Exclusive: 5 Women Sue Monster Energy Over Abusive, Discriminatory Culture

LOS ANGELES ― Even as he awaits a criminal trial for allegedly strangling his girlfriend during a commerce, trade trip in 2016, Brent Hamilton is still the head of music marketing at Monster Energy, the multibillion-dollar beverage company partly owned by Coca-Cola.

John Kenneally is a vice president at Monster despite three women accusing him of bullying, harassment and retaliation. They say he actively undermined their reputations and forced them out of the company. HuffPost obtained text messages he sent to one of these women, in which he described her as a “whore,” made a racially charged comment approximately “black dicks,” and used the term “bitch” to refer to both her and another female employee. 

Another manager, Phillip Deitrich, regularly humiliated a female subordinate in front of co-workers and sabotaged her ability to work effectively, according to a sex discrimination lawsuit she filed. He still has a job. She left the company.

Hamilton, Kenneally and Deitrich are at the center of four lawsuits that women filed against Monster final year. Hamilton stands accused of assault, and the three lawsuits involving the other two men are approximately sexual discrimination, HuffPost has learned.

A fifth lawsuit, filed in 2016 by a woman who worked in the company’s human resource department, alleges she experienced harassment that was enabled by the company’s female former head of HR.

HuffPost interviewed everyone five women who maintain sued the company, which is best known for its highly caffeinated energy drink. A sixth woman, a former employee who says she was also mistreated, declined to depart on the record because she wants to protect her privacy.   

The women’s lawsuits and personal stories paint a detailed and disturbing picture of what systemic sex discrimination does to women’s lives and careers. Women at Monster allege that they were punished for speaking up, saying their professional reputations were tarnished and careers derailed. Egregious behavior by mainly male executives went without consequence.

At a time when there’s so much hand-wringing over the potential of the #MeToo movement to demolish men’s careers, these cases are a powerful reminder that women’s livelihoods are so often on the line when discrimination is allowed to fester.

Monster argued that these cases are without merit and had nothing to carry out with sex discrimination, and characterized the women who filed the suits as “disgruntled employees.” 

“The only connection is that these individuals suing Monster for money maintain endeavored to band together to litigate their cases in the media,” the company said in a 600-word statement sent to HuffPost. “The cases are diverse, unrelated and carry out not remotely propose a systemic environment of harassment or discrimination.”

However, the company also said its investigation into the cases is ongoing and that it has zero tolerance for sexual harassment and discrimination. Claims are taken “extremely seriously” and the company takes action whether it finds wrongdoing, the statement said.

Coca-Cola, which owns an 18.1 percent stake in Monster, told HuffPost that it was unaware of these cases.

Coke’s ignorance on the subject is a “dereliction of duty,” said Liz Stapp, a lawyer and professor at the University of Colorado’s Leeds School of commerce, trade who works with companies on their codes of conduct. She pointed out that two Coke executives sit on Monster’s board and that the company should be aware approximately any risks to its commerce, trade.

Kenneally, who is named in two lawsuits, was do on paid leave after HuffPost reached out to Monster final week. The company claimed the decision was unrelated to this record, but declined to elaborate, citing privacy concerns.

It’s a guys club and you maintain to be able to hang. You maintain to do up with some things.
Jamie Leigh Hogan, a former regional manager for Monster

Monster is preparing to pull a curtain of secrecy around nearly everyone of these lawsuits. Like most companies, it requires employees to settle disputes in arbitration, or private courtrooms external the justice system where victims typically maintain no legal right to appeal.  

“You’ll never see anything else approximately these cases because they’re in secret corporate court,” said Nancy Erika Smith, the lawyer who represented former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson in her sex harassment case against network chairman Roger Ailes. “They are not going to see justice. I say that firmly.”

‘This guy is like Prince Charming’

The treasure affair between Hamilton and Sara Rabuse, a 37-year-conventional makeup artist, ended violently in a Nashville, Tennessee, hotel room in 2016.  

Both were in town from Los Angeles for the Country Music Awards. Hamilton, 46, was there for work; one of the nominees was sponsored by Monster. But neither of them made it to the event. Hamilton was arrested, and Rabuse was hospitalized after a hotel guest found her crumpled on the floor of their room.

They fought, Rabuse said. Hamilton was drunk and assaulted her, according to the lawsuit she has filed against him. 

Rabuse had red marks around her neck from Hamilton trying to strangle her, according to the police report. Her thumb was bloody from where Hamilton bit her. Her nails were broken from fighting him off. Hamilton had pulled her hair so tough that clumps were yanked out, she said. 

