A lawsuit filed against one of the largest cannabis distributors in Oregon includes incendiary allegations by a company co-founder, who says the CEO groped and smelled her.
In a lawsuit filed in the Multnomah County Circuit Court on Monday, Whitney Hobbs, one of the co-founders of Highly Distributed, alleges that she was the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, and that harassment eventually led to her dismissal.
But at least one Highly Distributed employee disputes those claims, saying instead that Hobbs was "collectively ousted" after numerous employees complained about her, citing incidents of verbal abuse and physical intimidation.
Highly Distributed is one of Oregon's largest cannabis distributors, connecting suppliers with retailers to keep shelves stocked with edibles and vaporizers.
Hobbs' lawsuit details a fraught working relationship with Highly Distributed CEO Christopher Malott, who she says made numerous unwanted sexual advances toward her. The lawsuit describes an encounter during a business dinner when Malott allegedly professed his desire for a sexual relationship with Hobbs, stating that she was his "soul mate."
This behavior, Hobbs alleges, continued throughout their working relationship, including separate incidents when she says Malott groped, smelled, or physically restrained her.
"Ms. Hobbs suffered from and became increasingly uncomfortable as a direct and proximate result of Mr. Malott's awkward, creepy behavior, including his physical and sexual advances, back rubbing, groping, smelling, and staring," the lawsuit says. "She was afraid to upset him."
Hobbs alleges that she endured inappropriate behavior from Malott for months. Once she had finally decided she could no longer work with him, Hobbs says she took her concerns to her business partner, Jamin Giersbach, with whom she founded Highly Distributed. She says Giersbach sided with Malott and asked for Hobbs' resignation.
WW asked Highly Distributed for comment today, and company officials declined. But a former co-worker who worked closely with Hobbs reached out to this reporter, disputing the claims in Hobbs' lawsuit.
Johanna Williamson, the central territories sales rep for Highly Distributed, spoke on her own behalf, not as a representative of Highly Distributed, she describes a very different set of circumstances than those put forth in Hobbs' lawsuit.
Williamson worked with Whitney Hobbs on a daily basis, and she doesn't believe the claims Hobbs has made against CEO Christopher Malott. Williamson says Hobbs was at times erratic, verbally abusive, and physically intimidating.
"Working with her was beyond difficult," Williamson says. "It got so bad I didn't want to come to work anymore if she was there."