Like so many other women who have for years been on the receiving end of unwanted advances and actions from men who worked over them in corporate America, Kristen Grimes felt forced to remain silent as to her own nightmares brought on by a senior work colleague. But when actress Alyssa Milano recently went public about such harassment and the #MeToo movement, Kristen finally felt empowered to come forward with her own tragic story.
“I finally felt I wasn’t alone,” she said.
In this exclusive report to TheLegalNews.com (www.thelegalnews.com), Kristen sat down with us in the presence of her counsel and recounted years of being harassed, misrepresented, intimidated, bullied, stalked, and outright emotionally tortured by someone she worked with during her time as an account executive in suite sales at the front office of the Houston Texans football organization.
Kristen’s journey began in May of 2013 when she joined the Texans organization. That first month gave no indication of what was laying ahead of her. “I was so excited to be working at this job,” she said. “I have always wanted to work for the NFL, and this was a dream come true.”
Dazzled and bedazzled by the fast-paced, high-adrenaline world of professional football, Kristen found herself being pursued by then Manager (subsequently promoted to Director) of Football Operations, Jason Lowrey. Sadly, other women working in the front office of the organization had “seen and heard it” before, but Kristen was unaware of his history of attempting to lure female coworkers. Ultimately, Kristen felt compelled to give in to Lowrey’s advances.
As the year progressed, Kristen recalls feeling that Lowrey was directly threatening her job security. On numerous occasions at work related events, Lowrey told Kristen, “Don’t mention our relationship to anyone.” However, in December of 2013, Kristen stated that “we were out with a bunch of clients and employees in a social working environment, when he suddenly and openly groped my butt in front of everyone. He said that he wanted everyone to know. That’s when I realized that he wanted to control every aspect of my life when it came to him.”
According to Kristen, that night ended with her spurning his advances and him drinking and giving her the silent treatment. “Immediately, a new tone was set. When he wasn’t glaring at me from across the rooms, he would be jealous about my clients and get angry at me with little to no provocation.”
If 2013 ended on a surreal note for Kristen, it was nothing compared to 2014. “The entire year, he waged a campaign against me that I can only classify as emotional abuse,” she said. “He would alternate between getting verbally abusive with me in between times of simply glaring at me in silence. I learned that he was telling others in both departments of the office about our relationship. The entire year, I was subject to his whims.”
In early 2015, Kristen had decided that she’d had enough of Lowrey’s impact on her life. She refused to speak to or interact with him for several weeks. “It was difficult; he was everywhere I was. We still had to cross paths at the office as our duties dictated. And the more I refused to talk with him, the more he wouldn’t leave me alone.”
What followed was, according to Kristen, a definite low point in her life. “His personality was just so strong. After about six weeks of me trying and failing to avoid him, he found a way to interact with me enough to where our relationship began again.” Though this time around it didn’t last as long, the repercussions were much longer-lasting.
Feeling that something was wrong with her based on her actions, Kristen opted to go into therapy in September of 2015. “Going to therapy twice a week truly opened my eyes to his behavior, which has been categorized by others as sociopathic. I’m not qualified to agree or disagree with that, but his patterns of certainly fit some of those profiles.” Most saddening is that the organization was aware of this pervasive condition, and did nothing to end it.
A month after Kristen entered therapy, another traumatic event occurred on what should have been a happy occasion.
“Another sales rep and I won a trip based on our sales performance. It was a great, innocent time where for the first time in a long time I felt validated. But when I returned from the trip, emails from Jason let me know that key individuals within ownership, including a member of the McNair family, were saying horrible things about me, and that I was on was on their high-level hit list.”
With this news, Kristen decided to refuse herself the suggested route of going to the human resources department. “I didn’t know who to trust. Jason would frequently tell me that if anything happened, if there were any fallout to our previous relationship, that I’d be the one forced to leave and he’d get to stay. My dream of working for the NFL would be over forever.”
As 2015 came to an end, once again Kristen found herself on the receiving end of Lowrey’s unacceptable behavior. “I learned that he had told personnel in the organization – both his colleagues and mine – that I was sleeping with the entire offensive line.”
