Perry Coneybeer, who left college at age 19 to work full-time at corporate file digitizing startup Ripcord, is alleging improper behavior by Ripcord CEO Alex Fielding. Coneybeer also alleges she was fired in retaliation for reporting a fellow employee to human resources.
In a Medium post published today, Coneybeer alleges Fielding told graphic, sexual stories involving other employees. One story was about an employee who allegedly sent Fielding porn, which Fielding then allegedly watched during the workday.
“He proudly told us he opened and watched the videos all the way through during the audits,” she wrote. “He then graphically described and pantomimed a sexual act called ‘gloving.’ He explained the act several times–it seemed that he interpreted the confusion on our faces to mean that we didn’t quite understand the mechanics.”
Fielding also allegedly had a bazooka next to his desk. But it wasn’t just Fielding who behaved improperly, Coneybeer writes. It was throughout the company.
What ultimately brought Coneybeer to go to HR was when an employee at a company holiday party allegedly made a joke to her boyfriend about raping her. Coneybeer said she reported this to her boss, who then escalated it to HR.
Ripcord fired the person who made the rape joke. But within one month, both Coneybeer and her boss were also let go. Coneybeer told TechCrunch she considered filing a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination and retaliation, but decided going this route may be more effective.
Coneybeer feels confident in telling her story because she did not sign the severance agreement upon being fired, she told TechCrunch. That agreement included a non-disclosure clause pertaining to speaking negatively of the company.
“Everything that Perry wrote about was true,” Kim Lembo, Coneybeer’s former boss who was let go on the same day, told TechCrunch. “I was witness to some of, if not the majority of the things she wrote about.”*
Lembo also added how Fielding would make comments about her breast milk pumping during the workday.
“As I would walk (back from the pump room to the refrigerator on the other side of the office), there were times when other executives would be like, “Moo!,” she told TechCrunch. “One of these times, I was walking into the kitchen and Alex was like, “Eww!.”
That’s when Lembo said she “playfully hit him with my bag of breast milk on the shoulder.”
Although Lembo was technically a co-founder, she said she signed an at-will employment agreement — something she regrets doing.
Ripcord, a company that uses robots to digitize paper records, has raised $85 million in total from Google Ventures, Kleiner Perkins, Legend Star, Lux Capital, Silicon Valley Bank, Telstra Ventures and Steve Wozniak.
Ripcord says its board of directors is investigating Coneybeer’s allegations and will take appropriate action, if needed, a Ripcord spokesperson told TechCrunch.Ripcord actually began investigating some of these claims prior to Coneybeer’s blog post, according to a source. Ripcord also said it “cares deeply about fostering a positive workplace culture. Respect and integrity are absolutely integral to our ability to success.”
As for Coneybeer, she plans to return to school as a sophomore in September. She’s also currently looking for internships in tech, with the hope that the industry can change.
“It disheartens me to think that this is the way the tech industry is right now,” she wrote. “I’m optimistic, though, that a change can be made. The first step is for people to come forward with their stories.”
Meanwhile, Coneybeer’s father, a prominent venture capitalist at Shasta Ventures, said he’s proud of her.
“I’m proud of my daughter, Perry, for her strength and integrity,” Shasta Ventures founder Rob Coneybeer told TechCrunch.
*This story has been updated with comment from Lembo.