Former CEO sues over firing after viral incident involving Tennessee teen wearing prom dress

National and World

Sam Johnson (left) and Jacob Geittman, Dalton Stevens (right)

FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — A former Franklin CEO has filed a lawsuit against the company he said is responsible for his firing after viral video showed him ridiculing a male student wearing a prom dress.

Court documents obtained by News 2 show Samuel Johnson filed the lawsuit Tuesday against University Hospitals Health System, also known as UH Cleveland.

Johnson’s attorneys write that he filed due to “malicious and improper conduct” committed by UH Cleveland that resulted in his termination from employment at VisuWell, the telemedicine company where he worked for three years as the chief executive officer.

The lawsuit alleges that in April, “an incomplete, edited, and out-of-context cell phone video clip spread across various social media platforms, including TikTok and Twitter.”

The clip only showed one minute of an incident that Johnson said had been developing for more than an hour and the inferences created by the clip were “false and deeply misleading.”

The cell phone video in question showed Dalton Stevens, a senior at Franklin High School, being ridiculed for wearing a dress to prom.

While Stevens and his boyfriend were at the Harpeth Hotel in downtown Franklin taking pictures, a man later identified as Johnson, walked up to Stevens and ridiculed him for his attire, a floor-length red dress.

“Slander terms thrown towards me of like ‘you look bad,’ ‘you’ve got hair on your chest, you shouldn’t be wearing a dress,’ ‘you’re not a man,’ blah, blah, blah,” Stevens told News 2 at the time.

He added, “The fact that he thought he had the audacity to come tell me what I was supposed to wear, and what I was supposed to do because of his standards.”

VisuWell, the company that employed Johnson, later released a statement on Twitter, saying in part, “We share the concerns that so many have expressed on this matter and look forward to announcing concrete steps we are taking in support of the LGBTQ community in particular over the coming weeks.”
Johnson was terminated from his employment as CEO of VisuWell.

The lawsuit states that UH Cleveland had demanded that VisuWell’s Board of Directors fire Johnson or they would terminate their telehealth vendor contract with the company despite no breach of contract.

Johnson has asked that a judgment be entered against UH Cleveland for “substantial compensatory damages,” the amount of which would be determined by a jury trial. He also wants the company to pay for his attorneys’ fees and expenses after causing him “substantial damage.”

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