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Former Distillery CEO Formally Denies Allegations of Gender DIscrimination

— May 7, 2020

Grover Wickersham, the former CEO of Eastside Distilling, recently issued a formal response to a lawsuit accusing him of gender discrimination and denied all the allegations.

Late last year, Eastside Distilling came under fire when two former employees, Justina Thoreson and Laurie Branch, filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the company and “a number of current and former managers, including former CEO Grover Wickersham.” At the time, Thoreson and Branch alleged that Wickersham “had a reputation as someone who preferred to work with makes, made inappropriate references to the appearances of women at the company, and demoted an employee because she was pregnant.” It has now been about six months since the suit was filed and Wickersham has finally legally responded to the allegations. In doing so, he has denied the allegations and requested a jury trial. 

Lady Justice; image by WilliamCho, via Pixabay, CC0.
Lady Justice; image by WilliamCho, via Pixabay, CC0.

Though the lawsuit has since been dismissed, Wickersham still wanted his side of the story to be heard. His formal response reads:

“Ultimately, plaintiffs’ allegations against Mr. Wickersham in this lawsuit — cynically calculated to get the publicity they got — are simply false. I wanted to let it get to court. I filed the answer, I wanted to litigate it, and was happy to litigate it. I care about my reputation.”

Attorney Taylor G. Duty, who represented Thoreson and Branch, said the case was settled and “the judgment of dismissal has been entered.” She added that Thoreson and Branch “stand by everything they alleged in their initial complaint.” 

Eastside Distilling is a distillery in Portland and is a “common to spot bartenders pouring the company’s Burnside Bourbon in Old Fashioneds.” Today, it is the “first and only publicly traded craft distillery” in the U.S., according to the company website. With the COVID-19 pandemic raging across the country, the distillery recently received “a $1.4 million Paycheck Protection Program loan.

Wickersham was the CEO of the popular distillery from November 2016 to May 2019. He also works as an attorney and private investor. During his time as CEO for the company, he “worked closely with Thoreson, who he says he promoted and gave bonuses on multiple occasions.” However, in the lawsuit against him, Thoreson alleged Wickersham “removed her from her role in events because of her pregnancy.” According to her, Wickersham told her, “When the baby comes, you’re not going to be able to do all this.”

Wickersham pushed back against the allegation and claimed he “consistently and financially supported her as a working mother.” He added that “he recommended she bring her first child into the office and eventually persuaded the company pay for monthly childcare, as well as give her an additional $20,000 to pay off medical bills related to her first pregnancy.” He said: “The [second] pregnancy was so irrelevant to me I can barely remember it,” and added that the events division, where Thoreson worked, “was shut down entirely, which is why she was removed.”


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