Tech CEO Accused of|Harassment & Snooping

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A technology CEO on probation for domestic battery secretly recorded an interview for a top position at his company, the woman claims in a harassment lawsuit.
     Gravity4 Software CEO Gurbaksh Chahal also texted the interviewer, telling him to grill Encarnita Alonso on her views about his criminal record, Alonso claims in her Tuesday lawsuit in Superior Court.
     Chahal was looking for a new senior vice president of marketing, preferably a woman, Alonso claims, to improve his image after he pleaded guilty to battery charges.
     Alonso got the marketing job at Gravity4 but was fired six weeks later, in what she calls a pattern of abused and humiliated “women who dared to question Chahal, a serial entrepreneur with a legendary temper.”
     Chahal, who previously sold two companies for more than $300 million, said Tuesday that he is “shocked at these allegations, as they’re simply baseless, false, and cannot be supported by facts.”
     Chahal pleaded guilty last year to two misdemeanors: domestic violence battery and battery.
     Alonso’s complaint says the charges stemmed from an incident in which Chahal struck his girlfriend more than 100 times. He was sentenced to three years probation and lost his job as CEO of RadiumOne as a result.
     In November last year, Alonso says, she flew from her home in New York City for a series of interviews, and that “from the beginning, Chahal and others at Gravity4 violated Alonso’s privacy by secretly monitoring her.”
     In one session, Alonso says, a Gravity4 manager pressed her to answer what she calls “loaded, provocative questions about Chahal’s violence against women.”
     She says tried to talk about the skills she developed in a 20-year marketing career, but the manager kept asking, “Do you think he did it?”
     Alonso says she later learned that Chahal had been watching the interview from another room, and that “questions about Chahal’s domestic abuse were being sent to the interviewer by Chahal via text message in real time throughout the interview from another room where Chahal was sitting and watching the interview, unbeknownst to Alonso.”
     “This inappropriate questioning continued through Alonso’s post-interview dinner with Chahal and other Gravity4 employees, with Chahal continuing to text the same interviewer further inappropriate questions to ask Alonso while they all sat together at the table,” she says in the lawsuit. “All the while, Chahal fraudulently chastised the interviewer for being ‘so hard’ on Alonso.”
     Neither Gravity4 nor Chahal responded to requests for comment Wednesday, but in a statement on the Gravity4 website they rejected Alonso’s claims, saying she had failed to do her work.
     Her lawsuit is a “sad, desperate cry for publicity,” they said, claiming that Alonso wants to capitalize on the interest generated by Ellen Pao’s discrimination suit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, which a jury dismissed in March .
     Gravity4 also denied Alonso’s eavesdropping allegation, saying they “do not operate any surveillance equipment in our office for interviewing purposes.”
     The company claimed that Alonso moonlighted for her former employer while at Gravity4, but Alonso’s lawyer dismissed the allegation in an interview Wednesday.
     San Francisco attorney Harmeet Dhillon said Alonso had been given written permission from Gravity4 to wrap up some contract work, and that the allegations in the Web post will be proven false.
     “They are doubling down on victimizing my client by smearing her with defamatory statements,” Dhillon said.
     Dhillon said Chahal’s reference to Ellen Pao was a red herring intended to draw attention from the merits of Alonso’s case.
     Dhillon described the 43-year-old Alonso as “a brave woman for stepping forward.”
     “Unfortunately, discrimination is a common occurrence in 2015 in corporate America,” Dhillon said, “particularly in the tech world.”
     Alonso says in her lawsuit that despite her “hard work and dedication to Gravity4, Chahal favored his younger, male employees, giving them credit and refusing to hold them accountable for their subpar work.”
     Soon after Alonso questioned Chahal’s use of RadiumOne’s confidential contact list to issue press releases, Chahal told her that she was no longer a “good fit” and fired her, according to the complaint.
     She seeks punitive damages for unlawful electronic eavesdropping, gender discrimination, age discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

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