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Lawsuit Filed Against BlackBerry and It's CEO



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

April 3, 2024


LAWSUIT: CEO OF BLACKBERRY SEXUALLY HARASSED MULTIPLE WOMEN

John Giamatteo was promoted by the Board of Directors of BlackBerry to CEO despite multiple accusations of sexual and workplace harassment


SAN FRANCISCO – Today, a lawsuit was filed against BlackBerry Ltd. and its Chief Executive Officer, John Giamatteo, alleging sexual harassment, discrimination, and retaliation among other claims. The lawsuit states that Giamatteo was offered the position of CEO in spite of the company’s knowledge of multiple complaints of sexual and workplace harassment against him. The lawsuit was filed today in United States District Court for the Northern District of California in advance of BlackBerry Ltd.’s quarterly earnings call which is today, April 3rd at 2:30 pm PST.


“Jane’s story underscores the disturbing reality of workplace harassment and discrimination that too many working women know all too well,” said Maria Bourn, Jane Doe’s attorney. “Despite a litany of complaints against him, Giamatteo was not only shielded from consequences but rewarded with a promotion to the highest position in the company signing a deal with BlackBerry setting his overall compensation at $700,000 with stock valued at $6 million. BlackBerry’s egregious disregard for the safety and well-being of its female employees not only impacted Jane Doe’s career, but also serves as a scathing indictment of this company’s professed values.”


The victim in the case is named in court records as Jane Doe to protect the privacy of a victim of sexual harassment. According to court records, Jane Doe began working at BlackBerry over ten years ago. She exceeded expectations year after year, earning multiple promotions until she became an executive. When the defendant John Giamatteo was hired in 2021 as President of Cyber Security, he asked Jane to work for him so they could “travel together.” Giamatteo did not provide any business reason for this request. This made Jane uncomfortable and she politely rejected his request to report to him. 


After work one day she was subjected to sexual harassment from Giamatteo as he attempted to woo Jane at what she thought was a business dinner. Giamatteo was overly friendly with Jane and tried to get close to her. He also made inappropriate comments and Jane decided to report Giamatteo’s advancements to the then-CEO, John Chen.


As soon as Jane reported the harassment Giamatteo retaliated, interfering with her ability to do her work effectively. Giamatteo stopped inviting Jane to meetings, created additional work for her, made false claims to others about the nature of Jane’s work ethic, and spread rumors about how he wanted Jane “out” and was working on getting Jane “out.” 


“BlackBerry seeks to present itself as a modern company, but the new management’s tolerance and enablement of 'Mad Men'-era sexual harassment reflects their toxic and antiquated values,” said Tanya Gomerman, Jane Doe’s attorney.  “A company’s culture is shaped from the top down and when leadership participates in discriminatory and misogynistic behavior, it calls into question the integrity of the entire organization. By failing to act, multiple people in positions of authority effectively co-signed on the CEO’s harassment. Holding them accountable is essential to restoring an inclusive and equitable workplace environment.”


In October of 2023, CEO Chen announced he was retiring and the BlackBerry Board of Directors began the search for a new CEO, appointing Richard “Dick” Lynch as Interim CEO. After information was released that Giamatteo was being considered for CEO, it was reported to BlackBerry that Giamatteo had engaged in sexual harassment, prompting an investigation from a third-party law firm, Morrison & Foerster. The morning of Jane’s interview with the investigators, Interim CEO Lynch responded to questions about who the new permanent CEO would be in a leadership call, saying that the Board had “run into a couple of process hiccups in appointing the person.”


In November of 2023, Morrison & Foerster interviewed Jane, notably with human resources absent. Jane, nervous and fearful of retaliation, asked to be assured that she would be protected if she shared her story and experiences with Giamatteo. The two investigators assured her that “no retaliation would occur.” Jane chose to believe them and shared her story of how she was sexually harassed and retaliated against after rejecting Giamatteo, provided them with evidence of her complaints, and provided the investigators with contact information of two other women who had experienced similar behavior from him. Immediately after the meeting with the investigators, Jane met with Interim CEO Lynch and asked him how he was deciding who the CEO was going to be, to which he replied that the CEO had already been selected.


On November 16th, Jane reached out to Interim CEO Lynch and shared with him information related to the sexual harassment investigation being conducted on Giamatteo, noting that she believes the company and its leadership value culture, transparency, and teamwork. Interim CEO Lynch responded by saying: “I obviously don’t know the history but I believe that this will get solved based on the processes for change that we have undertaken. Obviously, we need a little time, but change is coming.” 


That change occurred just two weeks later on November 30, 2023, after Jane received an email asking to set up a 1:1 meeting with Interim CEO Lynch. Upon logging onto the meeting on December 4th, Jane was then informed that “her job duties were terminated effective immediately.” Jane was told that her termination was due to “restructuring,” yet she was the only person on the senior leadership team being terminated. 


When Jane received her severance letter on December 4th, the agreement stated that payment was conditional upon her signing away all claims. The letter also directed her to notify Phil Kurtz, the Chief Legal Officer, of her response, which was a deviation from the usual protocol. 


Jane was forced to leave the company she had devoted over 10 years of her life to, and two days later Giamatteo was offered the position of CEO of BlackBerry. 


“Rather than letting her excellent work contributions speak for themselves, Jane’s position and security in the company instead boiled down to how submissive and agreeable she was to her white, male counterparts,” added Bourn. “Regrettably the actions by BlackBerry reflect a pattern not only by this CEO, but in terms of what women and in particular women of color in the tech industry disproportionately experience in the workplace.”


According to court records, as President of BlackBerry’s Cyber Security Business Unit, Giamatteo only had white men as his direct reports, and after he was promoted to CEO, additional women and people of color were dismissed from the company. This tracks with national trends in the tech world where 73% of women report experiencing discrimination. Women of color are at an even larger disadvantage, facing double the discrimination. Ironically, BlackBerry’s website says the company is “committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” and claims “BlackBerry’s success, and the success of the global communities we operate and live in, is dependent on social resiliency. We are committed to enabling a more equitable world for all.”


Today we filed a lawsuit against BlackBerry and it's CEO, John Giamatteo on behalf of a former executive at the company for what she alleges was a pattern of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and retaliation.


 

Gomerman|Bourn and Associates specializes in employment law and personal injury cases. Since opening its doors in 2012, they have recovered well over $50 million for their clients. To learn more about Gomerman|Bourn and Associates, visitwww.gobolaw.com




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