The CEO of a telemedicine company was fired after he being accused of harassing a teenager for wearing a prom dress.
On Saturday night (24 April), a group of Franklin High students were gearing up for their prom at a hotel in Tennessee. One of them, 18-year-old Dalton Stevens, wanted to show that “clothing is really genderless” by wearing a dress.
As he and his boyfriend began taking pictures, he alleges, now-former VisuWell CEO Sam Johnson began berating them.
Johnson, the teen claimed, called Stevens “stupid” and hurled homophobic slurs at him for wearing the floor-length red gown.
He allegedly told him that with the “hair on your chest, you shouldn’t be wearing a dress” and that he’s “not a man”.
Stevens’ boyfriend, Jacob Geitmann, began filming the row. A video uploaded to TikTok shows the couple reprimand Johnson, himself wearing an ill-fitting polo shirt.
— Jacob Geittmann (@jacobgeittmann2) April 25, 2021
As Johnson shrugs off the teens’ pleas for him to leave, a bystander says: “They’re just kids.”
“I think I look good in it and that I really like the dress, and I want to show that clothing is genderless,” Stevens said.
“And I explained that to him, and he continued to just call me names and just follow me.”
Johnson is heard in the video calling him an “idiot”.
The couple claim Johnson tried to batt the phone out of Geitmann’s hand and accidentally knocked Stevens instead.
In a statement posted Monday (26 April) on Twitter, Visuwell confirmed that the company’s board “has chosen to terminate Mr Johnson from his position as CEO, effective immediately” following an investigation.
“Gerry Andrady, our president and COO, will lead the company through this important time.”
The company added in a follow-up statement to its LinkedIn page: “In response to those asking for additional clarity on Sam Johnson’s termination as CEO, we can confirm that Mr Johnson is no longer employed by VisuWell in any capacity.
“He no longer has a position on the Board of Directors or any informal advisory role. His behaviour was not representative of our values, which include respect and compassion for all.”
Johnson denied harassing the teen because of his dress in a statement to Newsweek, saying Stevens’ account is “entirely false”.
He claims he approached the teens to ask they “tone down the vulgarities around the families and children who were present”.
“We had just sat down for dinner at this restaurant that we frequent, and I was returning from the restroom when I was presented with their loud cursing,” Johnson said.
“Making it about the dress was their idea and they edited out most of the exchange.”
“I have no ill will towards anyone or their personal choices, so long as it does not harm me or my family.”