Former Oakland Raiders tight end Teyo Johnson, who alleges he was sexually harassed by his boss when he worked at a New York-based metaverse company, will be able to make his claims in court after a federal judge allowed his lawsuit to go to trial.
Johnson has alleged in court papers that Everyrealm CEO Janine Yorio came onto him, urged him to sleep with co-workers, made lewd comments about his sexual preferences, and uttered racist remarks.
Johnson also has claimed that he was forced to quit after rejecting Yorio’s advances.
Yorio has denied the allegations.
Everyrealm — whose backers include the Silicon Valley venture firm Andreessen Horowitz and which has tapped celebrity endorsers including Paris Hilton and Will Smith — has claimed that Johnson was fired due to poor performance, including falling asleep on the job, and that he made disparaging comments about women and their reproductive systems.
US District Judge Paul. A. Engelmayer handed down a 41-page ruling last Friday denying a bid by Everyrealm to force the case into arbitration.
In his ruling, Engelmayer concluded that Johnson’s lawsuit “pled a plausible claim of sexual harassment” and that Everyrealm had no legal ground to force the matter into arbitration due to a recent change in the law signed by President Biden last year.
The Post has sought comment from Yorio.
Last March, Biden signed into law a statute known as Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021. The law allows employees who signed pre-dispute arbitration agreements with their employer to pursue claims of sexual harassment or assault in court.
The new law “render[s] an arbitration clause unenforceable as to the entire case involving a viably pled sexual harassment dispute,” Engelmayer, who was appointed to the federal bench by Barack Obama, wrote in his decision.
Engelmayer, meanwhile, struck down a sexual harassment claim that was filed by another ex-Everyrealm employee, Katherine Yost.
Yost, the 46-year-old former director of human resources at Everyrealm, filed suit against the company alleging “discriminatory and illegal policies and acts,” including sexually suggestive remarks about colleagues’ love lives and orientation by Yorio.
Yost alleged that she was harassed when Yorio began “discussing another employee’s purported sex life at work.”
Yost alleged in court papers that Yorio “specifically targeted Yost with such comments because Yost is openly bisexual” and Yorio “thought that this attribute made [Yost] an expert on others’ sexual orientations.”
But Engelmayer ruled that the alleged remarks by Yorio are “disconnected from any protected characteristic of the plaintiff’s,” according to court papers.
Shane Seppinni, who represents Johnson, Yost, and another ex-employee who has filed suit against Everyrealm, said that Yost’s other claims, including that she was paid an annual salary of more than $100,000 less than that of men “with less experience in similarly leveled roles who had similar responsibilities,” have not been dismissed.
“These are nothing more than baseless allegations from a disgruntled former employee seeking to cause harm to our company,” an Everyrealm spokesperson said of Yost’s allegations.
“Everyrealm works hard to foster a supportive, inclusive workplace, and we will continue to defend against these lawsuits.”
A spokesperson for Everyrealm told The Post: “Taking a page from the George Santos playbook, Johnson has misrepresented his career in the past and continues to lie now with these false claims.”
“Liars tell lies,” the spokesperson for the company alleged, echoing claims Everyrealm has made in court filings, including a motion to dismiss and motion for sanctions.
“Just as the court dismissed similar bogus claims from former Everyrealm employee Kathy Yost today, Johnson’s lies will be exposed as this case moves forward.”
Everyrealm has accused Johnson of making “extortionate” demands for a settlement totaling $1.9 million in damages.
Seppinni, Johnson’s Manhattan-based attorney, hailed the ruling on the matter involving the former NFL player.
“This decision is historic and precedent setting,” Seppinni told The Post. “Because of Teyo Johnson’s courage, future victims of sexual harassment and racism will now get their day in open court,” Seppinni said.
Seppinni told The Post that Johnson “brought $500,000 in private equity investments with him into Everyrealm…”
A company spokesperson denied this, telling The Post that Johnson, as described in their court filings, “never raised one dollar for the company” and that he was let go for “poor performance, specifically for making disparaging comments about women and menstruation, racking up a huge expense account bill — and falling asleep at his desk on numerous occasions.”