Security Guards Sue Billionaire Paul Allen
SEATTLE (CN) - A man who says billionaire Paul Allen hired him for an "executive protection team" claims in court that he was not paid the salary he was promised, was stiffed for overtime, and quit after he was ordered to participate in "illegal activities" and was sexually harassed by Allen's sister, the CEO of Allen's Vulcan Inc.
Ramon Sandoval sued Vulcan Inc., Paul Allen and Jody Allen, in King County Court.
Sandoval says he was forced to resign due to "misrepresentations and other unethical conditions" at Vulcan and now works as a U.S. air marshal "at drastically reduced pay."
Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates and now chairs Vulcan, a company he founded to manage his investments. His sister is president and CEO, according to the complaint.
Four other security guards, including the former security director for Vulcan, filed similar lawsuits in September 2011. All of the complaints allege misconduct by Paul and Jody Allen and Vulcan, but none of the allegations of misconduct are elucidated in precise detail.
Sandoval's attorney, Rebecca Roe, responded to an email inquiry from Courthouse News by saying she could not comment about the alleged illegal activities, but she could say that Sandoval worked with the four other security employees who filed complaints. Roe represents three of the litigants. One complaint was voluntarily dismissed.
Vulcan said it could not comment on the case except to say that "the claims are baseless, and we'll prove that in court if necessary."
Vulcan's former security director Kathy Loedler and security guards Jeff Benoit and Thomas RoseHaley all seek damages for constructive termination, fraud, hostile work environment and defamation.
Leodler alleged "constructive termination, defamation and fraud" in her complaint. In a motion to disqualify Loedler's counsel, Vulcan said Loedler asserted claims for "constructive termination based on illegality and unprincipled corporate activities."
Although neither the original complaint nor Vulcan's response is specific, Vulcan's motion to disqualify Loedler's original attorney, for alleged wrongful possession of Vulcan's confidential documents, sheds some light on Leodler's claims.
"The conduct that Leodler has put in issue in this case includes: (1) efforts to reorganize EP [Executive Protection] operations around a 'flexible work week' schedule; (2) efforts to ensure access to and proper protocols for dispensing prescribed medications for individuals under EP protection, (3) issues arising from the foreign travel of one or more of the defendants; (4) efforts to address and resolve claims against Vulcan asserted by certain former EP team members; and (5) follow-up efforts to negotiate releases, arbitration provisions, and further assurances of confidentiality from EP team members," the motion states.
Roe took over representation after the original attorney, Jerald Pearson, withdrew.
Sandoval, the most recent security guard to sue, was working in Afghanistan when Vulcan recruited him for a security job in Seattle, promising a salary of "$52.88 per hour and time-and-one-half for overtime," according to the complaint.
After Sandoval accepted the offer and began making plans to move, he says, Vulcan changed the terms to a "fluctuating workweek" that would result in overtime pay of only one-half his regular rate of pay.
The corporate recruiter, Stephani O'Brien, told him "not to worry" because Vulcan would not implement the new system, so Sandoval went ahead and moved, according to the complaint.
"Within hours of reporting for work at Vulcan, Ms. O'Brien informed plaintiff that if he did not sign the fluctuating workweek offer he would have no job. Plaintiff felt he had no choice as he had a family to support. He signed the agreement but immediately started looking for different employment," the complaint states.
"In the short time plaintiff was employed at Vulcan, he and other members of the Executive Protection team were ordered to participate in illegal activities to benefit Paul and Jody Allen."
Sandoval says he was also asked to lie about how many hours he worked.
"On a trip to the Antarctic, plaintiff was instructed to limit his reporting of time worked to 16 hours per day, no matter how many he worked, which usually exceeded that amount," according to the complaint.
Sandoval adds: "Defendant Jody Allen, president and CEO of Vulcan, made repeated inappropriate and sexual comments to, about, and in the presence of plaintiff.
"Because of the misrepresentations and other unethical conditions in the workplace, plaintiff felt he could not continue working for Vulcan and resigned April 8, 2011.
"Plaintiff accepted a new position as a US Air Marshall at drastically reduced pay."
Sandoval seeks damages for breach of contract, misrepresentation and minimum wage violations and sexual harassment.
He is represented by Rebecca Roe and Kathy Goater, with Schroeter, Goldmark & Bender.