Friend Finder Fodder for Lawsuit

Okay, I don’t even know what to say about this. Penthouse or not, the type of behavior described here is completely and utterly unacceptable, particularly in the workplace.

Essentially, prior to Penthouse ownership, Friend Finder had been a by-the-book, under wraps type of company. While the product itself was sexually motivated, the workplace was not. One person described it as being “NASA-like”. Once ownership hands changed and Penthouse took over, the workplace became anything but by-the-book. They started by firing their HR Executive:

Natalie Cedeno, the company’s former HR director, says that company executives retaliated against her for pointing out violations of labor laws. She was a top executive at the Internet side of the business, deeply involved in its operations for eight years, before FriendFinder fired her without cause in January, she says. She claims the company then tried to withhold the two years of pay she was owed under her contract unless she agreed to stay silent about FriendFinder’s misdeeds — a move her lawyer characterizes as “extortion.” Cedeno plans to file complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing next month.

Okay, definitely not a smart move to fire HR, but not immediately earth shattering to the company (though if I were Natalie, I’d be really pissed). The worst was yet to come:

When management announced that the venerable porn magazine’s stable of nude models would be stopping by the office to serve ice cream, one female employee objected, as Cedeno tells the story. When they arrived, one of the scantily clad Pets made a beeline for the dissenter. “They came into her office and placed her breasts on her head in an attempt to humiliate her, and they had someone ready to take pictures,” Cedeno says. The employee quit soon after the incident.

Whether or not the product of the workplace is sexual in nature, every employee should be treated with dignity and respect at all times. Somehow, a pair of someone else’s boobs landing upon one’s head doesn’t seem to fit the aforementioned description.

Oh, and there’s more:

Cedeno says new management was unresponsive to her concerns. When she pointed out violations of overtime law, the company’s VP of operations emailed her, “This garbage stops now.” (He meant her complaints, not the violations.) She says she was then ordered to lie and blame pay discrepancies on the company’s outside payroll vendor. She refused.

She also says that in January 2008, Rob Brackett, president of the company’s Internet group, told her that CEO Marc Bell had complained to him in December — the first day he came to visit Penthouse’s new acquisition — that the women in FriendFinder’s technology department were “ugly” and that Cedeno should get rid of them and replace them with more attractive workers to keep the male employees happy. Brackett pressed Cedeno, asking her how she was going to satisfy Bell. She refused the request.

It just boggles my mind that a company still feels that they can get away with such crap, attributing it to “shenanigans” and “naughty behavior”. I’m sure that Penthouse doesn’t care. Their coffers are as big as the breasts in any one of their magazines. Yet one would think that someone there would have a conscience.

Oh yeah, they did, but she was fired.

3 Replies to “Friend Finder Fodder for Lawsuit”

  1. Natalie did not do things by the book I am a former employee and I have proof of this. She wrongfully terminated several people. I have kept in touch with current and former employees who did not agree with Natalie’s tactics. Hr is supposed to be a place you can go to, to get issues resolved but in this case Natalie would disipline or terminated people who had issues with management. Managers would cross the line on a daily basis and Natalie would Back them arther than listen to the employee. Once again there is substantial proof of this.

  2. I worked with Natalie as well and she was great. Seriously, before penthouse came on board things were better because penthouse stopped pay increases and made scare tactic threats. Natalie was always approachable and kind. I dont know why anyone would say Natalie fired people for no reason since that was not true. She was the voice of reason for many people and I personnally know of 5 people that she went to bat for even as far as attending INS hearings and writing letters to judges for people to try to help them stay employed. She even helped a former employee get a job at Jaxtr’s after he left FriendFinder. Give me a break Vicki, it sounds like you were probably terminated and if you are the Vicki I am thinking of, it was for good cause since you really struggled in basic computer skills while working for our company.

  3. Natalie Cedeno claims that company executives retaliated against her for pointing out violations of labor laws. She also claims “the company then tried to withhold the two years of pay she was owed under her contract unless she agreed to stay silent about FriendFinder’s misdeeds.” WOW. DEJA VU, man. Natalie deliberately witheld employees paychecks (After quitting or getting fired) unless they signed (her) waiver stating they “Wouldn’t go to the media, press, law enforcement; and would not bring legal action against the company (And it’s employees.) No signing, she’d hold their paychecks “ransome.” And the violation of labor laws? Man, she’s a pro at violation of labor laws. Witnessed it myself. But, many of us know that. Glad she’s been (rightly) fired. It’s now a cool place to work for.

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