A modeling agency Microsoft hired to show off its HoloLens headset is suing the company and one of the technology giant’s employees, claiming an intermediary failed to pay the modeling firm in full and didn’t come through on promises for more work.
The modeling firm, Genesis Industries, also says that the Microsoft employee who managed its contract decided not to renew the arrangement after being confronted about his alleged inappropriate behavior toward its employees.
A complaint filed Friday in federal court in Seattle says Genesis founder Jennifer Kelly was approached in early 2015 by Jonathan Plumb, a manager on Microsoft’s HoloLens team. Plumb was looking for “brand ambassadors” for upcoming events to promote the new mixed-reality headset, and Kelly said she could provide them.
Plumb’s supervisor subsequently directed Kelly to sign a contract with CoroWare, a Bellevue technology-services company Microsoft had selected to manage work related to HoloLens.
Genesis entered into a six-month subcontracting arrangement in June 2015, in which the firm would submit invoices for its services to CoroWare, and CoroWare would in turn bill Microsoft.
That’s not uncommon at Microsoft, which relies on thousands of contracting firms for a range of tasks, from special events to hiring and software development and testing. Some of those contractors exist primarily to subcontract work on to other firms.
CoroWare, the suit says, served no function in the arrangement “other than being a placeholder.”
Genesis subsequently provided staff for HoloLens demonstrations at events around the U.S. and Canada at Microsoft’s direction, the complaint said, incurring travel and other expenses on the understanding that, through CoroWare, the firm would be repaid.
Beginning in August 2015, CoroWare started defaulting on Genesis’ invoices, the suit said, costs that ultimately totaled hundreds of thousands of dollars, the complaint says.
When Kelly raised the issue with Microsoft, Plumb said Microsoft would make sure Genesis was reimbursed. Plumb also said Genesis should turn down other job offers for the next year, as Microsoft planned to renew the HoloLens contract, the complaint said.
At some point, the suit says, Plumb began “aggressively pursuing” Kelly sexually, and made “hypersexualized comments” about other, unnamed Genesis employees. In December 2015, Kelly confronted Plumb, criticizing his behavior and a Facebook post that appeared to show Plumb drinking alcohol with an underage Genesis employee.
Plumb subsequently limited Genesis’ work and didn’t renew its contract when it lapsed a few weeks later, the lawsuit says.
The suit, which names Microsoft and Plumb, seeks an unspecified sum in damages.
A Microsoft spokesman said the company was reviewing the lawsuit.
Plumb and CoroWare didn’t respond to messages seeking comment. Kelly declined to comment, and her attorney didn’t respond to messages.