Any hopes that 2016 would be any sort of improvement over the previous two years were soon dashed by Lowrey’s ongoing campaign of intimidation. “Once again, everywhere I went, he’d contrive to be there. For a while, I ate in the cafeteria, but he would just sit at a table across from me and glare at me, even licking his lips at me. That, plus the rumors he kept spreading, made me so self-conscious that I opted to eat away from the offices, whether or not I could even afford it, and despite how isolated it made me feel. And on more than one occasion, wherever I’d eat for lunch, he’d be nearby, just staring at me again.”
As the 2016 football season ramped up, Kristen again found herself unable to rely on a workplace-provided support system. “Despite the rules in place, there’s very much a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ environment at the Texans front office,” she said. “I was warned time and again by coworkers that if I went up against the ‘football side’ of the organization, I’d lose.”
Lowrey’s despicable behavior continued throughout the year, and Kristen recalls a time in August of 2016 when he made harassing comments about her appearance. “’Hey, little girl; what do you have under that dress?’” Although Kristen later notified the organization of this vulgar statement, Lowrey remained at his position without reprimand.
During this same period, Kristen was placed on probation for low job performance only to exceed expectations the next year and not get promoted, while Lowrey was promoted from Manager to Director, Kristen then realized her tormentor was protected by those higher up, and she started taking notes of the hellacious work environment.
“I had been and was continuing to be victimized by him; now, I was being victimized by the organization itself.”
By November of that year, she could no longer tolerate Lowrey’s continuing advances and other harassing behavior that included intimidation, misrepresentation of her to others, and outright stalking. She steeled herself and went to the office’s human resources department. “I can remember sitting there after telling the head of HR everything, and the only reply I got was basically, ‘Well, we all know he’s a womanizer.’ He had just been promoted, they knew who and what he was, and I realized that objectifying women in the Texans organization wasn’t only allowed, it was rewarded.”
Despite three-and-a-half years of being tormented by one man’s words and deeds – and his seeming protection by their mutual overseers – Kristen felt she could not go public with her claims for fear of being savaged by a football-loving public who cared more about stats than people. Two things spurred her into action, however.
“Right around the end of 2016, long after any traces of a relationship between me and Jason were long gone, I learned of a new female intern who had just joined the organization was his latest target. I remember those times in 2013 when I was warned by others; now was my opportunity to warn her. The cycle had to be broken.”
In her efforts to bring to light the intolerable and deplorable working conditions at her workplace, Kristen met with attorneys on both sides. “The Texans’ general counsel even acknowledged that Jason had submitted numerous emails concerning me that were of an extremely hurtful nature.”
Despite the forward momentum, Lowrey was never officially punished for his behavior against Kristen and any others who came before and after her. “Human resources told me they would just wait to see if it would happen again with anyone else. With this new intern he’d gone after, it did happen again, and they still did nothing.”
Eventually, in January of 2018, Lowrey, who was widely acknowledged to be very close with Texans general manager Rick Smith, “parted ways” with the organization with an apparently unblemished record. A call to the Texan media relations department by The Legal News has yet to be returned.
Kristen’s attorney, Scott Hunziker of The Voss Law Firm, based in The Woodlands, Texas, is proud of his client for coming forward. “Only through courage can this pervasive behavior be stopped,” he said. “She faced the alpha male network of the NFL, and it has understandably taken time and strength to come forward. But here she is, demanding answers, which we fully intend to get through the legal system. It is our sincere hope that other women within professional football come forward, whether they have experienced similar treatment by this team, or others. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that there is incredible strength in numbers. It’s time the story gets told.”
Today, Kristen is still attending therapy to cope with the trauma of the past few years. She left the Texans in April of 2017, as painful as it was to leave what was always supposed to be her dream job.
“I can only hope that at the end of this, that it was worth it,” she says. “Because of the strength of others, I was able to find my own voice to join all these other harassed and abused women who are likewise finding their own voices at long last.”
While the future is unclear, she has no regrets. “What’s wrong is wrong; you can’t get away with it.”