Toronto-based FinTech startup Delphia is facing a lawsuit over allegations that co-founder and CTO Cameron Westland sexually assaulted and harassed a former employee.
The lawsuit, which has been filed in California, alleges that Westland “sexually assaulted and harassed” the now-former employee at a work retreat on August 17, 2022. Referred to as Jane Doe in the filings, the Plaintiff (a former employee) claims that their refusal of Westland’s alleged advances led to their termination from Delphia four months later. The allegations in the lawsuit have not been tested or proven in Court.
“Plaintiff felt uncomfortable and trapped, yet she was too scared to tell Westland to stop, given his role in the company.”
In a statement to BetaKit, Delphia CEO and co-founder Andrew Peek said that “Delphia takes the allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr. Westland very seriously.” Peek added that Westland has been placed on leave, and Delphia has retained an independent third-party investigator “to look into these allegations.”
Westland did not respond to multiple requests for comment from BetaKit for this story.
The Plaintiff’s lawyer told BetaKit that they first heard of Delphia’s investigation and decision to place Westland on leave from TechCrunch’s coverage of the lawsuit. According to the lawyer, as of January 23, Delphia had “never” communicated with the Plaintiff as part of its investigation, and “no attempts to interview were made, and no statements were ever requested.”
In response to these statements, Peek told BetaKit that Delphia expects the third-party investigator to reach out to the Plaintiff. “Once the investigation is complete, we will address the matter through the appropriate legal channels,” Peek added.
The Plaintiff’s lawyer also claimed that they reached out to Delphia ahead of filing the lawsuit “in hopes of resolving this matter without filing.” They added that Delphia made no offers to the Plaintiff so they proceeded with the filing.
Shared through their lawyer, the Plaintiff provided a direct statement to BetaKit: “I feel hurt and betrayed by Delphia’s co-founders Cameron Westland, the COO/CTO, for sexually assaulting me, and Andrew Peek, the CEO, for allowing Cameron Westland to fire me after I refused to give in to his request for sex.”
“Before the incident happened, I was very happy working at Delphia and was building a team I loved working with,” they said. “I was shocked that someone I trusted would abuse his power and think I would reciprocate due to his position over mine, even though he knew I am married and a lesbian.”
“Cameron never apologized and instead devised a plan to get rid of me after I bruised his ego. Since I was fired, I have been trying to move on and look for new jobs, but when you’ve been through sexual trauma by someone you once trusted and who was your boss, and then they fire you, it leaves you with a lot of pain,” the statement continues.
BetaKit has not independently verified any of the allegations in the Plaintiff’s statement.
The lawsuit alleges that on August 17, Westland “sexually assaulted and harassed Plaintiff for at least 30 minutes, as he rubbed her back and legs in a hot tub in a sexual manner during a work retreat.”
“Plaintiff, who was in the corner of the hot tub, initially thought Westland would stop touching her because she was not reciprocating—but he continued to sexually assault her,” the court filings state. “Plaintiff felt uncomfortable and trapped, yet she was too scared to tell Westland to stop, given his role in the company.”
The filing goes on to allege that Westland propositioned the Plaintiff to have intercourse with him. “Plaintiff acted like she did not understand or hear him. Then at her first opportunity, Plaintiff told everyone she was going to bed, went into her room, and locked the door,” the document reads.
According to the filing, Westland is alleged to have continued his advances, messaging the Plaintiff: ‘Want to cuddle?’ To, which, the Plaintiff did not respond.
The complaint alleges that Westland “acknowledged but brushed off” his behaviour in a message that was sent to the Plaintiff and two other colleagues the next day. According to a screenshot image provided to BetaKit by the Plaintiff’s lawyer, the message read:
BetaKit has not independently confirmed the authenticity of this message.
Following the alleged incident, the Plaintiff was fired from Delphia in mid-November and told the reasons for her firing related to a change in “company strategy,” which the lawsuit claims was prompted by Westland.
The lawsuit also alleges that promptly after the Plaintiff’s termination, Delphia “created a new ‘Director of Community’ position to overtake Plaintiff’s job duties” and “replaced” the Plaintiff with “Westland’s close friend.”
In response, Peek told BetaKit, “At the time of the restructuring, I had no knowledge of the allegations. In addition, the person identified as Mr. Westland’s ‘close friend’ works in an entirely different part of the organization and did not take over the plaintiff’s responsibilities.”
The lawsuit has been filed in California as Delphia maintains an office in Berkley, and the Plaintiff is a resident of the state.
The lawsuit is seeking damages on seven different complaints, spanning a hostile work environment due to the alleged sexual harassment; retaliation and wrongful termination in relation to the Plaintiff being terminated; and failure to prevent harassment and retaliation.
The dollar amount of potential damages for the Plaintiff would be determined by a jury if the case proceeds. According to the Plaintiff’s lawyer, they are “seeking emotional distress damages and lost wages for the harm caused.”
“I filed the lawsuit because I don’t want Cameron to do this again,” the Plaintiff said in their direct statement shared with BetaKit. “I also want Delphia to be more careful in managing their workforce and scrutinize the decisions of their leaders more carefully to protect their employees. I’m hopeful that by coming forward, no one else will become the victim of such abuse and harm by Cameron, and that Delphia’s leadership will do more to protect their employees.”
Delphia is an artificial intelligence-driven investment startup with a platform for investors it touts as a way to forecast the growth and profitability of publicly-traded companies. The company was spun out of public opinion research company Vox Pop Labs in 2018.
Delphia has raised around $80 million USD to date, most recently securing $60 million USD in June. With a large number of investors, Delphia’s backers include Golden Ventures, Real Ventures, and the likes of Shopify’s Harley Finklestein and Tobi Lütke, according to Crunchbase data. Delphia recently found itself mired in the ongoing FTX bankruptcy because the latter had invested in Delphia as part of the company’s June funding round.
Feature image courtesy Pixabay.