While Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg appears to be retreating from his metaverse dreams, other entrepreneurs have their own visions for virtual worlds—including immersive media startup Everyrealm, which promotes members-only “ultra-luxury” spaces that will be sold as NFTs, and a “premier island community” on The Sandbox platform, called Fantasy Islands, where it sold a digital $650,000 superyacht that one writer once characterized as “comically hideous.”
In a recent video podcast, Everyrealm CEO Janine Yorio presented a transgressive vision for metaverse users. “People want a safe space to make bad decisions,” Yorio told Tech Snippets Today. “They want vice, they want unfortunately to destroy things, and to do things that are harder to do in real life or often carry a lot of consequences.”
Players on virtual platforms and games, Yorio added, “have to embrace the fact that oftentimes that comes with content that isn’t G-rated.”
But Yorio is facing some R-rated accusations herself.
Three former employees have filed lawsuits claiming she fostered a hostile and toxic environment, one where workers’ sex lives were fair game and where Yorio allegedly made advances on colleagues, telling one subordinate that she and her husband were “only married in the metaverse.”
Former NFL player Teyo Johnson, who worked at the company for just three months, claims Yorio and her New York-based firm “used their positions of power to sexually harass, discriminate against, and retaliate against” him.
The court battle between former staffers and Yorio and her metaverse innovation fund—which has a range of celebrity investors including Paris Hilton, The Weeknd and Nas—has turned ugly, with the company’s attorneys filing lurid private texts to the public docket. They also revealed in court filings that one former HR director, who filed a suit against the startup and is represented by Johnson’s attorney, actually helped to terminate him.
The startup argues Johnson and three other former employees engaged “in a coordinated effort to shake down” the company for out-of-court settlements totaling $7.4 million. (Only three employees filed lawsuits, however, against Everyrealm.)
In a filed legal memorandum, Everyrealm called Johnson’s suit a “money grab” intended “to garner publicity—and to try to harm Everyrealm, especially in its relations with its investors.”
While the startup argued that Johnson must pursue his harassment and discrimination claims in arbitration as agreed upon under his employment contract, the onetime football player said his case belonged in court because of a landmark #MeToo law, the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, which passed last year.
Everyrealm claimed Johnson “fabricated a new narrative involving allegations of sexual harassment” to sidestep arbitration. But in February, U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer disagreed and allowed Johnson’s case to proceed, ruling that he “pled a plausible claim.”
On Friday, Johnson filed an amended complaint adding claims of post-employment retaliation and alleging Everyrealm “leaked some or all of his employee personnel file” and private tax returns to journalists and other third parties.
Former Everyrealm employees told The Daily Beast that the allegations against Yorio didn’t surprise them and some were even aware of them at the time. “Generally inappropriate comments as a normal part of company culture was a ticking time bomb,” said one ex-staffer, adding, “There’s a lot of room for improvement.” (The lawsuits allege multiple instances of crude commentary, including Yorio supposedly saying, “all the men here are castrated,” that one of her co-founders was “an incel” who she hoped would “have gay sex” with someone at a tech conference, and a female executive was a “neurotic anorexic.”)
“It was an unhealthy workplace,” a second former employee said. “The way that she treated everyone, you know, there’s going to be unhappy people.”
Yorio, in a statement to The Daily Beast, called her ex-employees’ litigation “legal terrorism” and “a shakedown disguised as wrongful termination suits.”
“Against repeated advice, I remain staunchly opposed to ‘writing a check’ to make these baseless lawsuits go away,” Yorio said. “We didn’t do any of these things, and so I refuse to succumb to lies and terrorist legal tactics.”
“These former employees worked at Everyrealm for only a few months each, one quit voluntarily and two were fired for poor performance. Since the beginning, we have refused to pay them a nickel—because that is what they deserve,” she said.
“The truth is that there was an obvious and non-discriminatory reason for the terminations and resignations: these people were really bad at their jobs. The harassment and hostile work environment claims are just smoke and mirrors to deflect from that central fact.”
Shane Seppinni, a lawyer for Johnson and three other former Everyrealm employees, said that the company’s response shows “what individual workers are up against when they decide to bring claims against their employers.”
“There’s no shakedown,” Seppinni told The Daily Beast. “They prodded us to make a demand with, I believe, the intent of leaking it to garner sympathy for themselves.”