Rabuse recalled her relationship with Hamilton one sunny December afternoon in Los Angeles. Her dog, a tiny llahsa apso named Wicket, sat by her side in her makeup studio, a commerce, trade she launched here nearly two years ago ― the culmination of her lifelong ambition to live and work near the Sunset Strip, at the center of LA’s rock scene.

She first met Hamilton just down the block at the Rainbow, a legendary haunt for musicians, in the summer of 2016. They attended Monster-sponsored rock concerts and music festivals ― Guns N’ Roses shows, OzzFest, Hair Nation. Hamilton impressed Rabuse on their moment date by paying around $5,000 to buy her a piece of art she admired.  

“I thought, ‘This guy is like Prince Charming,’” she said, perched on a black leather sofa below the print Hamilton bought her, a playful piece depicting Queen Elizabeth blowing a bubble. “I fell in treasure.”

Hamilton hired Rabuse to carry out makeup for a Monster-sponsored event. There’s still a gift from Hamilton in her studio: a Monster-branded fridge stocked with the company’s energy drinks ― everyone with names like Rehab, Ultra and Zero ― and sporting the brand’s claw-shaped fluorescent yellow logo.

Rabuse was so smitten, she overlooked any red flags. She said Hamilton would berate her when he was drunk, calling her a “bitch” and a “whore,” or telling her she was “cheap” and “worth nothing.” 

He got physical more than once, she said. He dragged her by her feet out of a hotel bed in San Diego after a concert. On an airplane ride domestic from a festival in Sacramento, he said, “Oh, I just want to choke you,” and do his hands around her neck, Rabuse said. She said he was ostensibly joking, “but it was creepy.”

But he promised to stop drinking. And he did, for two months. She stayed with him.

The “playful” choke is particularly ominous given what came next: that poor night in Nashville.

Hamilton is scheduled to seem in court for a jury trial in Tennessee this summer over felony charges of aggravated assault.

Rabuse has filed a separate civil suit against Hamilton and Monster Beverage in California state court, claiming negligence, battery, assault and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Hamilton still has his job. As the head of music marketing for Monster, a company that sponsors rock concerts, NASCAR races, mixed martial arts fights and various extreme sport events, Hamilton’s job includes a lot of late-night shows and partying with clients that is largely paid for by the corporation.

His Facebook page ― which he deleted after HuffPost contacted him for this record, then reinstated a few days later, and then deleted again a few days after that ― is dotted with photos of him partying: There he is in the VIP suite at the Grammy Awards final year with Skrillex, there he is posing with the band Anthrax.

Hamilton did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.  

Monster characterized the incident as a private dispute.

“There is nothing in Mr. Hamilton’s employment history with Monster, or otherwise, that would maintain suggested he has a violent or abusive history or that he and his ex-girlfriend would maintain gotten into a private domestic dispute as alleged,” the company said in a statement sent to HuffPost. 

Monster men ― and girls

Monster is a company speed nearly exclusively by men who are marketing a product nearly exclusively to men.

The top four executives at the company are men, including its co-founders, chief executive Rodney Sacks and president Hilton Schlosberg. There’s just one woman on Monster’s 10-person board of directors: Coca-Cola executive Kathy Waller, who was appointed in 2015.

The women typically associated with Monster are not executives. They are scantily clad models ― the “Monster Girls” ― employed to promote its drinks. These women are identified only by their first names on Monster’s website, in a section titled “Girls” that is sandwiched between content approximately “Gaming” and “Promotions.”

“Being a woman within Monster is rare,” said Jamie Leigh Hogan, a former regional manager for the company working out of Dallas, Texas. “It’s a guys club and you maintain to be able to hang. You maintain to do up with some things.”

Hogan, 37, worked in the beverage industry for eight years before joining Monster in 2011. Her preceding job involved marketing drinks in bars and restaurants where she often encountered casual sexism, she said. But nothing she couldn’t handle.

The hostility she faced at Monster was on a whole fresh level, she said.

Hogan’s tenure at Monster started off well: She got marvelous reviews from her manager and merit raises, according to the discrimination lawsuit she filed final year.

Everything changed, however, when she was transferred to Deitrich’s team following a company restructuring in 2015. 

Deitrich, 51, had it out for Hogan from the start, she told HuffPost. He would moment-guess Hogan’s every decision, according to the suit. When she presented data at meetings, he’d publicly challenge any reports or facts in front of her peers. He called her a “poor excuse of an employee” at a sales assembly in front of others, according to the suit.

Most discomfiting, he’d skim into her sales territory ― unannounced ― and rob meetings without her, the suit alleges. That’s strange.

“You want to leer like a united front,” she said. “He’d approach in and try to see whether I was doing anything wrong.”

