A Seattle-based modeling agency has filed a lawsuit against Microsoft and Jonathan Plumb, a HoloLens program manager. Genesis Industries (GI) claims that the Redmond tech giant has failed to pay models hired to promote HoloLens events in 2015.
In addition, GI accuses Jonathan Plumb of unlawful behavior. The lawsuit mentions that Plumb was drinking with an underaged GI employee, and harassed the agency's general manager, Jennifer Kelly.
But let's start from the beginning. Genesis Industries entered a contractual relationship with CoroWare, a Microsoft supplier, which paid the modeling agency. Jonathan Plumb approached GI in early 2015 to “provide ambassadors” for HoloLens events promoting the product.
From June 2015 through December 2015, GI provided models for HoloLens trade events, under Plumb's supervision according to the lawsuit. In August 2015, CoroWare stopped paying bills. CoroWare would cover travel, hotel, and wage costs, but didn't meet its obligations.
CoroWare goes silent, Plumb accused of sexual harassment
What's even more shady about this lawsuit is the fact that CoroWare has now gone completely silent. Calling the company's phone number leads to a recording indicating the number is blocked.
The website of the company says “CoroWare is in the process of reorganization, and will be announcing a new strategic direction that will benefit shareholders.”
After failing to contact CoroWare and with the bills still unpaid, GI raised the issue of reimbursement with Plumb. The latter informed the modeling agency that the bills would be paid, stating that GI would receive ongoing work from Microsoft.
However, the filed complaint notes that Plumb's behavior and conduct became alarming over time. According to the lawsuit, Plumb “began pursuing Kelly sexually and made hypersexualized comments about other females involved in GI.”
The court filing says that Kelly found out that the HoloLens program manager had been drinking with an underage female GI employee. Kelly confronted Plumb about his behavior, the lawsuit claims, and he limited GI's work and Microsoft, through CoroWare. He then terminated the contract without the required notice of 30 days.
Microsoft reviewing the complaint
Shortly after Plumb terminated the contract, Kelly found out that CoroWare had begun poaching CI employees. The general manager of CI also notes in the complaint that Microsoft HoloLens demos still utilize former GI employees via third-party vendors.
The Register emailed Microsoft, asking if the company or Jonathan Plumb wished to comment on the lawsuit. A Microsoft spokesperson replied that the Redmond giant is reviewing the complaint. Microsoft also noted that it is “committed to a diverse workforce and an inclusive culture where everyone has the chance to succeed.”
Although Microsoft is keeping its lips tight, they are surely having a close look at the issue as sexist behavior or accusations of sexual harassment are always bad for what the company wants to represent. This is not the first case, Microsoft or one of its employees is confronted with such a case. Back in March of 2016, Microsoft had to respond quickly to a controversy surrounding a party the company held at GDC. The company held a party with sexist themes at the event.
Xbox chief Phil Spencer had to clean up the mess and deemed the actions as “unequivocally wrong”. During the party in question, women were used on podiums in various revealing costumes while they danced.