May 12, 1999 2:05 PM PDT

Lotus chief named in sex bias complaint

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Lotus stands behind Papows

April 30, 1999
More damaging press that questions the integrity of Lotus Development president Jeffrey Papows surfaced today, leading observers to wonder how--and if--parent company IBM will react.

A former Lotus Development executive has filed a sex discrimination complaint against Papows and his longtime executive assistant, claiming that she and other female managers were singled out for ill treatment, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Arlene A. Greene, a longtime Lotus employee, alleges that Papows, and his aide, Sharon Ricci, had "a long term intimate relationship" that unfairly benefited Ricci, who "collaborated" with him against other high-ranking women in Lotus management, the Journal reported.

The Journal cited a complaint filed April 16 with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, which handles workplace discrimination claims.

Greene, who worked at Lotus for 11 years, was general manager of a telecommunications and Internet division at Lotus before being terminated in October. Her termination was officially part of a general workforce reduction, but Greene's complaint charges she was dismissed because she complained about bias in the workplace, the Journal reported.

Brian Simmons, a Lotus representative, said the charges come from a "disgruntled former employee," and that the compliant has been reviewed by legal counsel. "The complaint has no merit, and we will defend it vigorously," he said.

The article comes on the heels of an earlier Journal story that profiled Papows as an ambitious executive who may have lied about his educational background, military service record, and personal history in order to advance his career and Lotus's sales.

Sam Albert, a consultant, former IBM executive, and long-time follower of Big Blue, said it is yet to be seen how IBM will react to the latest story and the previous allegations.

"I don't know how IBM will handle this. I would think it might be handled in a way where [Papows] has to take some time off to address the allegations or he will continue on the job to face the allegations," said Albert.

However, Albert said he doesn't expect the accusations will force Big Blue to dismiss Papows, and he said that Papows's performance as Lotus chief has been "stellar."

Analysts familiar with Lotus and its parent company IBM doubt business will be affected by the bad press.

"I can't imagine that this will have any impact on business," said industry analyst and consultant Amy Wohl. "If I were business person would I decide not to do business with Lotus? No. I'd probably feel bad for Jeff Papows."

Lotus competes with Microsoft in the groupware market. Last month, the company began shipping its groupware product, Notes/Domino R5, after several delays.

 

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