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Color Labs CEO Bill Nguyen hostile work environment and retaliation lawsuit

One of the co-founders of Color Labs, a technology startup company that raised $41 million in venture capital funds, has filed a retaliation lawsuit against the company and its founding CEO, Bill Nguyen, accusing Nguyen of creating “an extremely hostile, unsafe, and harassing atmosphere at Color.”

Adam Witherspoon, who was a Quality Assurance Engineer at Color, alleges that Nguyen brought “an armed crony into the workplace to threaten and intimidate employees cooperating in an investigation into Nguyen’s financial and other improprieties.”

The alleged improprieties include Nguyen’s spending of company funds on numerous personal items such as “charging personal items on Color’s American Express card and putting his family’s nanny and his family’s Lake Tahoe-based ski instructor on Color’s payroll.”

According to the complaint, Nguyen perpetuated the hostile work environment by routinely humiliating, harassing, ridiculing, exploiting, and punishing employees. For example, “In or around September 2011, Color employee Andre Charoo inadvertently had some information leaked to the press prior to the launch of a new Color product. Defendant Nguyen ordered other Color employees to gather and listen in on a phone call with Charoo who was crying and unaware other Color employees were listening in. In this phone call, Nguyen screamed at, humiliated, and fired Charoo over the phone. After the call, Nguyen announced this incident to the entire Color team as an example of what would happen to them if they made a mistake. Defendant Nguyen had in the past hurled numerous profanities against Charoo, such as telling him to ‘Shut the fuck up, dumb ass’ in a meeting.”

Witherspoon claims that the hostile work environment at Color Labs caused employees to “depart in droves.”

Witherspoon also alleges that “when the company failed and key assets were being sold to Apple, Nguyen specifically retaliated against Witherspoon by blocking his job opportunities at Apple, offering him a de minimis severance package, disparaging him in the workplace, and communicating to others that Witherspoon was being punished for cooperating with an investigation into Nguyen supervised by Color’s outside counsel, Gunderson Dettmer.”

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