Last November 30th, Stacey Stein was trying to have a good time at her office Christmas party. She had been the director of business development and marketing for Fang Consulting, a medical device consulting firm, since the previous summer. By her estimation, it was going pretty well.
But in December, she got a call from some colleagues asking her if her boss, CEO Tracy Eberly, had done anything to make her upset that night. Apparently, Eberly had been overheard at the party saying Stein had a “fat butt.”
Stein wasn’t exactly surprised. For one thing, it wasn’t the first time Eberly had gotten into hot water for something he’d said. Back in 2007, he posted a comment on Anti-Strib.com (an anti-Star Tribune blog) saying he’d compare Native Americans to “the entire animal kingdom, but that would be an insult to beavers.”
For another, it hadn’t even been the first time Eberly had said something about Stein’s butt, according to a lawsuit filed in Hennepin County District Court.
Back in October, while they were at a business event in Costa Rica, he “bluntly” asked her if she knew she had a “big butt” in front of a coworker, the suit alleges. She tried to laugh it off, but asked him not to focus on her body, which had “nothing to do with” her “intellect or ability.”
Two months later, the two were at a conference in California. Stein had forgotten to pack underwear for the trip. She needed Eberly to take her to the store so she could buy some. He allegedly asked her if she really “needed” a bra.
According to the complaint, she told him later that night that she had considered leaving the company because of the way he’d treated her, and the bawdy way he talked to clients. She felt like he could do some “significant damage” to Fang and its reputation if he didn’t “watch himself.”
She told human resources as much when they called about the Christmas party, and she was assured staff would “discuss” this with him. But over the next few days, the complaint says, Eberly was uncharacteristically cold to her. In early January, she called to ask why he’d been “treating [her] like shit recently.”
“Well, I’m busy,” he allegedly told her.
The next day, Stein was fired. It was only 10 business days after she’d confided with human resources.
According to the complaint, the reason Stein was given was because she wasn’t hitting her sales goals and wasn’t targeting the “right clients.” But she didn’t buy it. She claims she was on target to hit her 2019 goal, and she hadn’t heard any concerns about her work until that moment.
Later on, the complaint says, the company claimed Stein had been fired out of “business necessity,” and mentioned nothing about her sales goals. Stein’s mind was made up. She believed she was fired not because of her performance, but because she’d complained about Eberly’s behavior. So she’s suing the company, seeking damages in excess of $50,000.
“It is clear Minnesota law that an employer cannot terminate an employee for participating in a discrimination or harassment investigation,” Stein’s attorney, Peter Christian, said in a statement. “We believe the court will determine that Ms. Stein’s termination was clear retaliation for sticking her neck out and sharing her concerns about the leader of the company.”
Eberly declined to comment, other than to confirm that Stein had been an employee.