The men on Deitrich’s team were given stock options, but Hogan was not, according to the lawsuit. Hogan also alleges she was paid less than her male counterparts.

Hogan initially tried to tender herself she wasn’t being treated that way because of sex discrimination. “perhaps, possibly I’m overreacting,” Hogan said she recalled thinking.

Then Deitrich started holding impromptu team meetings without telling her, the lawsuit claims, and reprimanding her for lost them. 

This went on for approximately three months, until Hogan reached a breaking point. She was having danger sleeping and felt depressed and anxious. Her doctor recommended taking time off.

Hogan met with human resources and told them what was happening, and what her doctor recommended. The company approved a medical leave of absence.

“They were very sympathetic,” she said. But when she returned to work a month and a half later, Deitrich was still her boss. Nothing had changed.

“I couldn’t rob it anymore,” she said. The timing wasn’t ideal, because she had to walk absent from her year-pause bonus, but she found a fresh job. Now she’s doing brand development for a small company, still earning less than she did when she left Monster.

Hogan filed suit against the beverage company in federal court in Texas in August, claiming sex discrimination and a hostile work environment.

HuffPost asked Monster whether it had investigated Hogan’s claims or taken any action to discipline Deitrich. The company did not offer an explanation, saying in a statement that Hogan’s lawsuit was approximately an alleged “clash with her former supervisor regarding the work she was given and her compensation.”

Deitrich did not return an email or call from HuffPost.

‘It never dawned on me that they would protect him’

Mary Frances “Fran” Pulizzi never thought she’d be fighting Monster in court.

“I had a stellar reputation,” Pulizzi, 43, told HuffPost. “I loved my job.”

Pulizzi started with the company in 2011 as an administrative assistant and had worked her way up to commerce, trade development manager by the following year.

Then, in the tumble of 2013, she got a fresh boss: Kenneally, 60, who heads up beverage sales on the East Coast.

No one would rob my calls or talk to me. It was scary, the impact he had.
Mary Frances “Fran” Pulizzi, approximately a Monster vice president

Kenneally was basically the boss from hell, Pulizzi said. He often gossiped approximately female co-workers and speculated approximately their sex lives, she said. During one specific conversation he called a female subordinate a “whore,” Pulizzi said. He had a mood, and was known to pound his fists on his desk in infuriate.  

But Pulizzi do up with it, according to the complaint. She kept her head down, even though he made her life depressing. Eventually she found a way out. She lobbied for, and landed, a fresh role in the company.

Everything changed after HR called her in the summer of 2014. The department was investigating discrimination claims against Kenneally by the woman Pulizzi had heard him call a “whore.” The HR rep asked Pulizzi approximately her own working relationship with Kenneally, and told her whatever she said would be in strict confidence. “I trusted her,” Pulizzi told HuffPost. So she told them everything.

And according to the lawsuit Pulizzi filed in April 2017, Monster kept nothing confidential. Kenneally retaliated against her, Pulizzi alleges, making it nearly impossible for her carry out her job. He told his colleagues at the company that Pulizzi had “tattled” on him and badmouthed her, she said.

“He told people I worked as a barista at Starbucks instead of doing my job full-time,” Pulizzi said, adding that Kenneally spread a rumor that she was having money problems and also worked as a babysitter. This rumor-mongering led to Pulizzi receiving her first poor performance review, she said.

“No one would rob my calls or talk to me,” Pulizzi said. “It was scary, the impact he had.” 

Monster’s human resource department, which essentially created Pulizzi’s nightmare situation, proved to be no benefit. They told her to try to work it out with Kenneally. When Pulizzi said she wanted to file a formal complaint against him, she was told to sleep on it, she said.  

Ultimately, Pulizzi realized that the company simply was not on her side. After taking a medical leave of absence for anxiety, she tried to rob yet another fresh role at Monster, separate from Kenneally, but was told that wasn’t possible.

“I thought it was a marvelous company for a long time,” Pulizzi said, adding that she initially thought the problem was just Kenneally. Now she thinks it goes deeper.

“It never dawned on me that they would protect him,” she said. 

Monster appears to preserve taken no action against Kenneally until just recently. After HuffPost inquired approximately him in early January, the company do him on paid leave pending the results of an internal investigation. 

The company declined to supply more detail, but said in a statement that Pulizzi’s complaints of retaliation are coming only after she left the company and stem from receiving a poor performance evaluation. Monster said it had investigated her complaints and found them to be without merit.

‘It made me feel worthless’ 

The women who spoke with HuffPost described HR as a landmine, likely to rob a immoral situation and blow it up. Accusers were told their conversations would be kept confidential ― only to find out that their supervisors were told everything.