Teyo Johnson, a two-sport standout at Stanford, was drafted by Oakland Raiders in 2003 before playing for the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills. He also did a stint in the Canadian Football League in 2009, when the Calgary Herald described him as “an entrepreneur who’s been part of two high-tech startup businesses,” “world traveler” and “good buddy of NBA star Yao Ming.”
“I love the concept of bringing a new product out, having something hot and selling it,” Johnson told the Herald. “You see these guys who make tons of money selling different things, and you ask yourself, why not me?”
In a resume submitted to Everyrealm, Johnson listed roles that included director of business development for Yao Family Wines, managing partner at a legal marijuana company in Washington state, and independent contractor for Caerus Investment Advisors. At Caerus, Johnson notes, he secured new clients including boxing legend Mike Tyson and NBA guard James Harden and raised $3 million for SpaceX. (On LinkedIn, Johnson indicates he’s a self-employed private equity specialist based in Las Vegas.)
According to his lawsuit, Everyrealm recruited Johnson after he connected someone in his Rolodex to the firm, leading to a $500,000 investment in the startup’s $60 million Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz. Prominent investors included Coinbase Ventures, film producer Jeffrey Katzenberg, and Gene Simmons of KISS fame. (Yorio, however, told The Daily Beast that Johnson “never raised one dollar for the company” and that his first day at the firm came weeks after Everyrealm's investment round closed.)
Yorio and executives were “impressed by this, Mr. Johnson’s professional network, his experience in commercial real estate, and his skills” and eventually made him Everyrealm’s Director of Strategic Partnerships in March 2022, the complaint says.
Two months prior, Johnson sent Yorio a glowing email. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he wrote, adding, “I would love to be a part of your team and I believe you are a leader that I can follow and will run through a wall for (pun intended).”
“I will give you my best, conduct myself as a professional and never embarrass the company,” Johnson added in the message, which was filed as a court exhibit.
His journey into the metaverse apparently didn’t go as planned.
Johnson claims the harassment began days after he was hired, when he and company executives attended the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference. His lawsuit says Yorio encouraged employees to play a “sex-related game” she called “KYP” or “Know Your Personnel,” which involved hooking up with colleagues. Johnson alleges that she told him there was an alternate version for romps with business partners: “KYC” or “Know Your Client.”
At their hotel at night, the complaint says, Yorio approached Johnson and suggested he “would cheat on [his girlfriend] if the opportunity arises.” From Johnson’s perspective, Yorio, a married mother of two kids, seemed to be “inappropriately ‘testing the waters’ with him” after telling him in his job interview that he was “more than just a pretty face.”
Back in New York, Yorio repeatedly asked Johnson if he had “done” or planned to engage in any “KYP,” the complaint says. (In a motion to dismiss, Everyrealm claimed the game was “a fabrication by Johnson” and “apparently an acronym used in football and one that is completely foreign to Mrs. Yorio.” They also say “Johnson brought a woman to various evening events with whom he was occupied during the times of the alleged conversations between Mrs. Yorio and Johnson.”)
Johnson claims his then-girlfriend also became a target. When the woman brought her service dog to a company party, the lawsuit says, Yorio and fellow executive Julia Schwartz gave them “dirty looks” and “refused to acknowledge” them.
“Mr. Johnson has described their behavior as being like a scene ripped from the movie ‘Mean Girls,’” the complaint says, with the women allegedly nicknaming his girlfriend “Dog in a Bag” and telling employees they thought she “was lying about her mental illness so that she could bring her dog around ‘like Paris Hilton.’”
The following day, Yorio allegedly approached Johnson, asking if he was late because he “hooked up with Dog in a Bag.” The complaint says that while Johnson “made it abundantly clear that he was uncomfortable” with the conversation, Yorio wouldn’t give up.
Johnson, worried about not being viewed as a team player, finally shared why he didn’t have sex with his girlfriend that night: she was menstruating. “After this exchange,” the filing states, “Ms. Yorio told multiple people in the Everyrealm New York City office that Mr. Johnson was ‘walking around telling people that ‘Dog in a Bag is on the rag.’”
The inappropriate talk also allegedly extended to partners of the company.
Johnson claims Everyrealm’s general counsel William Kerr referred to celebrity investor Paris Hilton—who performed a DJ set at a company SXSW event—as “A Night in Paris,” the title of the leaked sex tape which she has said was “extremely painful” and “humiliated” her.
