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.
36 thoughts on “Lawyer Sues California Law Firm After Refusing To Attend Retreat With Alleged Male Nudity”
Having worked in law firms for 25 years as a legal assistant, I have seen and heard many inappropriate happenings including Partners returning to the law office after holiday parties and having sex in the office with drunken staff. To support myself and child, I turned a blind eye to these shenanigans yet found it to be immoral and disgusting. The Partners’ wives would come to the office with babies and toddlers for Christmas visits and home baked cookies for the staff – it broke my heart to know how they were being deceived by their charming husbands. Because my position enabled me to pay my bills, I remained in the industry but am happy to report the liberating joy of retirement last year.
If you can find a wholesome employer with family values, by all means do so.
Awesome that Turley reports on an unnamed ‘internet report’ and everyone takes it as gospel! Poor reporting. The article referenced –Phearing the Phallus – now makes clear that the allegation about touching another man’s genitals is false. The claim is also refuted on another page of the ManKind Project site. The organization has never asked that of any man. It’s not part of the protocol for the training (and I know this from experience).
I’ve been a part of the ManKind Project for over 6 years. We challenge men to cut the bullshit and start living with integrity and a sense of purpose beyond their narrow self-interest. ‘Soft’ men and ‘Macho’ men alike WAKE UP during this training – and get skills to improve on their success and create better relationships; with themselves, their wives, their kids, and yes even their bosses. I’ve been to ‘corporate retreats’ all over the USA. The New Warrior Training Adventure is NOT a retreat, and G*d help you if you expect it to be.
I turn 40 in January. I’m happily married for 5 years to a beautiful, adventurous and mature woman (who teaches yoga and runs a marketing department). I own my own company. I have connections to men and women that few men can even understand, much less cultivate. I have dozens of men who know me, love me, and who have my back through anything. I have a clear sense of who I am, why I’m here and what I’m passionate about. I’m not sleep-walking through my life. This Training, that obviously threatens so many people, helped me get here. I faced what scared me, and I’m a more powerful man because of it.
And frankly, the fact that I know who I am and am not afraid of intimacy and vulnerability OR toughness and healthy aggression is a turn-on to most women. And it certainly helps my marriage. Guys who walk around with a mask on trying to hide what’s actually going on are both predictably transparent and painfully boring, in my opinion.
You want to grow a pair? Come try it. Or you can keep playing ZombieLand til you die. Your choice.
There is of course the issue of whether or not the employer offers similar “legal training” to female employees.
If it doesn’t then the necessity of such training for professional “legal” purposes for male lawyers is pure bull hockey.
I kind of doubt that these guy’s wives are thrilled that all the partners and who knows who else have been told pornographic details of her sexual acts with her husband.
Much less that hubbie lets other men touch his penis for the purpose of building his character.
Lesson number 1010 in why wives can suddenly become totally turned off to their spouses.
I would assume that this would be considered sexual harassment. Being subjected to a hostile work environment because you refused to attend a “retreat” where you would be required to be around nudity which makes you uncomfortable and embarrassing…I would guess this guy has a great case if the allegations are true.
If you want to bond with the boys and talk about sexual conquests, I thought that’s what beer and the bar were for…
Before I was married I applied for a job as a stock analyst, a sort of important job. They sent me to consultant for evaluation. He wanted me to answer multiple choice questions about my sexual experiences and attitudes. I found this really embarrassing.
Oh and for the record.. I think what this firm wants its employees to do is stupid….but most of us have worked for at least one stupid boss with stupid ideas I never thought about litigation over stupid but i todays world who knows
I’m sorry but to me its a simple thing…..Im the boss and your not so if you like 15000 a month then you do what I want as long as its not illegal…otherwise you give your notice and find yourself a job at a firm that operates in a manner that your comfortable with…
Henman….whilst you may revere the rocker I’d like you to know that I think you have excellent common sense, ie; you rock 😉
Companies that sell these “retreats” to corporations are filled with idiots. Companies that subject their employees to these “team building” programs are also run by idiots. One of the great joys of being retired is never again having to sit through one of these mind numbing meetings listening to some empty suit telling you how important you are to the company’s success and how valuable you are after you just got another lousy pay raise or no raise at all, and having to refrain from throwing a heavy object at his empty head. If anyone I worked for told me to sit naked in the woods with a bunch of fellow male employees and play a game of “pass the dildo”, I would have politely inquired about the state of his sanity before I declined the invitation. Retirement is the closest thing to nirvana, which my dictionary defines as: “the final freeing of a soul from all that enslaves it”. Ain’t it the truth!
” How does a group of people get to the point that they are making obviously nutty decisions like this?”
Perhaps Mike S will comment on his experience with the atrocious behavior possible when group dynamics run amok. The need for acceptance bythe group is a powerful human emotion and can be easily perverted among those without sufficient will power to resist.
Someone in that office must really get off,if they come to New York and see the Empire State Building.:=)
Byron 1, September 29, 2010 at 2:29 pm
you would think for $15,000 a month he would at least let his boss touch “it”.
hahaha! I think NOT!
although it looks like his bosses believe they have bought and paid for every bit of his real estate….blech blech blech…still totally not enough….you know, Lawyers have enough PR problems as it is dontcha think?, someone should put their foot down on the perv lessons…..
That is exactly what I am saying….But..no pun intended….if they were there for a company sanctioned event and the “Group” probably states that they are not liable for such and such…..and the waiver is signed….I am sure that the company has the same type of contract for its employees…..
I guess it could be off the cock time too….but hey its not my way of bonding…..if I wanna see balls I go to ball games…..usually baseball….
wouldn’t the corp be liable because it was a company sponsored event and they were ostensibly on the “clock”?
Sorry…You’re In Good Hands……
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