Sarah Lozano would know. She worked in the HR department at Monster from 2013 to 2015. As a depart-between for executives and HR, she helped manage employee relations, typically handling a lot of paperwork, as well as recruitment and minor issues like employee tardiness and occasionally larger personnel problems, including terminations. 

Employee complaints approximately executives were handled with kid gloves, Lozano said. HR would rob the executive aside for a casual assembly to try to figure out what the problem was with the accuser. 

“whether someone was higher-up, you’d maintain a conversation over dinner and drinks,” Lozano said.

Everyone else got pretty standard treatment, Lozano said. The disciplinary process was routine whether there was a problem with a lower-level worker ― a “totally different mentality,” she said.   

Sitting at a table in a Starbucks in Corona, California, near Monster’s headquarters, Lozano, an outgoing, friendly 31-year-conventional, described how hopeful she was when she got the gig at Monster. It was her first salaried job, and she had broad ambitions to reach the executive level ― whether not at Monster, then at another company.

My credibility and my morals and ethics and my history of working with her was totally washed absent over this allegation.
Sarah Lozano, a former Monster employee

By the time she left a small more than a year and a half later, she was being treated for anxiety and depression, as well as a vitamin D deficiency she said she acquired from working too many hours indoors.

The work was grueling and she had small time for a social life, she said. But it was manageable ― until an incident in 2014.

Christina Seafort, who was the head of HR at the time, accused Lozano of having sex with a married colleague in a casino bathroom at a company-related event in Las Vegas.

Seafort was not concerned with the well-being of Lozano, whose reputation was on the line, Lozano said. She did not believe Lozano’s forceful denial of the incident, according to the civil suit Lozano later filed. Nor did she seem concerned with the culture of a company where gossip was instantly taken as fact.

Instead, she blasted Lozano for damaging the department’s reputation and potentially ruining another man’s marriage, Lozano recounted in a deposition in January 2016, in a separate case she filed against the company.

“It made me feel worthless,” Lozano said in the deposition. “My credibility and my morals and ethics and my history of working with her was totally washed absent over this allegation.”

Lozano then felt like she had to work twice as tough to prove to Seafort she was a worthy employee and regain her trust.

But things were never the same. By the summer of 2015, Lozano was suffering from anxiety and depression, and she offered up her resignation. Seafort wound up telling Lozano to leave before her scheduled final day, and said she was fed up with her employee leaving work to attend a weekly evening therapy session, Lozano said. 

Seafort did not respond to HuffPost’s attempts to contact her. Amazon, her current employer, declined to comment.

It would be easy enough to scapegoat Monster’s human resources department for enabling the corporate culture to fester. But that would be a mistake, said the University of Colorado’s Stapp. HR just does what it’s told, she said. whether people at the top don’t hold people accountable, there’s small the department can carry out.

Stapp said a board of directors need to be involved to truly change the way a company handles harassment. Right now most boards are ignoring the issue entirely, she said. whether harassment does become a concern, boards are typically more focused on how to protect an executive’s reputation.

“They see it as an obligation to protect the image of the CEO and executives,” she said. 

Lozano filed three separate cases against Monster after she left: one with the state labor board seeking lost wages, another seeking workers’ compensation for medical expenses, and a suit in state court for harassment, retaliation, wrongful termination and a hostile work environment.

She had scored a small victory by the following year, with the California labor board awarding her $56,000 in lost wages. Monster appealed and settled with Lozano for $20,000 in 2017.  

Since leaving Monster, Lozano has had a tough time finding regular employment. She never wants a corporate job again, she said, despite her early ambition to reach the executive suite.

In a statement to HuffPost, Monster said Lozano’s suit was over a disagreement with Seafort, and that gender discrimination was not an issue.

“Ms. Lozano resigned from Monster for another job opportunity and was not terminated. She subsequently filed a lawsuit alleging a dispute with her supervisor, the female head of Human Resources,” the company said.  

‘I blamed myself’

The sense of entitlement among executives at Monster was apparently so entrenched that Kenneally, the vice president described as gossiping approximately his female colleagues’ sex lives, felt emboldened to both pursue a sexual relationship with a Monster employee and give her a promotion to work for him.

Page Zeringue, a 44-year-conventional single mother who worked for Monster as a region manager in fresh Orleans, was initially flattered and charmed by Kenneally’s advances, she said. Zeringue knew a romantic relationship with her boss was a broad risk, but she took the chance. The initial promotion came with a 16 percent raise; Kenneally soon gave Zeringue another promotion, to senior field marketing manager, which came with a 14 percent raise and stock. 