Yorio, Johnson says in his complaint, also “made a habit of referring to” business partners’ genitals during private meetings with him and called one partner a “Big Swinging Dick.” Johnson claims the use of such language ultimately sabotaged a partnership he was cultivating.
After Johnson negotiated a deal with a marijuana and CBD firm, Cookies, he and Yorio held a celebratory meeting at SXSW. But during the get-together, Yorio allegedly called the weed company’s president Parker Berling a “dick” and “fucking dick,” in response to Berling’s questions about who Everyrealm viewed as their competition. “I’ve never seen someone react so hostilely to a basic question like this. Are you OK?” Berling allegedly asked, according to Johnson’s complaint.
Johnson claims this led to the arrangement falling through, and that Yorio demanded Johnson “fix it.” He says he was demoted after failing to revive the deal, placed on a retaliatory performance improvement plan, and ordered to hand his entire personal Rolodex to Schwartz and another employee who replaced him.
The lawsuit also details allegations of racism and says that as “the only Black man” at the company at the time, he was afraid to challenge Yorio.
“I am aware of other Black men at Everyrealm who experienced pervasive sexual harassment at the hands of Ms. Yorio and Defendants,” Johnson said in a September court declaration, in which he claimed his unwelcome treatment “was likely caused, at least in large part, by Ms. Yorio’s improper fetishization of Black men.”
According to the lawsuit, Yorio declared after Johnson’s job interview, “Teyo is the whitest Black guy I’ve ever met.” When the HR director confronted Yorio about her comments, Yorio allegedly responded, “No, I meant it in a good way.”
Yorio is also accused of telling Johnson, “[You’re] lucky that went well, now I don’t have to trade you” after he led a meeting with LeBron James’ entertainment company. The lawsuit says she “made this same, tired racist comment numerous times.”
Johnson’s complaint says “his qualifications and intelligence were frequently questioned and disparaged at Everyrealm due to the color of his skin.” In April 2022, Yorio allegedly told colleagues that Johnson “needs to go” and complained, “He isn’t smart, he doesn't know asset management and he absolutely does not know our industry. He does not put our best foot forward.”
After Johnson was terminated in May 2022, the lawsuit says, Yorio told coworkers, “It’s worse to have a stupid Black person on the team because then you’re really just exploiting them and making it look like you’re trying to be diverse.”
Johnson, who was offered a $125,000 base salary, claims he was the lowest paid director in Everyrealm’s history; directors in similar roles had been paid hundreds of thousands more and granted millions in equity in Everyrealm and its then parent company, Republic. Yorio also allegedly called Johnson “expensive” to other employees.
Everyrealm, in a motion to dismiss, says that “contrary to Johnson’s claims, he was employed in a low paying manual labor job at the time of his hire.”
The company put forward accusations of their own, saying “it was Johnson who encouraged discussions regarding sexuality and promiscuity” and filed an exhibit showing a Slack message between Johnson and Kerr. “What’s the latest from Las Vegas?” Kerr asked, and in reply, Johnson shared a selfie and a photo of three women at a high rise overlooking a cityscape. “Who’s the chica in the hat?” Kerr asked. Johnson answered, “21-year-old smoke show, her BF is older than me. Gonna snatch it up when they part ways. Gonna catch and release BK!!”
In another filing, the startup claims Johnson “openly and routinely disparaged the mother of his child and demanded that Everyrealm pay a portion of his wages in cash to avoid garnishment for child support payments (a request that was refused by Everyrealm).” The firm also claims Johnson referred to a company director as “that bitch” and Yorio as “that crazy bitch” and disparaged a junior female employee as a “rookie.”
Johnson, Everyrealm claims, was put on a performance improvement plan because “he visibly fell asleep as his desk in the company’s open pit-style office, failed to meet his business goals and violated the company’s expense policy by using his corporate credit card to pay for personal expenses and business expenses that were never approved.”
Everyrealm alleges in court filings that it fired Johnson over “a plethora of inappropriate misconduct” including “flagrant misogyny toward his female co-workers as documented by then-Human Resources Director Kathy Yost,” who also sued the startup.
Seppinni said in court papers that Everyrealm’s exhibits were “scrounged from a one-sided discovery process” and “lack context,” court papers reveal.
“Having failed to support their motion on the merits, Defendants insult Teyo for working a manual labor job over a decade ago… and now have twice divulged Plaintiff counsel’s confidential settlement demand, which was made upon Defendants’ request, in their bad faith attempt to discredit Teyo,” Seppinni said in one court filing.
