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BlackBerry CEO sexually harassed senior employee, lawsuit says


A former employee of BlackBerry Ltd. filed a lawsuit against the company and its new CEO, John Giamatteo, who she claims sexually harassed her and then retaliated against her after she reported the behavior.

The plaintiff, a California-based woman of color who worked for the Waterloo, Ont.-based technology company for more than a decade, including in several management positions, alleges that members of the company’s management were aware of his complaints when Giamatteo was appointed. general manager in December.

The suit was filed in a U.S. district court on Wednesday hours before the technology company reported its fourth-quarter results.

The plaintiff, known as Jane Doe in court documents, alleges that her treatment at BlackBerry violated both the U.S. Labor Code and California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and resulted in her wrongful termination.

No charges have been filed and the allegations have not been proven in court. No response to the complaint has been filed.

“BlackBerry and Mr. Giamatteo believe these allegations to be without merit and intend to vigorously defend against them,” BlackBerry said in a statement.

“BlackBerry is committed to maintaining a respectful and productive work environment, free from discrimination and harassment. To this end, we do not tolerate, condone or ignore discrimination, harassment or any illegal behavior in the workplace. We conducted a thorough investigation, which found no evidence of wrongdoing or violations of the company’s code of conduct, and we are confident that the robustness of our process and its findings will be demonstrated in court.

A law firm named as representing Giamatteo in court documents did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his behalf.

In the complaint, Doe is described as a “high-performing” and “high-potential employee” who was rewarded with “promotion after promotion” during her tenure at the company.

In her court filing, she alleges that her career was “derailed” when Giamatteo became president of BlackBerry’s cybersecurity business in October 2021. Giamatteo was previously president and chief revenue officer of antivirus giant McAfee Corp.

She alleges he asked her to consider working for him so they could “travel together.”

In an interview, the plaintiff said the suggestion of traveling together was brought up the first time she met Giamatteo, when she expected the conversation to be introductory in nature.

“I had never had this conversation with other people before and no one had brought it up and it kind of raised a red flag for me,” the complainant said.

In the complaint, she claims she politely rejected Giamatteo’s suggestion, telling him she was not looking to change his reporting structure.

She later alleges that he invited her to a dinner that she thought would be a business opportunity because she said he had met other top executives at the company.

“I didn’t really feel comfortable but I thought well, he was having dinner with others, I can’t really be an exception, because as so often happens to women, you are called difficult or not collaborative or something like that,” she said. said in an interview.

In court documents, she claims she left the meal feeling like it was a date because he was “trying to get close to her” and “courting” her throughout the evening, telling him stories about the way he dresses when he goes out with his daughters. so people mistake him for “a dirty old man” on a date with them.

“I’ve been working for many years and I’ve had many different business dinners or lunches and I know what… the tone should be and the behaviors should be and the conversation should be and this dinner was not perceived .like a professional business dinner,” she said in an interview.

Court records claim that shortly afterward, she reported the incident to then-general manager John Chen, who she says was supportive and agreed that she did not have to travel alone with Giamatteo.

Chen did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent to a social media account under his name.

After her discussions with Chen, the plaintiff alleges that Giamatteo stopped inviting her to meetings she should have attended and “actively spread the false rumor among employees that (the) plaintiff was not a good worker.” .

She alleges he began telling staff he wanted to take her “out” and around late 2021 or early 2022, she claims he threatened her, saying if she was “not nice with him, he has a vast network and could have an impact on his career.”

In early 2023, the plaintiff claims she reported her behavior to human resources, who attempted to create more separation between her role and that of Giamatteo.

Later that year, as the company searched for Chen’s successor, court records say she cooperated with an investigation launched by the law firm Morrison and Foerster and informed the company’s interim chief executive company, Richard Lynch, of his allegations.

On December 4, the complainant claims she was told she would be made redundant with immediate effect as part of a “restructuring”.

When BlackBerry reported its third-quarter results in February, the company said it had cut about 200 jobs as part of its efforts to cut costs and anticipated further job losses in its cybersecurity business, which it plans to spin off its Internet of Things division.

A few days after the plaintiff’s dismissal, BlackBerry named Giamatteo its new general manager. A press release announcing the move praised his “deep industry experience and exceptional track record of inspiring teams and driving operational excellence.”

The plaintiff claims in an interview that her dismissal and appointment left her “shocked and numb.”

The decision to take legal action, she said, was difficult, but she pursued the legal action because she felt that if she was “silenced” it would not help the other women.

“I feel like I have a responsibility, especially after being at the executive level, to help other women, whether it’s other women at BlackBerry or in the industry or in a broader setting than that,” she said.

“I hope if they can hear my story it will give them strength.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2024.


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