Lawyer Sues California Law Firm After Refusing To Attend Retreat With Alleged Male Nudity

A former partner with the California law firm of Bisnar Chase is suing the firm for sexual harassment and breach of contract. Stephen Eggleston claims that he was forced out of the firm after he refused to attend an office retreat where male attorneys were expected to strip naked and engage in an exercise with a Phallus.

According to Eggleston, he refused to go on the retreat when he learned that men would strip naked and pass around a wooden phallus in a circle while describing their sexual experiences.

After he refused to bare all, Eggleston alleged that John Bisnar at Bisnar Chase allegedly became “extremely hostile” and ultimately cut his monthly pay from $15,617 a month to $10,000. It eventually stopped paying him all together.

The firm is also suing Eggleston — for legal fees allegedly owed to the firm.

The retreat is run by ManKind Project, which includes a “New Warrior Training Adventure” is described on its website as “a modern male initiation and self-examination”. The site explains:

Some men come to make a conscious transition for adolescent life to the life of a man. Some men come to find peace of mind in their transition to elder-hood. All men come because a small voice within them lets them know when it’s time.

I will not say what the small voice in my head is telling me right now. As for the nude thing, the site insists (in a section called “Phearing the Phallus”) that it is purely voluntary and a small part of reaching your inner man:

This nudity is NOT required. Any man may choose not to participate in any process. This is part of the foundation of creating a safe environment for men to look with honesty at their lives. If a man chooses to opt out of a process, or to participate while clothed or wearing shorts, that’s fine. The VAST majority of men choose to participate.

By this time during the training, the participants have come to realize just how safe the environment that we create is, that the men are trustworthy, and that such vulnerability will not be exploited. Most men find the experience to be very freeing and fun, and get over their initial discomfort quickly.

We recently discussed another lawsuit where a partner sued two former associates who accused him of sexual harassment.

The Man Project site says that the practice is entirely voluntary.

The complaint below states Eggleston called the retreat to confirm what he had learned and researched public accounts of the retreat. Eggleston alleges that men were expected to walk naked and do other such exercises. He describes the circle in distinctly different ways from the website (please forgive the rather graphic details below but it is relevant to the discussion of both the merits and the tactics):

Another activity included 30 to 50 men sitting naked in a circle on the floor of a candle lit room called the smoke hut. A large wooden dildo called “The Cock” was passed around the room. The man holding “The Cock” was asked to describe in graphic detail a sexual experience in his life. One Internet report stated that a supervisor told attendees that they could place their hand on the penis of the man next to them. However, if the man did not want his penis touched, he was free to remove the hand.”

That would be to strikingly different account from the one from the Mankind Project. The website says that “This nudity is NEVER sexual. There is no sexual touching on the New Warrior Training Adventure. It is forbidden and this is strictly enforced.” Eggleston could argue that this account may not be accurate but that it was the reason for his refusal to attend the retreat — and that his refusal led to his harassment. Indeed, paragraph 28 states that “even assuming that there was no nudity at the February seminar, Eggleston did not want to attend a seminar where he might be required to talk about his sex life . . . ”

Eggelston alleges that he eventually tried to bow out of the retreat by insisting that he spend his mother’s birthday with her because her husband had died recently. However, he alleges that the law firm was insistent that he still attend, telling him that “she’ll have more birthdays.” He specifically names John Bisnar as being hostile to him in his rejection of the retreat.

The account from the Complaint is so over-the-top that the Plaintiff risks losing credibility with the Court and the jury if it is proven to be false. It is so sensational that, if it has no factual basis, it would make the complaint look like a hold up job — an effort to embarrass the firm into settling the case. Either way, discovery could be quite interesting. Of course, if proven true, it would produce the opposite bias in any jury or bench trial.

What I do not understand is whether this firm is entirely made up of men. Even with the alleged touching and nudity, such exclusionary retreats can be the basis for a hostile workplace claim by female associates and partners for obvious reasons. It is rather novel to see a male make such a claim over a retreat but it depends on these accounts.

The complaint appears to rely heavily on Internet accounts and a telephone call made to someone at the non-for-profit company. The complaint acknowledges that the person from the Mankind Project on the telephone call (an individual only referred to as Marshall) said that some of the rumors were “taken out of context” but “confirmed that they were essentially true.” Given the account in the complaint, the project will likely strongly disagree on the factual assertions in discovery if it gets that far.

The counts alleging the breach of contract and failure to pay wages are not necessarily dependent on the retreat allegations. Both the firm and the project have dismissed the allegations in the Complaint.

Here is the complaint: Eggleston Lawsuit

The Orange County Superior Court case is Eggleston v. Bisnar/Chase, No. 30-2010-00404255.

Source: News

Kudos: CCD

36 thoughts on “Lawyer Sues California Law Firm After Refusing To Attend Retreat With Alleged Male Nudity”

  1. Does not AllSnake have as its corporate logo…”You in Good Hands”….

    I do have an off the walls question….If someone had like an STD and I think I recall that California is a notify/consent state and someone catches some irreversible std….who is liable or because they consented to being there does the corporation escape liability?

    This whole proposition sounds jacked…..

    WWCD…..What Would Carlos (Estavez) Do?

