A sixth woman has come forward to accuse beverage company Monster Energy of sex discrimination after an executive at the firm allegedly commented about her breasts, tried to get her drunk, and invited her to his hotel room for an ‘evening nightcap.’
Karen Simmons, 50, who worked at Monster for nearly two years, said that she was fired last April from the company despite receiving positive performance reviews.
She alleges that one of her managers, Ted Cook, frequently made suggestive comments about her figure and made unwanted advances.
‘The more Ted drank, the more handsy he got,’ Simmons told HuffPost.
She recalled one instance in which Cook asked for a hug.
Karen Simmons, 50, who worked at Monster for nearly two years, said that she was fired last April from the company despite receiving positive performance reviews
When Simmons awkwardly gave him a half-hug in the hope that it would satisfy him, she claims he pulled her in for a tighter embrace.
‘He said, “I felt that”,’ Simmons said, meaning he could feel her breasts pressed to his chest.
Monster claims that her dismissal was because of poor performance.
This past fall, she filed sex and age discrimination charges against Monster at the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Simmons decided to go on the record in an interview with HuffPost.
She said she complained about Cook to her direct boss, Robert Duck, who was also a witness to his behavior.
Simmons also alleged that Cook would often try to get her drunk at corporate functions and parties, but she declined.
But Duck allegedly told Simmons that Cook was ‘harmless’ and a ‘dirty old man.’
Monster denies Simmons’ claim that she complained to Duck.
Both Cook and Duck declined comment.
Simmons was forced to deal with Cook even though two years earlier another employee who is also suing the company complained about him.
In January, five women sued Monster energy drinks over its ‘abusive and discriminatory culture’ and that women were punished for speaking up. From back row clockwise left to right: Jamie Leigh Hogan, Mary Frances Pulizzi, Sarah Rabuse, Sarah Lozano, and Page Zeringue
Page Zeringue filed a complaint with HR about Cook.
According to Zeringue, Cook was known as ‘Touchy Ted’ around the office because of his alleged penchant for groping women when he got drunk.
Zeringue complained to HR that Cook would routinely talk about her breasts as well as those of other female employees.
She alleged that Cook also tried the same hug routine that he did with Simmons.
Zeringue was fired a month after her complaint to HR. Cook, meanwhile, was sent to training about sexual harassment in the workplace.
Monster told Huffington Post that Cook was no longer with the company. Duck, however, remains employed at Monster.
After complaining to Duck, Simmons said she took no further action.
‘What was I gonna say? I loved my job. I needed my job,’ she said.
Simmons said she was aware that the beverage industry, where she worked for 20 years, was notoriously hostile to women.
‘I knew saying things gets you retaliation,’ she said.
HuffPost reported that just as it was about to publish Simmons’ allegations, Monster announced that it was hiring a ‘third party’ to investigate its human resource policies and procedures.
‘We are confident that the recent portrayal of the company in the media is not representative of [our] culture and practices,’ Monster chairman and CEO Rodney Sacks and vice chair and president Hilton Schlosberg said in a statement.
Nonetheless, this step was necessary, saying: ‘In the context of the allegations made by the women bringing these lawsuits, we believe it is prudent.’
Brent Hamilton, who remains the head of music marketing at Monster Energy, is accused of choking his ex-girlfriend Sara Rabuse (pictured with him) and attempting to bite off her finger while drunk, according to her lawsuit
‘If there are areas where there are deficients, we will correct them,’ Sacks and Schlosberg said.
The company also said it learned of Simmons’ allegations at a mediation hearing with her attorney in February – three weeks after Huffington Post first published an investigation alleging a toxic office culture that victimized women.
‘Ms. Simmons did not make any allegation of harassment to the company or to her manager while she was employed by the company,’ the company told Huffington Post.
Monster also disputes Simmons’ claim that she was fired despite receiving a positive performance review.
‘Many of the other allegations or questions are untrue, are missing facts or are irrelevant but we are not going to engage in a back and forth about this,’ the company said.
Simmons’ allegations are just the latest blow to Monster Energy, which has been accused of being a ‘boys’ club’ whose workplace is hostile to women.
In January, it was learned that five women are suing Monster energy drinks over its ‘abusive and discriminatory culture’ and that women were punished for speaking up.
Brent Hamilton, who remains the head of music marketing at Monster Energy, is accused of choking his ex-girlfriend Sara Rabuse and attempting to bite off her finger while drunk.
Another two top executives, vice president John Kenneally (left) and another manager, Phillip Deitrich (right) are accused of harassing or bullying staff
While another two top executives, vice president John Kenneally and another manager, Phillip Deitrich, are accused of harassing or bullying staff.
The lawsuits describe Monster HQ as a ‘boys’ club’ where women executives were rare and often faced hostility.
Monster, which is partially owned by Coca Cola, denied that there was a culture of discrimination and said that the women who had filed the suits were simply ‘disgruntled employees.’
‘The only connection is that these individuals suing Monster for money have endeavored to band together to litigate their cases in the media,’ the statement continued. ‘The cases are diverse, unrelated and do not remotely suggest a systemic environment of harassment or discrimination.’
However, Kenneally, who was named in two lawsuits, was put on paid leave after reporters reached out about the suits last week. Monster claimed it was not related to the lawsuit.
The most serious claims involve Hamilton who is charged with aggravated assault over the alleged fight with his ex in 2016. He is scheduled to appear in court for a jury trial in Tennessee this summer.
Hogan said that even by the male dominated, often sexist drinks industry, Monster was unusually bad
Rabuse is suing Hamilton and Monster Beverage in California state court, claiming negligence, battery, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
She believes Monster should be held partially responsible for Hamilton’s behavior as they were aware of his history of both alcohol and cocaine abuse, and his violent outbursts, according to the lawsuit. Yet they still encouraged him to party as part of his job.
