Magic Leap, an augmented reality company often accused of sputtering vague promises because of its lack of any proof of concept, is suffering yet another accusation, this time more pernicious, as it concerns workplace sexism.
Magic Leap Sexism Allegations
A new lawsuit on Monday alleges that the Florida-based company fostered a sexist workplace environment and used misleading promotional material as a means to decorate its product beyond its actual capabilities.
Tannen Campbell, the company's former VP of strategic marketing and brand identity, filed the lawsuit in a federal court in Florida.
The lawsuit alleges that Campbell was terminated because Rony Abovitz, Magic Leap's CEO, turned a blind eye to the misogyny that was occurring in the company, refusing to address a hostile working environment. Magic Leap is being accused of violations under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on a number of factors, including sex.
The lawsuit further alleges that because of the working environment perpetuated inside Magic Leap's headquarters, the launch of the company's product suffered delays, a product which attracted steep funding from a number major companies.
Magic Leap was founded in 2010, with the aim to develop an AR headset that overlays 3D animations onto real environments, amassing $1.4 billion in funding along the way, from the coffers of significant names in tech, among them Google, Alibaba, and Qualcomm, with nary a product released publicly ever since. That is, until recently, when a photo of its purported AR prototype leaked, showing what appeared to be a rough rig of Magic Leap's output.
The photo's accuracy, however, was shortly clarified by Abovitz, confirming that the photo was simply an R&D test rig.
The lawsuit states that the company had demonstrated marketing and promotional assets that didn't correspond the genuine capabilities of the product. Campbell brought the concerns up to the company but she was ignored "in favor of her male colleagues" assertions that the material showcased on the company's website and YouTube were "aspirational."
Campbell hopped on Magic Leap's shores in 2015, at a time when no woman helmed leadership positions at the company. As per a report by Forbes, during her initial interview with the company, Campbell quipped that the advertising department was a "boys club," but Abovitz assured her he wanted to change that.
Female Brain Trust Initiative
In the first few months of her stint at the company's Campbell said she attempted to change a few things. She cobbled together a presentation which showed the low percentage of female employees working at Magic Leap, and introduced proposals to foster female inclusion in the short and and in the long term, but the lawsuit alleges that Abovitz kept putting off these meetings.
Abovitz eventually set up a Female Brain Trust Initiative (FBI) to make sure the company's product design and content was developed with women involved, but none of their proposals ever made it into the design process. Abovitz and other men also didn't show up to later meetings.
Campbell's final months working for the company saw her severed from meetings altogether. This past November, Abovitz ordered her to interview employees to collect their opinions about the company. Campbell suggested that Abovitz target branding for a wider audience, and not just employees, but Campbell still followed the orders.
Campbell presented her findings late December, but was fired.
The lawsuit alleges that the company's sexism caused it to stall development, losing out to competitors such as Microsoft with its HoloLens.
Magic Leap has yet to comment on the allegations.