John Giamatteo

Lawsuit accuses BlackBerry CEO of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation

BlackBerry has never publicly disclosed that Giamatteo was the subject of a sexual harassment review

A former BlackBerry employee has sued the company and its CEO John J. Giamatteo in a California court, alleging that after she rejected his advances, he threatened and retaliated against her. BlackBerry denied the allegations and is fighting the suit.

Giamatteo and the company were sued by a former executive at the company for what she alleges was a pattern of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation, which BlackBerry knew of before making him CEO, she claimed. She claims she was fired days before Giamatteo’s ascension was announced.

The lawsuit against BlackBerry and Giamatteo was filed by a Jane Doe in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. It details a series of sexual and workplace harassment complaints made about Giamatteo, and alleges that BlackBerry failed to meaningfully address them and then promoted Giamatteo to his new role.

Reportedly, the lawsuit was filed anonymously due to potential unlawful retaliation.

In a statement, on behalf of BlackBerry and Giamatteo, spokesperson Camilla Scassellati Sforzolini said:

“BlackBerry is committed to maintaining a respectful and productive work environment free from discrimination and harassment,”

“To this end, we do not tolerate, condone, or ignore workplace discrimination or harassment or any unlawful behavior. We conducted an extensive investigation, which found no evidence of wrongdoing or violations of the Company code of conduct, and we are confident that the robustness of our process and its findings will be made evident in court.

As such, BlackBerry and Mr. Giamatteo believe that these allegations are without merit and intend to vigorously defend against them in court.”

Giamatteo joined BlackBerry in 2021 after nearly seven years at McAfee, where he was president and chief revenue officer in charge of sales and marketing. While overseeing BlackBerry’s $500 million cybersecurity business unit, Giamatteo was given the responsibility of ushering in that new future.

According to the lawsuit, after joining, Giamatteo asked Doe, who had been working at BlackBerry for more than a decade, to begin reporting to him so that they could “travel together,” providing no business reason for this change. Giamatteo subsequently invited Doe to what she believed was a work dinner, but turned out to be a “date,” in which he attempted “to see what [she] would tolerate regarding Giamatteo’s advances,” the lawsuit continued.

At one point, Doe alleged that he made comments about his daughters’ ages and attire, and claimed he said that “when he is out with his daughters he gets dressed up, and people think ‘he is a dirty old man’ because it appears he is out on a date with them.’”

The plaintiff is younger than Giamatteo and claimed she found his remarks disturbing.

Doe said she subsequently reported these comments to Chen, at which point Giamatteo warned her “that I needed to be nice to him,” After she rejected his advances, she claimed his behavior escalated to “excluding me from things and telling people that he was working on getting me out of the company, and then ultimately getting me out of the company.”

According to the lawsuit, BlackBerry’s board of directors became aware of sexual harassment claims made about Giamatteo, and in November retained law firm Morrison & Foerster to conduct an internal investigation of Doe’s complaint, as well as the cases of two other women who had allegedly experienced gender discrimination by Giamatteo.

At the time, BlackBerry was vetting him for the job of CEO, and on a November 6 leadership call, Lynch had said the board had “run into a couple of process hiccups in appointing the person,” the lawsuit alleged. Doe claimed that she met with the attorneys that same day, whereupon they revealed that they were investigating Giamatteo’s conduct towards women, but informed Doe that she would not face retaliation for her testimony. She claimed that human resources did not appear to be involved in the process.

On December 4, however, Doe alleged that she was fired by Lynch, who presented her with a severance agreement that required her to release all claims against the company, including those of unlawful retaliation. She declined to sign. Lynch announced her departure to the company on December 10, and Giamatteo’s new role was made public the next day.