CMEA, Former Executive Accused of Sexual Harassment

CMEA Capital, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm that helped finance CNano Technology Ltd. and Ambrx Inc., was sued by three former executive administrative assistants who allege they were subjected to inappropriate sexual and racial comments.

The assistants, Dawn-Shemain Weeks, Margaret Hines and Shannon Schlagenhauf, said the comments were a “common and tolerated part of the work environment” at CMEA, according to the complaint filed in state court in San Francisco.

Management at the firm was notified of, in particular, former Chief Operating Officer John Haag’s “severe and pervasive harassment,” which continued after he left, according to the complaint.

The firm’s chief executive officer, Jim Watson, identified Schlagenhauf as an “instigator” after the harassment was reported, and told her he wasn’t certain she could return to her job after maternity leave, according to the complaint. After consulting with the firm’s lawyers, Watson reversed his threat, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit is based on claims the firm and its partners violated California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, and on claims that the firm’s partners failed to take reasonable steps to prevent the harassment.

CMEA, in an e-mailed statement today, denied any wrongdoing.

“CMEA has conducted itself with the utmost integrity and has made every effort to treat plaintiffs with respect and professionalism,” according to the statement sent by lawyer Lara Villarreal Hutner. “The true evidence will show that CMEA’s appropriate response to their allegations nearly a year ago resulted in these administrative assistants’ continued employment without further incident.”

The case is Weeks v. CMEA Development Company LLC,, CGC-13-528602, California Superior Court (San Francisco).

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