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Former Employee Hits WeWork with Gender, Race Discrimination Suit

— March 5, 2020

Earlier this month, WeWork was hit with a lawsuit alleging it discriminated against former employee, Ayesha Whyte

WeWork was recently hit with a race and gender discrimination lawsuit by a former human resources director, Ayesha Whyte. According to Whyte, she was “replaced by an unqualified white woman and later unjustly fired.” The suit further argues that her treatment was common at WeWork and said “other women of color were overlooked for positions that were offered to less qualified white candidates.”

Brown and gold gavel; image by Bill Oxford, via
Brown and gold gavel; image by Bill Oxford, via

The suit itself was filed in New York Supreme Court on Friday. While discussing her experience at WeWork, Whyte said she “left her plum job as human resources director at the Walt Disney Company in August 2018 for a position at WeWork’s headquarters in Chelsea.” One of the reasons she allegedly decided to make that job switch was because she was told she would “earn $195,000 a year and receive the title director of employee relations.” However, once she accepted the job, WeWork allegedly told her “she would remain in Washington, D.C., and that her role was temporarily undetermined.” A few months later, she was “given a different title and her salary was cut by 20 percent — to less than what she earned at Disney.” The suit states, “Whyte had no practical choice but to stick it out with WeWork and hope things would improve. They didn’t.”

Things only continued to go downhill from there. According to the suit, Whyte’s superiors eventually had her “review and consider candidates for the role she had initially accepted, director of employee relations.” In the end, the position went to a “white woman who had been rejected as unqualified for two other roles at WeWork.”

Shortly after, Whyte filed a complaint with the company’s HR department, alleging she was discriminated against on the basis of her gender and race. The department conducted an investigation that ended in June 2019 and found no wrongdoing. She filed a couple more complaints in September and October, and eventually, she was terminated in October. According to the lawsuit, when she told WeWork she planned to file a discrimination suit, the company pushed back and said it “would seek legal costs from her unless she pursued the matter in confidential arbitration.”

Whyte’s suit also argues that racial discrimination was common at all levels at WeWork, including the executive level. On one occasion, Whyte claims that Jennifer Berrent, the co-president and chief legal officer told “WeWork’s diversity team that she can’t empathize with black people.” The suit further states, “At multiple levels throughout the organization, WeWork keeps people of color out of leadership positions and under-compensated.”

In response to the suit, a spokesperson for the company issued the following statement:

“At WeWork, we prioritize equal employment opportunity, including hiring, promotion, and compensation, and believe these claims are wholly without merit.”


Race, gender discrimination lawsuit takes aim at WeWork’s culture

WeWork Hit With Gender, Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

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