Skateboard Shop Boss Abused Workers ... on Pot: Lawsuit

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The pot-smoking boss of a Santa Ana skate shop forced employees to pose for "sexually prurient" ads, work with "crude and questionably pornographic material" and, if they piped up about sexual harassment and drug use on the job, quit or be demoted, claims a lawsuit filed in Orange County Superior Court.

One Distribution Co. and its Vice President of Global Brands Matt Fontana are named in the complaint brought by Deborah Pernice Knefe of Irvine's William M. Crosby, Barnes, Crosby, Fitzgerald & Zelman on behalf of three males and two females who used to work at the shop.

The suit seeks an unspecified amount for statutory damages and punitive damages for alleged wrongful termination, sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation and failure to take effective remedial action.

"Fontana subjected the female employees at One Distribution to greater scrutiny, stricter standards and treated them less favorably than similarly situated males," reads the complaint. "Fontana compelled employees to 'pose' for sexually prurient prospective ads and to engage in work with inappropriate sexual content, advertising crude and questionable pornographic sexual material when the customer market for their work product is children (specifically boys) from the ages of 11 to 17 (primarily skating and skateboard apparel).

"Fontana's conduct was so offensive and inappropriate as to exceed the ordinary bounds of even the most relaxed and innovative creative workplace."

Lead plaintiff Ben Shipp claims he had to endure Fontana's second-hand marijuana smoke in the company's van during working hours--and that he was demoted after complaining about what he considered a "hostile" work environment. Shipp was later fired and some former co-workers were demoted or forced to resign when they protested his termination, according to the complaint.

Also identified in the legal action are ex-workers Mia Janson, Michelle Blaze and Mathew Mickel, who claim to have each complained "to the sham human resources officers and the company CEO Scott Bailey" about Fontana's abuse "to no avail." Cullen Poythress, the final plaintiff, says he quit due to an "intolerable hostile working environment."

Attempts to get a reaction to or comment about the suit from the company have so far failed, but this post will be updated should one come.

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