A former employee of Moog Music has filed a Civil Rights lawsuit in North Carolina accusing the legendary synth company of a culture of misogyny and gender discrimination that ultimately led to the termination of her employment “because of her sex”.
As first reported by The Asheville Blade, the lawsuit was filed on 16 March 2021 by Hannah Green, who joined Moog via a temp company in February 2018 as a sales assistant. The legal complaint, which was amended 25 May and which MusicTech has seen, alleges Green was “fired” from the employee-owned company in August 2020 “because of her sex”.
Her attorney, Sean Soboleski, told the Asheville Blade that as “a result of these discriminatory acts, breach of contract, and negligent affliction of emotional distress”, Green is seeking over $1.1million in compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorney’s fees and costs.
According to the legal complaint, Green claims she was harassed by a male co-worker, was unfairly refused a promotion, was retaliated against when she attempted to bring to light gender discrimination in Moog, and was wrongfully discharged from the company.
In January 2019, Green claims she began to air complaints of “disparate treatment in [Moog’s] all-male sales department” where she worked, raising “instances of misogyny and unfair treatment” to her superiors and the company’s human resources department.
Speaking to the Asheville Blade, Green also alleged instances of sexually inappropriate language at Moog. “There were so many inappropriate jokes,” she claimed. “There was a joke about golden showers, they used to make dick jokes constantly.”
Green alleged that on 17 September 2019, she was “verbally and physically intimidated” by a male co-worker during the company event Moog Pro. The lawsuit alleges he put his hand on Green in “an aggressive manner while sitting across a small table screaming at her”.
In the exchange, which was purportedly about Green’s working hours and what time she clocked into work, he was said to have told Green she was a “fucking liar” and would “never move up in the Sales Department”. After the exchange, which according to court documents lasted about an hour, Green left “feeling bullied, harassed, and belittled, and suffering emotional distress”.
The following week, a discussion between Green, the male co-worker, Nick Valente (Moog Music’s VP of Business Development), and Linda Lafferty (Moog Music’s Director of Workplace Experience) took place to discuss “the misogynistic comments, the intimidation and the violent incident” that Green claims to have endured.
Green claims the meeting resulted in both Green and the co-worker agreeing to a “Counseling and Performance Improvement Plan” as detailed in the Moog Employee-Owner Handbook. As part of the plan and as stated in the court documents, he agreed to: move his desk further away from Green; “not exhibit violent, harassing, or controlling behavior towards Green”, and “not exhibit controlling behavior over Green’s projects that did not involve him”.
When in October 2019 Lafferty checked back with Green, the latter claimed that her co-worker was still causing her to feel “uncomfortable […] and distress[ed]”. Despite that, the lawsuit alleges that he “received no discipline and nothing else was done by Moog in response to this report to change its policies and practices”.
MusicTech has also reached out to Green’s co-worker for comment.
The court documents also allege that Green was passed over for or not made aware of job positions at Moog, despite either being qualified for them or having proposed the company create those positions.
She claims that her superiors, including Moog’s Chief Marketing Officer Joe Richardson, had suggested numerous times over the course of six months beginning October 2019 that she would be promoted to a management position within the newly proposed Sales Operations Department.
Furthermore, Green claims the company around December 2019 hired a male Assistant To The Artist Relations Department Head. This was a role that Green says she had proposed to the Moog management in an “attempt to get out of the Sales Department”, the court documents state.
Both positions, Green claims, were never posted on the company’s internal job board nor announced via email during her time at Moog, contrary to company policy per Moog’s Employee-Owner Handbook.
In April 2020, Green said that Moog was “dissolving her position”, which the lawsuit alleges was a false claim. She was then asked to stay until August 1, 2020 to train others on her duties.
It was around this time (29 April 2020) that Green filed a charge with The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging that she “had been discriminated against and harassed based on her gender (female) by her supervisors and co-workers, and that she was retaliated against because she engaged in activity protected under Title VII [of the Civil Rights Act]”, the court documents show.
According to Moog, “The EEOC subsequently investigated and dismissed the claim.”
It was further claimed that Valente had promised to hand Green on August 1 a cheque for two months’ severance pay – which Moog allegedly did not honour, and which Green claims is a breach of contract.
Green, the Asheville Blade reports, thought upon her hiring at Moog in 2018 that she was joining an “‘employee-owned’ firm… known for progressive attitudes that seem to make it fit in with the popular image Asheville [the city in North Carolina where Moog is headquartered] likes to project”.
In an email sent to MusicTech by Green’s attorney Soboleski, he claimed: “Moog portrays itself to the public as a progressive and ‘woke’ company that values women and supports women’s causes, but it is a ruse. At the time Ms. Green worked there, the percentage of non-cis male employees was around 10 per cent.”
Though Moog did promote a few longtime female employees after Green and Soboleski filed a complaint with the EEOC, the attorney alleged to MusicTech that: “This was simply an attempt to bolster the appearance of equality in the workplace and uphold their image.”
Due to the “discrimination, harassment and retaliation that she endured while employed by Moog”, Green suffered “loss of sleep, anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms”, the lawsuit alleges, adding that Green began mental health therapy and was prescribed medication as a result.
Moog Music told MusicTech it categorically denies these claims, which it says are false. The company said that given the matter is subject to pending litigation, it can only comment on some of the facts: “First, this former employee filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, and the EEOC subsequently investigated and dismissed the claim. Second, Moog Music conducted its own internal investigation and found that the allegations of the accuser regarding discrimination and retaliation to be unsubstantiated.”
The company said its corporate leadership – which it claims is greater than 50 per cent female – will continue to focus on “providing a safe and nurturing environment for our employees and will have nothing further to say on this matter until the litigation is finalised”.