  2. My opinion of lawyers just got ratched down several points if the story is factual.

    And…against my better judgment:

    Perhaps Eggleston couldn’t be egged-on to strip because he was shy and his endowment was unlike this hunk/he-man’s surname.

  3. What sort of totally whacked out culture was/is there at this firm, that this sort of retreat would sound anything but ludicrous? How does a group of people get to the point that they are making obviously nutty decisions like this?

    That said, screw the suit/countersuit. Call it a wash. When it comes to lawyers deciding what firms to work for, I say “caveat jurisconsultus.” Lawyers are big boy/girls, and with the exception of things like serious gender/race discrimination*, they should be held responsible for the decisions they make in selecting what firm to sign on with.

    (*Exclusively in the context of the overall societal biases: thus, for instance, a “white” guy at a largely “black” firm should suck it up and go elsewhere if he isn’t advancing as fast as he thinks he should.)

    This guy seems to have been an idiot for getting mixed up with this bunch, and he shouldn’t be entitled to compensation for his own mistake.

  4. Any man willing to subject himself to this type of thing needs to have a sex change, he has given up the right to his balls.

  5. Rcampbell:

    I heartily agree. Good for you for standing up for yourself.

    It isn’t a weak ego that would tell the group to go take a flying leap at the moon.

  6. Woosty:

    you would think for $15,000 a month he would at least let his boss touch “it”.

  7. AY,
    You are on fire today. I am shocked that this attorney would be upset with this purely rah-rah type of team building exercise! Remember folks, this is California and when in Rome!
    Not all Frats are into the severe hazing stuff. I was in a fraternity at SIU, Sigma Tau Gamma, and I made life long friends and we didn’t have to sit around naked in a circle with wooden dildos!

  8. I hope the Mr. Eggleston prevails but he should be happy to find other employment where you aren’t expected to “bond” so closely. What I got from the description of this program, it is a crock of crap. More psycho mumbo jumbo to find your inner elder-hood. I don’t want my kids sitting on the laps of grandpas that have found their elder-hood.

  9. Blouise,

    I suppose they could rename the firm to “Bi Chase.” Then you’ll know you are in good hands…..Its always a firm to get a hold of when you are having hard times…..We are experienced in every way….we know the proper art of Dictation….

  10. Sounds like the perfect way to get your top people “on board.” This tactic is used all the time by secret societies to ensure loyalty and adherence. What better way to get someone to do what you want than to put them in a compromising position (nude), in a sexual or semi-sexual situation, and get them to revel personal secrets to a “trustworthy” group of brethren. It’s better if you can secretly tape it, but, hey, just the threat of releasing such information would do the trick, I suspect.

    This is sick stuff and, if true, I hope Eggleston is successful in his claim. No professional should ever be put in such a position. Nor should any professional allow him or herself to be put in such an unprofessional situation.

    By the way, touching or no touching, describing your deepest sexual experiences whilst standing around other nude men and passing around a wooden penis-like object is patently sexual. I mean, get real. I not only wonder about the aims of the partners in this firm, but their sexual orientation as well.

  11. AY,

    If I’m ever cheated by some scam artist, I must remember the name of this firm … now, if you ever decide to take part in such a glorious transformation, please let me know … I’d love to video tape it ……..

  12. Blouise,

    This is one of those sticky situations where they are janking around and where they are Robin Peter to Play with Paul-ex….

  13. There’s no evidence that this sort of thing has a beneficial effect on how organizations or individuals function. It creates all kinds of boundary issues and seems completely unprofessional. The management types who fall for flaky stuff like this often are the most “hard nosed” and it doesn’t surprise me that the senior partner is being a jerk about this. I hope the plaintiff get his cash and dmages the credibility of the senior partner. i wouldn’t hire someone who thought this was agood way to run his org.

  14. Let’s see if I have this right … a bunch of professional male lawyers who I assume have clients, decide that the way to become real men is to gather in a circle, strip, and pass a wooden penis from hand to hand.

    One of those men decides not to take part in this thrilling transformation and as a result is denied money that he has supposedly earned through practicing the law.

    Naked bodies, phony penis, and money … well, let me tell you – no more pseudo male lawyers for me … it’s real men or nothing … see you in court … I’ll bring the wooden penis.

  15. rcampbell,

    I was not a Frat person myself too GDI…but they did have utility for me….one hell of a Test Bank, Alcohol and Association with Sororities….Or at least that’s what I can recall at the moment….

    This story seems a little over the edge….I suppose rather than being called Master and Johnson….This program could be renamed “Mastering the Johnson” sorry I couldn’t resist….

    Since his pay got cut….I presume he was no longer up to size….

    and then he got laid……..

    The possibilities are endless in this….

    So I’ll stop here…..

  16. In college, a friend, Phil, and I intended to pledge to a specific fraternity at the same time. We were well connected within the frat and our acceptance as pledges was pretty much automatic. I had a sudden health issue that prevented me from pledging during the same semester as my friend, but it was my intention hang with the guys and to wait and get picked up the next pledge class. When I saw the degrading, juvenile and sometimes dangerous things Phil was put through during the pledge period (and he wouldn’t talk about what didn’t happen in public), I decided against becoming frat guy. Perhaps my ego is too fragile or maybe too strong, but I could not, would not subject myself to that kind of humiliation. I applaud Mr Eggleston’s actions.

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