Lawsuit also claims she was wrongfully terminated from company

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A former BlackBerry Ltd. executive has filed a lawsuit in California against the company and its recently installed chief executive, claiming he sexually harassed her and that she was wrongfully terminated from the company.

The plaintiff is only identified as a woman of colour who held several executive-level positions. The suit names BlackBerry and its chief executive John Giamatteo as defendants.

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“BlackBerry and Mr. Giamatteo believe that these allegations are without merit and intend to vigorously defend against them,” a statement issued by a public relations company representing BlackBerry said.

The company said BlackBerry is committed to a safe and productive work environment free from discrimination and harassment and that it “conducted an extensive investigation, which found no evidence of wrongdoing or violations of the company code of conduct, and (that) we are confident that the robustness of our process and its findings will be made evident in court.”

The lawsuit was filed anonymously in federal court in California — where the plaintiff resides — under the name Jane Doe, an alias permitted in the United States in lawsuits of a personal nature, such as discrimination or sexual harassment.

“We’re seeking to protect the plaintiff’s confidentiality for reasons of potential future retaliation,” said Maria Bourn, of Gomerman, Bourn & Associates in San Francisco, who represents the plaintiff.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff joined BlackBerry more than a decade ago and received several promotions during her tenure, eventually joining and rising within the executive team.

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Giamatteo joined BlackBerry in 2021 as president of its cybersecurity division from the anti-virus software firm McAfee LLC, where he was president and chief revenue officer.

The lawsuit alleges the plaintiff rejected Giamatteo’s romantic advances and that he retaliated. The plaintiff said she complained to former CEO John Chen about Giamatteo’s behaviour and he assured her she would not have to travel alone with Giamatteo.

The lawsuit alleges she told BlackBerry that her path at the company had been harder because she is a woman of colour, and that she explicitly told the company, “John G(iamatteo) comes in and gets the opportunity to prove himself, if something fails he still gets the benefit of the doubt. With myself, my voice is not taken seriously UNTIL I have proven results. It is more work for me to prove myself.”

The lawsuit alleges Giamatteo told her she should report to him, which she rejected. According to the suit, he threatened to derail her career.

In early 2023, the plaintiff said she reported him to BlackBerry’s human resources department for sexual harassment, which sought to increase separation between their roles.

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According to the complaint, BlackBerry in October 2023 hired attorneys from San Francisco-based law firm Morrison & Foerster LLP’s employment group to conduct an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment against Giamatteo.

The PR company representing BlackBerry confirmed it hired an outside law firm to investigate allegations against Giamatteo.

But the plaintiff alleged the board of directors had already chosen Giamatteo to succeed Chen as CEO before the investigation concluded.

Nonetheless, the plaintiff said she continued to complain about Giamatteo to company leadership.

On Dec. 4, 2023, while on a business trip, then-interim chief executive Dick Lynch informed her that she was terminated as part of a “restructuring.” The lawsuit also alleges Lynch urged the plaintiff to portray her departure as a resignation.

Giamatteo was offered the chief executive position two days later, according to the complaint. It was officially announced on Dec. 11.

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The lawsuit was filed on Wednesday morning in California, several hours before BlackBerry hosted its fourth-quarter earnings call.

• Email: gfriedman@postmedia.com

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