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Former Timbers, Thorns Employees Accuse Club of ‘Toxic’ Work Environment

Multiple former employees within the Portland Timbers organization have accused the team of a “toxic” workplace environment, according to a report from Ryan Clarke of The Oregonian.

The report states Mike Golub, the team’s president of business, created “an atmosphere of disrespect and intimidation toward women and working mothers employed at the club over a span of 11 years.” Additionally, owner Merritt Paulson has been criticized for his management style, including insensitivity towards nursing mothers.

Blair Neelands, who used to work for the Timbers’ off-field Stand Together organization, claims Golub crossed boundaries that included throwing objects at employees, eating and drinking other people’s food and frequently getting angry and yelling in meetings.

“My coworker and I would be in a meeting with him, and you’d be talking, reading notes, and he’d just start throwing a ball at your head and you’d have to block it,” Neelands told Clarke. “All while trying to remain professional. One time I was walking up the stairs and he was walking down, and the next thing I know he had his foot up near my face pretending like he was going to kick me.”

Neelands said she never reported any of this to Human Resources because the HR director reported straight to Golub. Portland has since changed its HR policy to report to Paulson instead.

Neelands added that she doesn’t believe Paulson hears the full story of Golub’s behavior, getting a “rose-colored version.” Other former employees said Paulson tends to produce angry emails, phone calls and tirades in meetings when he is upset with an employee.

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Additionally, Clarke reports that women have criticized Portland’s environment for working mothers. One woman said that the organization didn’t have a designated room to pump breastmilk during game days, and she was ultimately relegated to the bathroom. At one point, mothers who needed to pump were forced in a small room with a nameplate that read “electrical room.” That room reportedly contained dust, supplies and electrical equipment before being recently renovated.

The team conducted an internal review through the law firm DLA Piper, which found multiple workplace issues. The report found “three concerns on the business side of the organization relating primarily to three then-current employees,” none of whom were Paulson, per Clarke.

In response to the allegations, Golub maintains that he has tried to adjust his management style over the years.

“My entire career, it’s never been raised as an issue,” he said. “That said, we’re in different times now. If how I conducted myself, with truly the best intentions, made anyone feel uncomfortable, I take that really seriously. I’m really good at what I do, and I’m a really good person, but I can be better.”

Paulson also defended both Golub and himself against the allegations.

“Over the course of 10 years, I’ve not always been happy,” Paulson said. “But contrary to what people might think from my Twitter persona or anything like that, if you talk to the vast majority of employees I interact with, I do not lose my temper. Very rarely. I can almost count on one or two hands the times I can recall losing my temper in a business setting and in general. I’m not somebody who flies off the handle in a rage.”