“CEO Yorio admits that she revels in her use of ‘vulgar’ language at work,” Seppinni added, “and that ‘it won’t be the last time’ she refers to men in the office repeatedly and unabashedly by the sexually derogatory term ‘pussy.’”
Still, an exhibit filed by Everyrealm shows how friendly it all started out.
“I really enjoy being around you and learning from you and working with you,” Johnson wrote in an email to Yorio. “Not to mention immense amounts of fun and laughter. I truly feel like I’m part of a tribe that is on a special journey during a special time. I AM ALL IN.”
He signed off with a couple nicknames. One was “Non Fungible Teyo.”
Seppinni said the positive texts that Everyrealm released were sent in a work environment where Yorio was “unable to take even an ounce of not just criticism, but questioning, or anything other than absolute loyalty from the employees that surround her.”
“I think all of these conversations have to be viewed in that context, to the extent they’ve even occurred.”
Before she landed at the helm of Everyrealm, Janine Yorio’s career started on Wall Street but took off in real estate, with a turn at André Balazs’ Standard Hotels, and the founding of startups including Stayawhile, which was billed as a “medium-term” alternative to Airbnb, and Roam Co-Living, a brand that provided high-end communal spaces for “digital nomads” in Bali, Miami, and Madrid.
“The startup highs can be really high, but the daily struggle of balancing my sanity against my burn rate never seems to go away entirely,” Yorio wrote in one 2017 Medium post. “I try hard not to beat myself up, but that’s not my nature. I was born a hyper-responsive hustler.”
Yorio, who has boasted of graduating from Yale in three years, also shared advice for other female bosses: “Don’t use your gender as a crutch. Leading is hard for men and women in equal measures. I don’t think gender plays a role; it’s always hard.”
“My friend attended a leadership event hosted by a Navy SEAL, and he told the class that elite teams are never led by leaders who are nice,” she said, adding that “CEOs have to be direct and clear, but they don’t have to be snuggly and warm.”
Yorio also co-created the platform Compound, which allowed users to buy and sell “pieces” of properties including condos in New York, Nashville, Miami and San Francisco. In 2020, it was sold to Republic, a private investing platform whose metaverse arm Republic Realm was rebranded as Everyrealm two years later. By the end of 2022, Everyrealm’s staff grew from 15 people to more than 70 employees.
Over the years, Yorio has enjoyed a steady stream of press over her firms but has lately starred as a hypewoman for cyber worlds. Yorio told one podcast that Everyrealm is “a holding company for the metaverse,” investing in 25 virtual platforms and owning over 3,000 NFTs of virtual land in spaces like Ethereum-based The Sandbox and Decentraland.
Everyrealm is also building a game for the Netflix series Narcos, Yorio told another podcast, as well as a wellness and mindfulness project. “This is candy, not vitamins,” Yorio said of the metaverse. “This is where we go to have a lot of fun, to escape reality, to live a better life online than we do off.”
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Yorio attributed her work ethic to her single mom (whom she described as an architect in one Medium essay). “Because of the example she set, I try to work harder than everybody else because that’s what it takes to succeed as a woman in business,” Yorio said. “Throughout my career, I have often been the only woman in the room.”
“I’ve learned a lot in those settings, including how to be thick-skinned,” Yorio added, before referring to the litigation. “This situation is no exception.”
“When these lawsuits hit, I was warned that the public blowback would be worse than normal precisely because I’m a woman. Men and women do not receive the same treatment in the media, and public opinion tends to vilify women more so than men,” Yorio told The Daily Beast. “Female CEOs are also a lot more rare.”
“Only a tiny fraction of women-led startups receive venture capital funding, so I take my responsibility as a steward of that capital very seriously,” Yorio continued. “While it has been uncomfortable to endure this public smear campaign, I am proud that we have held firm.”
“This kind of legal terrorism has become very commonplace, and while I didn’t sign up to single-handedly fight a public battle against it, I know that everybody running a company today lives in fear of fictitious claims exactly like these.”
One former colleague told The Daily Beast that they looked up to Yorio as “a very strong and confident female personality” who “was commanding of the room” and “spoke with conviction.” They described her as someone who is “very persuasive, just stands her ground in the midst of people being hard on her, asking the tough questions.”
