Inntopia, the Stowe-based software company sued last year for sexual harassment and discrimination, has paid its accuser to end the lawsuit and avoid a trial.
The company and its former president, Craig DeLuca, agreed Jan. 3 to pay Alison Miley $60,000, as well as her legal expenses.
Miley sued the company and DeLuca last May, alleging DeLuca had tried in October 2016 to coerce her into having sex with him in his office, under the guise of offering her a job at the company.
The payout to Miley settles the case, but this is no normal, out-of-court settlement in which neither side discloses how much the plaintiff received.
Inntopia’s and DeLuca’s lawyers, through the Jan. 3 “Joint Offer of Judgment,” essentially agree to have the court enter a judgment against their clients. The offer states, however, that it “is not to be construed as either an admission that the defendants are liable in this action, or that plaintiff has suffered any damage.”
“This judgment is an important victory. But there is still much work to be done,” Miley said in a statement Wednesday. “The payoff to enablers cannot be greater than the value in supporting victims. Speaking up has been one of the most difficult experiences of my life, and the response from Inntopia’s leadership, DeLuca, and the litigation process only demonstrates why it is so difficult for victims of sexual harassment to come forward.”
Miley’s lawsuit, filed last May 15, also alleged false imprisonment, saying DeLuca locked her in his office as he propositioned her.
When DeLuca filed a reply to the charges in August, he asserted that Miley, not he, was the aggressor. Their accounts also diverged on what happened in the weeks and months following that encounter in the Inntopia office.
In a statement released Monday, current CEO Trevor Crist said it was preferable to end the case rather than have it drag out.
“Although we believe we would have ultimately won the case had it gone to trial, we determined it was preferable to settle it,” Crist said. “From a strictly financial calculation, the amount we agreed to pay Ms. Miley is less than what it would have cost us to litigate the case. Perhaps more importantly, we wanted to put the matter behind us for the sake of everyone involved, so we could focus on our business.”
DeLuca offered his own statement on Monday.
“I join in the statement released today by Trevor Crist,” he said. “I am grateful for the time and consideration that went into this decision and especially grateful to the friends, family and the Stowe community who know me and have supported me through this process. While I, too, believe that we would have ultimately won had the case gone to trial, I am happy to put this behind us.”
Money on the table
Miley said Wednesday she turned down larger settlement offers because she wanted the judgment to be made public.
“The defendants offered me significantly more money on multiple occasions in a private settlement in order to avoid a court order, and I declined that money and refused to sign any private agreement,” Miley said. “Their accountability is more important to me than money.”
Crist said Wednesday that Inntopia never asked for anything to be private, and never asked for a nondisclosure agreement in Miley’s case.
“We did make multiple offers to Ms. Miley in an attempt to settle the case and have everyone move on,” Crist said.
Miley’s lawsuit wasn’t the only accusation slung at DeLuca and Inntopia last year.
Lisa Senecal, a Stowe resident and a member of the Vermont Commission on Women, authored a piece last June in the online magazine The Daily Beast claiming that DeLuca had also sexually harassed her during a job interview.
Senecal, in breaking her silence and coming forward as the second alleged victim, said she had signed a nondisclosure agreement with the company.
DeLuca left Inntopia in 2017, about four months after Senecal told the company about her encounter.
Senecal told the Stowe Reporter last June that she didn’t know what legal battles she might face for breaking her silence, but said, “It’s a fight worth having.”
Senecal wrote Wednesday that Miley “achieving a judgment against Inntopia and Craig DeLuca is a rare accomplishment in sexual harassment litigation and an important step in holding employers and perpetrators accountable.”
She said it is not a private settlement but is, rather a “public, legal judgment and court order against both (Inntopia) and its former president.” Crist, for his part, said it was Inntopia that made the $60,000 offer that Miley accepted.
Said Senecal, “Alison Miley bravely stood up for herself and for the rights of all women to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace.”
Miley said she doesn’t think Crist has done a good enough job of apologizing, and it doesn’t appear he believes her, or Senecal. And Senecal said she hopes Crist and DeLuca “accept responsibility and finally apologize for the harm they have caused.”
In response, Crist shared an email from Oct. 24, 2017, in which he thanked Miley for “speaking up,” saying he was “very disturbed/appalled/disgusted to hear” Miley’s recounting of events.
Crist also said Monday Inntopia is committed to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.
“As we have stated from the beginning of this case, we are committed to a workplace where we all treat one another with respect, and will not hesitate to act when behavior counter to our values occurs,” he said.
Miley was skeptical.
“Despite now having a settlement and one court order against his company and DeLuca, and full knowledge of details that vindicate both me and one other person, Crist refuses to believe those who have come forward,” Miley said. “If he sincerely espouses such commitment to a safe workplace, he would not have trivialized this litigation as a mere ‘financial calculation’ and matter ‘to put behind us.’ He might have, for starters, simply apologized.”