Pando

Employee: ClearSlide CEO’s claim he didn’t know about ten hour workday is “a lie”

By Paul Bradley Carr , written on November 12, 2015

From The HR Desk

Earlier this week, I reported on an email sent to employees of ClearSlide, apparently mandating “at least” a ten hour workday.

The email, which appeared to violate California law, cited investor pressure as a reason employees should be “averaging out to at least 10 hours a day, whether it's at office, working productively on your commute, or engaged at home and on Slack.” It also said the policy would be discussed at a “town hall” meeting later that day.

When I asked CEO Dustin Grosse about the memo, he insisted the ten hour workday demand “doesn’t reflect any company policy” and put the misunderstanding down to the email having been sent by a “zealous,” “younger” member of the engineering team. “I’m going to have a nice chat with him, I assure you,” he told me.

Grosse also said that, while he had attended part of the meeting, he had no recollection of a ten hour workday being mentioned. In fact, he claimed, the first he’d heard about the policy was when I contacted him.

Since publishing the article, however, I’ve received two tips from people claiming to be ClearSlide employees (Update: I have since managed to confirm that at least one of the tipsters is almost definitely a current ClearSlide employee.) Both contradict Grosse’s account, saying the ten hour day was discussed in the town hall meeting and that Grosse himself was asked about it directly. One describes Grosse’s comments bluntly as “a lie.”

In response to Grosse’s comments about not being present when the ten hour workday was discussed, one tipster told me:

This is a lie. I attended the town hall meeting and I remember at least one employee specifically asked Dustin about the ten-hour policy… [I]t did come up during that meeting, and if he was unaware of the policy prior to the meeting (which would make him a pretty clueless CEO) he certainly was aware of it afterwards.

Another tipster contradicts Grosse’s claim that a “younger” engineer was responsible for the email:

The email was sent by the VP of Engineering, Lawrence Bruhelmer [sic]. His photo is on the exec bios of the website, and he is definite not a “zealous,” “younger” member of the engineering team. He's by far the most senior, and is the exec who has been there the longest (even longer than CEO Dustin!)

Also, Dustin was at the entire town hall meeting AND discussed the 10 hour policy himself. I am disgusted with his reply. Thanks for your coverage, we are suffering.

Now, the obvious trouble with anonymous tipsters is they might not be telling the truth. I’m still trying to verify that both are ClearSlide employees [Update: One is now confirmed], and that their information about the meeting is accurate. Certainly, in the case of one tipster, their information on ClearSlide has previously proved to be correct. I’ll update this story once I have more.

Here’s what I do know. Yesterday afternoon, I contacted Grosse and asked him point blank: Was he in fact present at the meeting during a conversation about the ten hour work day, and was the original email actually sent by Lawrence Bruhmuller?

Grosse chose not to respond to those questions. Instead the company issued a statement through Clearslide’s Senior Director of Marketing Communications, Natalie Severino:

As we previously shared, ClearSlide does not have a company policy mandating 10-hour work days. We have and always will follow the law regarding compensating non-exempt employees for overtime work.

...which is precisely not what I asked. I responded to Severino pointing out that she had ducked my two very clear questions about whether her CEO told the truth when we spoke. She has not responded.

I’ll keep digging. If you’re an employee at ClearSlide, I’d love to hear from you in strictest confidence: [email protected]