Ex-NFL Player and Former Exec Sues Metaverse Startup Everyrealm, Alleging Discrimination

In brief

  • A pair of former Everyrealm directors have filed suit against the metaverse startup, alleging discriminatory actions, harassment, and more.
  • Both suits list Everyrealm CEO Janine Yorio as a defendant and focus on her alleged discriminatory behavior.

A pair of former directors filed lawsuits against metaverse startup Everyrealm last week, separately alleging instances of discrimination and harassment by the firm and its CEO.

Seppinni LLP filed the suits in federal court in the Southern District of New York against Everyrealm and its affiliate companies, including former parent company Republic Crypto, as well as individual employees. The plaintiffs are former Everyrealm Strategic Partnerships Director Teyo Johnson, also a retired NFL player, and former HR Director Katherine Yost.

“Everyrealm thought it could mistreat underrepresented employees, and they’d just take it sitting down,” attorney Shane Seppinni told Decrypt. “Everyrealm was wrong.”

Johnson’s suit alleges, in part, that Everyrealm CEO Janine Yorio used disparaging language against Black employees. He claims that Yorio described him as “a stupid Black person,” as well as “the whitest Black person.”

Johnson also alleges that Yorio threatened “to ‘trade’ him if he did not perform,” along with “other comments implying that Ms. Yorio owned Mr. Johnson,” according to the filing. He claims that Yorio also retaliated against him when he explained that a proposed crypto fantasy sports initiative would be illegal.

Furthermore, Johnson alleges that Yorio made sexist comments about his appearance, and believes that he was discriminated against when offered what was described as a non-negotiable pay package that included zero equity in the firm. The suit also lists Yorio along with Everyrealm co-founder Julia Schwartz as co-defendants.

Yost’s suit, meanwhile, alleges an array of discriminatory behaviors and harassment from Yorio and other employees, including about Yost’s disclosed disabilities and open bisexuality. The filing alleges that another employee with autism spectrum disorder was derisively labeled “the team mascot,” among other claims.

Like Johnson, Yost believes that she was offered much lower compensation than white male colleagues. She alleges that Yorio told her that she could not be paid more than such colleagues, as they were “castrated” and she did not want to bruise their egos.

Yost believes that she was retaliated against for speaking up about alleged misdeeds at the company, and alleges in the filing that she was let go in June after she and two of her children were diagnosed with COVID-19. Yost suggests that she was terminated in retaliation for pushing back against Everyrealm’s revised leave policy.

In addition to Everyrealm, its affiliated companies, and Yorio, Yost’s suit also lists Everyrealm employees Zach Hungate and William Kerr as co-defendants.

“Fostering a diverse and inclusive culture is core to our company. We believe that these allegations are without merit, and we intend to defend against them accordingly,” an Everyrealm spokesperson told Decrypt.

Everyrealm invests in and develops digital properties on virtual land parcels sold as NFTs in blockchain-based metaverse game worlds such as The Sandbox and Decentraland. Last November, the company sold a virtual yacht in The Sandbox for nearly $650,000 worth of Ethereum.

Originally called Republic Realm and launched as a subsidiary of investment firm Republic, Everyrealm was spun off and rebranded this past February as it announced a $60 million Series A Funding round led by VC giant Andreessen Horowitz.

Several celebrities were announced as investors in March, including actor Will Smith and musician The Weeknd, joining previous investors like socialite Paris Hilton and rapper Nas. The additional investment raised the Series A round to $62.5 million. Everyrealm’s valuation was never publicly disclosed, but Seppinni pegs it at approximately $200 million.

More lawsuits may be coming. Seppinni told Decrypt that Johnson and Yost are “two of the numerous clients we represent who intend to bring claims against Everyrealm,” and that it has spoken to about 10 total current and former Everyrealm employees who have “shared disturbing allegations,” he said.

“For Everyrealm, a company with only about 50 employees, this indicates systemic issues within the organization that need fixing,” Seppinni said.

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