants Jacob, Jackson, Meissner and Sgro loudly called them 'whores' and 'bitches' in the office in front of all the other traders."
Zaslove continues: "On multiple occasions, defendant Jacob offensively asked plaintiff and others during sales meetings if 'their pussies hurt' when they disagreed with him. On one occasion, defendant Jackson told plaintiff when he was the sales manager, to whom she reported, that 'we could rape the [CAET] client's mother and he wouldn't care. Throughout her employment, CAET and its supervisors ... in her presence made vulgar gestures whenever a large sale was made and characterized it as a 'big dick,' whereas when a more modest sale was made they denigrated it calling it a 'pussy' and made a correspondingly vulgar gesture. Defendant Meissner frequently screamed, berated and physically intimidated plaintiff in front of her colleagues and subordinates, to her great humiliation, just because she was a woman working at a company where he specifically stated 'women do not belong.'"
Zaslove says she was constantly subjected to vulgar chatter about sexploits, one-night stands and encounters with prostitutes.
Ingman makes similar complaints.
Ingman claims that shortly after being hired by CAET, he went on a company trip to Las Vegas as a reward for being a top trader. While there, he says, defendant Sgro demanded that Ingman procure a prostitute for him, an act that supposedly is illegal in Sin City.
"When Mr. Ingman protested and expressed his discomfort, Mr. Sgro ordered the prostitute in Mr. Ingman's name and identified Mr. Ingman as the individual requesting the prostitute, in front of his colleagues," the complaint states. "When the prostitutes arrived there were two of them, not one. At the time, Mr. Ingman and two other traders ... went to Mr. Sgro's room to explain what happened. When the three of them arrived, they discovered Mr. Sgro half naked in bed with two naked female prostitutes. This entire episode greatly embarrassed Mr. Ingman in front of his colleagues. When Mr. Ingman told Mr. Sgro how upset he was about the situation, Mr. Sgro shrugged him off and said that this type of conduct happened all the time at CAET. He was told not to report the incident, or his job would be in jeopardy."
Ingman says he did not tell Jacob - CAET's chairman and CEO, according to the company website - but his two colleagues did. Jacob did nothing, not that he would have anyway, Ingman says.
"In the corporate offices throughout Mr. Ingman's employment, defendant Jacob and the other directors constantly and loudly proclaimed that women in the office were 'whores' and 'bitches' in front of all the traders and saw nothing wrong with continuing these insults. Further, defendant Meissner frequently and loudly discussed procuring prostitutes for his team members in Mr. Ingman's presence, and his lewd and lascivious behavior toward women was abysmal. Although defendant Jacob was present, he failed to take any remedial action. By his silence, defendant Jacob condoned and encouraged these activities," Ingman says in his complaint.
Zaslove says she twice complained to Jacob about Meissner - CAET director of sales - to no avail.
"After plaintiff's husband, a university professor, had won a prestigious award, defendant Meissner humiliated the plaintiff by telling her in front of other traders and colleagues 'Ok, when are you going to quit, be a housewife or do charity work? Women do not last here.' In July 2012, plaintiff saw defendant Meissner distributing Adderall to his team members and overheard him offering to procure prostitutes for all of them. Defendant Jacob failed to remedy the situation when plaintiff complained to him, condoning this conduct by telling her 'when you work at CAET, you need Adderall or cocaine," Zaslove says in her complaint.
She says that Jacob grossly sexually harassed her, telling her "in a sales meeting in the presence of others that he would 'put his dick in her mouth' if she disagreed with him."
Zaslove continues: "During that same time, defendant Jacob told plaintiff loudly in front of other inside salespersons to tell the customer 'to suck his dick' after one of her customers had asked plaintiff for purchase terms. Such language was prevalent in CAET workplace and frequently used, to plaintiff's embarrassment, by Jackson and Meissner as well as Jacob."
Zaslove claims that despite her complaints about sexual harassment and an incident in which Sgro touched her inappropriately, CAET promoted both Sgro and Meissner to partner in July 2012, "leaving no doubt that the way to success at CAET was to abuse women or participate in offensive conduct, or both."
For Ingman, the end came shortly after he'd been transferred to Spain to set up a European office with defendant Iavor Ivanov.
"In October 2012, after he became aware of Mr. Ingman's discomfort with the sexually hostile atmosphere in the corporate office, Mr. Ivanov threatened to 'punch him in the fucking face' if he sought corporate reimbursement for alcohol ordered by Mr. Ivanov on Mr. Ingman's personal credit card without his consent," according to the complaint. "Mr. Ivanov also ordered Mr. Ingman not to leave the office during the day for any reason unless he had prior approval, constantly phoning and emailing him. This conduct prevented Mr. Ingman from performing his job effectively. Ultimately, Mr. Ingman could not tolerate this behavior anymore. On Nov. 16, 2012, he wrote to David Ruiz, vice president of analytics, and to CAET's director of human resources, requesting a transfer from Mr. Ivanov's team. In his email, he stated that Mr. Ivanov was physically menacing, abusive and made it impossible for him to work at his job in Europe."
Ingman says Jacob responded by transferring him back to California - and gave him 48 hours to leave Spain, warning him he would be terminated if he disobeyed.
"Because Ingman was unable to meet the arbitrary and unreasonable deadline, defendant Jacob left him to return from Europe on his own," the complaint states. "On Nov. 17, 2012, defendant Jacob sent an email to CAET's directors and the entire European team immediately after plaintiff's termination, informing them that he had terminated Mr. Ingman due to Mr. Ingman's 'erratic behavior,' poor attitude and lack of commitment to the job and company. ... He also called Mr. Ingman a 'squeaky wheel,' a 'poor trader' and a bad employee. He informed the European team that he would distribute Mr. Ingman's accounts to them, which would give them additional revenue and a reason not to complain."
Ingman and Zaslove seek punitive damages for labor code violations, sexual harassment and contract violations. Ingman also seeks damages for wrongful termination and defamation, and Zaslove for constructive discharge and emotional distress.
Both are represented by Jean-Yves Lendormy and H. Ann Liroff, with Luscutoff, Lendormy & Associates in San Francisco.