March 4, 2024

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Photo: REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo (Reuters)

The former head of TikTok’s global business marketing team has sued the company and its parent ByteDance alleging that “she was subjected to disparate treatment” and was “unlawfully terminated” for not fitting the chairman’s “stereotypical gender mold.”

The complaint, which was filed Thursday in federal court in New York, claims that the executive, Katie Ellen Puris, was fired because ByteDance Chairman Lidong Zhang and other corporate executives determined she “lacked the docility and meekness specifically required of female employees.”

The lawsuit claims the treatment “only increased” as Puris reached the age of 50, and that ByteDance and TikTok executives “made it clear that they preferred young, less experienced employees who they believed to be more innovative and pliable.”

Starting in 2020, Puris participated in bi-weekly meetings with Zhang to share updates from her team. The lawsuit claims Zhang was displeased with Puris’ presentations “because she celebrated her team’s successes and achievements, which he felt was inappropriate because he believes that women should always remain humble and express modesty.”

Puris also claims in the lawsuit that “she was sexually harassed at an off-site TikTok event” and that the company did not respond appropriately, making her to choose between her safety and opportunities at work.

The lawsuit alleges that the company failed to take action after Puris reported discriminatory treatment and sexual harassment.

“After Ms. Puris made protected complaints, her team was substantially reduced, she received a devastatingly low-performance review, she was denied her annual bonus, she was moved out of her position and she was ultimately unlawfully terminated,” the lawsuit says.

Neither ByteDance nor TikTok immediately responded to requests for comment Friday.

Puris’ lawsuit against ByteDance is the latest accusing the company of discrimination. In September, two Black former employees filed a complaint against the company through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging their work was sabotaged by direct managers who also discriminated against them.

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