“When I worked with her, it was startup time,” they added. “It was very scrappy. She was willing to give people a chance and wasn’t always looking for those with industry veteran experience.”
Other ex-employees shared less rosy perspectives.
“Janine’s personal motivation is exclusively to make as much money as possible, or to build a household name,” one former colleague told The Daily Beast. “It doesn’t matter what it is or what it does—as long as people have heard about it.”
“Metaverse was the perfect business as a ‘new industry’ where everyone is a trailblazer and no one knows a thing,” they continued. They said that while Everyrealm promotes itself as a metaverse company, “what they’re really doing is crypto” and that “most revenue is still NFT sales and crypto partnerships.” (For her part, Yorio said that since 2022, Everyrealm has migrated away from crypto into video gaming.)
Another ex-employee said Yorio and other higher-ups had “a kind of shoot from the hip attitude towards workplace culture,” though it didn’t always bother them. They recalled Yorio seemed invested in a younger male worker’s dating life and it became an “ongoing saga” to natter about over lunch. “While she is pretty off the cuff and can dip into some areas that might not be totally work safe,” they said, “she’s also a very approachable, likable person.” (Johnson’s lawsuit also alleges Yorio and the company’s then-head of gaming “gossiped about which employees at the company were allowed to date each other and which were already in relationships.”)
And while executives warned Everyrealm personnel to dodge media requests and insisted the accusations against Yorio were untrue, the ex-staffer believes there’s merit to them. “When you actually read the quotes, they do sound like something I could see Jeanine saying and other people that were named in the suit saying,” they added. “It’s not unbelievable to me.”
One person who worked with Yorio at another of her startups, and asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal, said they initially thought Yorio was “great” and “dynamic and excited” and “got things moving.” But they said once funding was secured for their project, Yorio quickly turned on them and created a “volatile” work environment.
During one alleged episode, Yorio interrupted the person and a colleague as they discussed a client call. “Chatter, chatter, chatter,” Yorio allegedly fumed. “All you do is chatter. When we’re at work, you need to sit down, heads down.” The employee said when they pushed back on the tirade, Yorio said, “If you can’t play ball, then maybe you should leave.”
“I guess that was the culture,” the person added. “Just sit down, shut the fuck up, put your head down, no talking, do as I say, and endure all these like awful weird jokes.”
The person said that similar to accusations in the lawsuits, they encountered bizarre sexual remarks from Yorio.
“She talks a good game,” the former colleague added. “She’s a mom, she’s a serial entrepreneur and she knows real estate, and she’s talking about numbers. But then when you dig a little deeper, you kind of see it all unravel.”
A former colleague and adviser to Yorio told The Daily Beast that she was “the absolute professional” and “a quick study” who morphed into different jobs. They struggle to understand the accusations against Yorio, who they described as “annoyingly” responsible.
“I think it’s a complete character assault here,” they said. “It sounds like someone is trying to take her down.”
After Johnson sued Everyrealm, Gatsby Frimpong, a former product manager at the startup, filed a lawsuit alleging Yorio and the company “used their positions of power to dupe Black employees, threaten them, sexually harass, bully, investigate, and sue them on trumped up, frivolous, and fabricated allegations.”
His lawsuit was filed in December, and the case was stayed this month pending arbitration with the company. Seppinni, Frimpong’s attorney, told The Daily Beast that he “voluntarily agreed to arbitrate his case to avoid having his good reputation smeared by Everyrealm, like they’ve attempted to do to Teyo.”
The ex-employee, who previously worked at Google, Apple, and Microsoft, alleges Yorio repeatedly sexually harassed him and that she overlooked him for a promotion because he rejected her advances; instead, he claims, she hired her husband, Jesse Yorio, for the role.
During his time at Everyrealm, Frimpong was a remote employee working in London, where he was living to care for his brother after his father died.
His lawsuit says that during Zoom meetings, Yorio would ask him if he was in a relationship and at one point, informed him that it was “important [that he] get the customer wet, just like [he] would with a woman.” The lawsuit says that more than once, Yorio told Frimpong of her husband: “I feel like Jesse and I are only married in the metaverse.”
Yorio told The Daily Beast that the only way Everyrealm communicates with customers is through a Discord channel and via email, and that Frimpong had access to neither and wasn’t in a customer-facing role. “Not only is the allegation purely fiction but it makes no sense,” she said.