Hamilton, 46, remains the head of music marketing which involves partying with clients and attending late night shows of the various rock gigs and extreme sports events that Monster sponsor.
In her lawsuit, Rabuse, 37, a makeup artist, described how she met Hamilton at the Rainbow gig venue in Nashville, in the summer of 2016.
She says he immediately charmed her, taking her to Monster-sponsored music festivals, shelling out on a $5,000 piece of artwork she admired on their second date, and giving her a Monster-branded fridge full of energy drinks.
He even hired her as the makeup artist for another Monster sponsored event.
Rabuse admits she was so overwhelmed by the attentions of this ‘Prince Charming’ that she overlooked red flags.
In her lawsuit, she claims Hamilton had a drinking problem and would yell vile insults at her while drunk, calling her a ‘whore,’ and ‘cheap’.
Mary Frances Pulizzi says that her boss spread malicious lies about her after she complained that he called another staff member ‘a whore’
She says he also got physical with her, dragging her out of a hotel bed by her feet and on another occasion, putting his hands round her neck and telling her ‘Oh, I just want to choke you’ during a flight back from Sacramento.
Her lawsuit states that things escalated until the night of the alleged assault when they were in Nashville, Tennessee, the Country Music Awards in 2016.
But neither of them made the awards show after they got into a fight in their hotel room where a drunken Hamilton assaulted her, according to her lawsuit.
Rabuse told police Hamilton tried to strangle her and tried to bite off her thumb.
She was found by another hotel guest lying on the floor of their hotel room, with clumps of her hair missing and her nails broken from trying to fight Hamilton. Police report that she also had bright red marks round her neck and a bloody thumb.
Hamilton was arrested, and Rabuse was rushed to hospital.
Monster does not deny the incident but says the alleged assault was a private matter.
‘There is nothing in Mr. Hamilton’s employment history with Monster, or otherwise, that would have suggested he has a violent or abusive history or that he and his ex-girlfriend would have gotten into a private domestic dispute as alleged,’ the company told HuffPost.
Page Zeringue (above) says that she was fired a month after she complained to HR about the behavior of her boss
Kenneally resigned from his position as a vice president at Monster a week after the first revelations about his alleged behavior surfaced.
Three women have accused Kenneally of bullying and abuse.
HuffPost reports it has obtained text messages he sent to one of these women, in where he ranted at her, calling her a ‘whore,’ claiming she must have ‘f**ked 50 guys’ and that he didn’t care if she was ‘f**king two black d**ks’.
The fury was directed at Zeringue, a 44-year-old single mom, who began dating Kenneally in 2014.
She says, in her lawsuit, he gave her two promotions and raises when they started dating, but he became abusive, jealous and controlling.
Zeringue claim she’d read her texts and emails and send her furious messages.
‘You are so incredibly f**king selfish!!!!!’ Kenneally texted her in February 2015 when she failed to text him back immediately, according to her suit.
‘I wish I never had to speak or see you ever again unfortunately I do…..’
Zeringue says things got so bad she went to HR in August 2015, who ordered Kenneally to undergo sexual harassment training.
But when he learned about it, he allegedly warned her he’d get her a disciplinary write-up.
Sarah Lozano, who worked in the HR department at Monster from 2013 to 2015, was accused by then-HR head Christina Seafort of having sex with a married colleague in a casino bathroom at a company event in Las Vegas
The following month, according to the lawsuit, he did just that.
‘I tried every way to get you to look at things differently so you would not get written up or fired and you said f**k you,’ Kenneally, 60, texted Zeringue.
‘So now I am officially done I don’t give a s**t what happens to you.’
The single mom, who says the write up was a bunch of fabricated issues, was fired a few weeks later.
Monster insists her firing was not related to her relationship with the executive.
Mary Frances Pulizzi is also suing over Kenneally’s behavior.
She says that life at Monster had been going well for her until she was called into HR as part of an investigation into Kenneally after he was overheard calling another staff member a ‘whore.’
Told that everything she said would be kept confidential, she opened up about her boss, his gossiping, speculation about coworkers sex lives and the ‘whore’ incident, the suit states.
In fact, her comments got back to Kenneally almost immediately, who, she claims in her lawsuit, then spread malicious lies about her. Eventually, she left the company.
Deitrich, 51, is accused of bullying a female member of staff in front of co-workers and forcing her out of her job.
Past female employees described Monster as a boys club with few women aside from the scantily clad ‘Monster Girl’ hired for events.
Staff say that there are very few women hired at Monster – and most of the ones that are, are the scantily clad ‘Monster Girls’ (pictured at the Monster Energy NASCAR All Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 20, 2017)
‘Being a woman within Monster is rare,’ Jamie Leigh Hogan, 37, a former regional manager for the company, said. ‘It’s a guys club and you have to be able to hang. You have to put up with some things.’
Hogan said that even by the male dominated, often sexist drinks industry, Monster was unusually bad.
She says that as soon as she was transferred to Deitrich’s team in 2015, he made her life a misery.
He would call her out in front of colleagues, failed to offer her stock options while all the men on the team got them, and allegedly paid her less, her suit stated.
Hogan said Deitrich began holding team meetings without telling her and then reprimanding her for missing them. Eventually, he wore her down and Hogan said she simply couldn’t take it anymore and quit.
Sarah Lozano would know, who worked in the HR department at Monster from 2013 to 2015, was accused by then-HR head Christina Seafort of having sex with a married colleague in a casino bathroom at a company event in Las Vegas.
Lozano, who denied the allegations, said she felt her ‘credibility’ had been washed away over a mere rumor. She quit a few months later.