A California lawyer has sued his former employer for allegedly docking his pay after he refused to sign up for a weekend-long "New Warrior" personal-development seminar that included men disrobing and passing around a wooden phallus.
The Orange County Superior Court case seems like a routine labor dispute between a lawyer and his former firm, except for the salacious accusations involving a little-known, somewhat secretive nonprofit known as The ManKind Project, which seeks to "redefine mature masculinity for the 21st century," according to its website.
Plaintiff Steven Eggleston, a chiropractor-turned-negligence lawyer, accuses the Newport Beach, Calif., firm Bisnar/Chase and partners John Bisnar and Brian Chase of sexual harassment and failure to pay wages. Eggleston claims he was paid $15,000 a month until he refused to attend a secluded all-male weekend retreat last February in the mountains overlooking Santa Barbara.
The lawsuit said Eggleston, after reading reports about the seminars, was "understandably concerned" over the possibility of sitting naked in a room with his supervising attorney, who "might decide to touch his penis, or that he might be required to disclose details about his sex life."
Eggleston says in the complaint that after skipping the weekend retreat, which the the ManKind Project website describes as "a modern male initiation and self-examination," his compensation dwindled to nothing and his supervising boss, Bisnar, became so hostile that he had to quit.
According to the complaint, Bisnar told Eggleston that he couldn't require him to attend but repeatedly pressured him to attend. Chase, however, said Bisnar had only suggested it.
Chase said there was no retaliation and called the complaint "a shakedown lawsuit by a disgruntled employee who failed miserably at his job." Eggleston was hired on a six-month contract, he said, and let go because of poor performance.
Bisnar, who has attended and spoken at ManKind Project training sessions, routinely encourages the firm's 30 staff members to participate in personal and professional development seminars, according to Chase. Although Bisnar has encouraged him to attend, Chase said he has never participated in New Warrior training.
The personal-injury firm has a distinct New Age feel, Chase said.
"We have yoga on Fridays," Chase said. "Bisnar will encourage people to go to professional seminars for trial lawyers or paralegals. He also encourages people to do personal development. He's passed out Deepak Chopra books. We've had tickets to Anthony Robbins' seminars. He encourages people to better themselves."