According to Frimpong’s complaint, he endured “numerous unwanted overtures by Ms. Yorio” and “repeated questioning regarding his relationship status and discussions of her past partners.” The filing alleges that Yorio “was so overt regarding her intention to pursue” Frimpong that her actions created tension with his girlfriend.
Frimpong’s suit claims that because he rebuffed her, Yorio “engaged in a concerted campaign to sideline and eventually force “him out of the startup. As part of this alleged retaliation, he says, Yorio and her husband launched a probe into Frimpong’s employment history, believing he was an “African scammer” because his family is from Ghana.
Yorio instructed Everyrealm employees to run a background check and falsely told colleagues that he lied about working at the tech companies on his resume, the suit alleges. He says he resigned “unwillingly” as a result of what he calls a hostile work environment.
For its part, Everyrealm denies Frimpong’s claims and in one February court filing, called them “patently frivolous.” The company argues Frimpong “voluntarily resigned for personal reasons” and had never visited its offices or even met Yorio in person.
“Indeed, Frimpong never complained to anyone regarding the allegations he asserts in this lawsuit,” wrote Everyrealm attorney Lloyd Chinn, adding that “Frimpong sent an unsolicited Slack message to Everyrealm board member Julia Schwartz wherein he thanked her for ‘building such a great company.’”
In a court declaration, Yorio stated that Frimpong was responsible for product management of Everyrealm’s metaverse “Lobby” and that the company began to “question his experience” after software engineers said Frimpong’s chosen technology for the project was inadequate. Yorio claims that he “missed multiple milestones” and that the HR director’s “mid-employment background check” on him was also done for all employees. (Yost, in a February 2022 company email reviewed by The Daily Beast, said the background checks after the financing round would “limit our risk exposure and safeguard the future of Everyrealm.”)
“Frimpong stated that he needed to resign because his father had recently passed away and had omitted Frimpong and his half-sibling from his will,” Yorio continued, “thus Frimpong was devoting a significant amount of time [to] fighting for their inheritance.”
Everyrealm lawyers also filed screenshots of friendly Slack messages between Yorio and Frimpong, who told her he was grateful for the opportunity to work with her.
The context of one conversation is unclear but Yorio referred to her Myers–Briggs personality type. “Not lying,” she wrote. “I never give faint praise. Not my style. ENTJ remember?”
“Watching you is interesting… it’s like getting a preview of my future,” Frimpong replied. “Going to have to get your thoughts on balancing children. I don’t have any right now, but always wondered how I’d do it all.”
“Are you married?” Yorio asked. “My children are kinda neglected. For example, tonight is halloween. I’m not with them.”
“Nope, not married, right now. But been exploring.”
“Good take your time,” Yorio said.
The first former employee to sue Yorio was Kathy Yost, a high school acquaintance who became Everyrealm’s Human Resources director.
Before she was terminated, Yost shared chummy exchanges with Yorio on the company’s Slack messaging system and wrote her a positive upward review. “You continue to astound me with your tremendous resilience and desire to keep getting better,” Yost wrote to Yorio. She added, “I appreciate the way we’ve adopted (always maintained?) this authentic relationship. Letting me show up as I am — it means a lot.”
A single mother of three, Yost joined the company after Yorio announced on Facebook in November 2021 that she was hiring an HR professional.
Their relationship apparently disintegrated by the time Yost filed her lawsuit in August, alleging Yorio and company executives used “racist and ableist slurs” against staff, and that Yorio routinely shared her unsolicited theories about the sex lives of employees.
In June 2022, Yost says she witnessed Yorio and Kerr calling a disabled employee a “moron” and “idiot” for supposedly ordering the wrong number of office snacks. Yost also claims that an Everyrealm manager sent an email that “mockingly” described an employee with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD as “The Team Mascot.”
When Yost confronted Kerr about their comments, Kerr allegedly replied, “You know Janine. She’s gonna do what she’s gonna do.”
Her lawsuit alleges that Yorio harassed her because she is openly bisexual and “prejudicially thought that this attribute made Ms. Yost an expert on others’ sexual orientations.”
According to Yost, Yorio shared that she believed a senior Everyrealm executive was “in the closet,” that a company co-founder was a “virgin” who might be “asexual,” and a rumor that two employees were “sleeping together.”