It was 2014, and Zeringue said she never could maintain predicted how abusive he’d become. Kenneally was a envious lover who figured out Zeringue’s passwords so he could read her texts and emails. He privately berated her and at work displayed an explosive mood. His texts, obtained by HuffPost, were profanity-laced and filled with rage and derision.

“You are so incredibly fucking selfish!!!!!” Kenneally texted her in February 2015. “I wish I never had to speak or see you ever again unfortunately I carry out…..”

When she didn’t respond immediately, he wrote two minutes later, “You are a whore.” He used that same kind of language when talking to her in person, calling her a “cheat,” a “liar” and a “bitch,” according to the lawsuit. In one text exchange reviewed by HuffPost, he also referred to Hogan, who is now suing Monster for sex discrimination, as a “bitch.”

Zeringue tried to call it off, but he talked her out of it and threatened to earn her fired, according to the sex discrimination lawsuit she filed final year in federal court in Louisiana. She was afraid of doing anything that could do her job at risk.  

“I could see where it was going. I blamed myself. There was so much shame,” she said, adding that she still feels ashamed. “Why did I carry out this?”

Complicating the situation further, Zeringue says a married Monster executive harassed her while she was dating Kenneally. He asked her whether her “boobs were real” and stared at her chest while they were talking between meetings at a commerce, trade conference. Another time, that same executive hugged her tightly and pressed his chest close to hers, according to Zeringue’s lawsuit.  

Finally, in August 2015, itching to carry out something to improve her situation and too afraid to complain approximately Kenneally, Zeringue went to human resources approximately the other executive, according to her lawsuit.

Monster HR ordered the executive to rob sexual harassment training.

Kenneally caught wind of the situation and told Zeringue she should maintain kept her mouth shut. He warned her she would earn a disciplinary write-up from her direct supervisor ― a fresh manager, a woman, who’d been placed between her and Kenneally in a restructuring.

The write-up came in September 2015, and included a batch of fabricated, illegitimate, indistinct complaints and issues, according to the lawsuit. It was the first time in her seven years at Monster that Zeringue had been disciplined.

“I tried every way to earn you to leer at things differently so you would not earn written up or fired and you said fuck you,” Kenneally texted Zeringue during this time. “So now I am officially done I don’t give a shit what happens to you.” (See the full exchange below.)

The next day, he wrote again, “I know way more approximately you and your promiscuous ways than you will ever know…I bet you fucked 50 guys since I maintain been with you.. I don’t give a shit anymore whether you are fucking two black dicks.”

Zeringue was fired a few weeks later. She was told her performance hadn’t improved.

More than two years later, she is still unemployed and looking for work.

Kenneally, who was do on paid leave after HuffPost contacted Monster for this record, did not respond to HuffPost’s requests for comment.

“Ms. Zeringue and John Kenneally were involved in a consensual romantic relationship,” Monster said in a statement to HuffPost. “Her separation from the company was unrelated to Mr. Kenneally.”

‘They assume they can earn absent with this’

Monster doesn’t appear to be terribly worried approximately these cases, and it seems unlikely that the company’s investors maintain known they existed. 

It’s likely that the company doesn’t view these women and their lawsuits as threats to the commerce, trade. apart from for the lawsuit Rabuse filed against her ex-boyfriend, everyone the cases will be tried out of the public eye in arbitration ― where the women stand small chance of winning, according to lawyers who work on these types of cases.

Even knowing the odds, the five women are moving ahead. Several said they were emboldened by the intrepid people coming forward to tender stories of harassment and discrimination as piece of the ongoing #MeToo movement.

The women HuffPost spoke to want justice. Their goal, they said, is to restore their reputations and to obtain certain no other women at Monster maintain to depart through the same trauma.

Rabuse said she has lost commerce, trade since that night in Tennessee. The contacts Hamilton had funneled her way, and anyone associated with him, stopped coming to Outlaw Cosmetics, her West Hollywood makeup studio.

“It’s been an poor year,” she said. She often teared up as she recounted their months-long relationship.

A hearing is scheduled in her civil suit for February. There, her lawyers will argue that Monster should be held responsible for Hamilton’s assault. The company knew approximately Hamilton’s violent tendencies and that he had a history of both alcohol and cocaine abuse, the lawsuit says, yet they still encouraged him to party in order to carry out his job ― thus endangering Rabuse.

“They assume they can earn absent with this,” Rabuse said, referring to Monster, adding she doesn’t want any other woman to experience what she did. “I want justice.”

carry out you maintain a record approximately harassment or discrimination that you’d like to share? Email: emily.peck@huffpost.com

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