Meanwhile, the complaint says Yost has an alcohol use disorder which she disclosed to Yorio, hoping that the tech founder would “help deflect attention” from her lack of drinking at company gatherings. But instead, Yorio allegedly used this information to “taunt” Yost. The suit alleges that at one event, Yorio exclaimed, “We need to get Kathy SIX drinks!”
Yost says she was forced out of the company in June 2022, after canceling a trip to New York because she and two of her kids were diagnosed with COVID-19. Despite being sick, Yost told colleagues she could be reached in the event of an emergency. Late one Saturday night, her lawsuit says, Yorio sent a “barrage” of messages expressing concern that Yost and others were abusing Everyrealm’s leave policies.
Yorio, Kerr and their teams “wrote a slapdash two-tiered vacation policy, a reduced sick-leave policy, and a restrictive remote work policy” that demanded “female-dominant roles to work in the office and limited women’s vacation and sick-time,” the lawsuit alleges.
“Ms. Yorio knew that Ms. Yost was out sick with COVID-19 and taking care of her sick daughters when Defendants drafted these policies; nevertheless, after 10:00 p.m. on a Saturday, Ms. Yorio shared the ‘urgent’ proposed policy change that she expected Ms. Yost to review,” the complaint alleges.
After Yost informed Kerr that the proposed policy changes were discriminatory and that she wouldn’t “be staying on board” if they were implemented, Everyrealm allegedly cut off her access to the company platforms the following morning.
“I am a divorced, single mother of three, who receives zero financial support, with a chronic health condition who [cannot] afford to leave my position without another prospect,” Yost wrote to Kerr, who days later emailed her a letter “confirming your resignation.”
Yost says Everyrealm terminated her, didn’t offer COBRA coverage, and she was forced to pay her children’s medical expenses out of pocket.
In response to Yost’s claims, Yorio has filed as exhibits screenshots of text and Slack conversations. In one, they both call Johnson a “misogynist” when referring to his comments about not sleeping with his girlfriend because of her menstrual period. “I would have walked him out into the hall and slammed him,” Yost wrote. “I don’t care how big anyone is.”
Yorio wrote that “maybe I started it” by joking about the girlfriend who attended the party. “I think that confused him into thinking we wwere [sic] friends not coworkers,” she said.
In one memorandum, lawyers for Yorio and Everyrealm claim it was Yost who “harassed almost the entire staff with lurid details of her own sex life.”
“Specifically holding herself out as both an HR professional and also a ‘life coach,’ she encouraged employees to talk about their sex lives to her,” the filing states. “She was reprimanded for this conduct but continued such behavior until her resignation to the noted discomfort of many employees including college-aged interns.”
But Seppinni said Everyrealm has “cherry-picked what they think are the most favorable documents to them and released them before discovery even started.”
Had Yost actually made such inappropriate comments, Seppinni said, the startup would have released those communications as they did with other company Slacks.
In a court declaration in September, Yost said she feared being “blacklisted” because of the litigation and that she’s unemployed and unable to afford her prescription medications. “The family car that I own broke down this week and has left my kids stranded since I am unable to afford to have it repaired,” she said. “I want justice.”
She added that Yorio “contacted a third-party professional investor in an attempt to have this person attempt to encourage me to drop my claims” but the investor apparently declined to do so. “I felt I had no choice but to file in court,” she said.
Everyrealm’s lawyers, in court papers, argued that “Yost’s false allegations and improper tactics were designed to harass” the defendants into paying her $1.9 million settlement demand, and they requested sanctions against Yost’s attorney. A judge denied Everyrealm’s request, saying the motion for sanctions was “premature.”
The judge dismissed Yost’s sexual harassment claims in a February ruling, and Everyrealm is now fighting for her remaining claims—including violations of the Equal Pay Act and whistleblower retaliation—to move to private arbitration.
Yorio told The Daily Beast that she gave Yost “a chance working at our high-growth tech company because I thought it was a nice gesture to employ somebody from my past who needed a break in life, especially someone who was supporting three children on her own.”
“This singular decision has come back to haunt me every single day since these lawsuits began. Hiring Kathy Yost falls squarely under the category of ‘no good deed goes unpunished.’”
Seppinni said Yost, initially a consultant for Everyrealm, was hired full-time “once it became clear her contributions were critical to the business.”
“Janine Yorio’s mean-spirited and false comments regarding Ms. Yost, a highly credentialed, educated, and experienced HR executive,” he said, “go to show how out of touch Janine Yorio is.”