Facebook gets hit with gender discrimation lawsuit

Former product manager Chia Hong says she was discriminated against over her ethnicity and gender

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
March 18, 2015
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/3ca2

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(Correction: the article inaccurately stated that Sean Rad had been fired as CEO of Tinder)

As we speak, there is a huge sexual harassment trial going on, one that has been shaking Silicon Valley to its core. VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers is being sued former by firm partner, and current Reddit CEO, Ellen Pao. We haven't been following the day-to-day goings on of the trail on this site, but you can read the outline of her case against her former firm here

The reason that this trial is such a big deal, and its outcome will have such a big impact, is because of the perception, and often time reality, of Silicon Valley as a boys club. There are many examples of why this reputation is well earned; I will get to some of those later on.

Pao's lawsuit may be the biggest push back so far against unacceptable behavior in the tech world, but it won't be the last. I can say that for certain because another sexual discrimination lawsuit has just landed against one of the biggest tech companies in the world.

Chia Hong has filed a lawsuit against her former employer Facebook, alleging sex discrimination, sexualharassment and wrongful termination. 

Hong, who is Taiwanese, was hired by Facebook as a program manager in 2010. She was transferred to the position of Technology Partner in 2012, and where received a raised and was given "no significant criticism of her work." She also got high performance evaluations, which were given every six months. She then, however, fired in October of 2013.

In her over three years of working at the company, she cites numerous instances harassment based on her ethnicity and gender including, "being belittled at work," and being asked “why she did not just stay home and take care of her child instead of having a career.”

She was also "admonished" for taking time to visit her children at their school, and being forced to "organize parties and serve drinks to male colleagues," even though none of her male colleagues were asked to do anything similar.

Hong also alleged that she was replaced “by a less qualified, less experienced male.”

In other instances, Hong says that she was told that she "was not integrated into her team at work because she looks different and talks differently than other team members," having been the only employee on her team that was of Chinese descent.

When she complained, Hong says that other employees named in the suit retaliated against her, including through negative feedback in her performance evaluations.

In all, Hong has named Facebook, as well as 50 employees, only one of whom was named, in the suit. She is asking for more than $25,000 in damaged.

Facebook, of course, is denying the charges. 

"We work extremely hard on issues related to diversity, gender and equality, and we believe we’ve made progress. In this case we have substantive disagreements on the facts, and we believe the record shows the employee was treated fairly," a Facebook spokesperson told VatorNews.

Gender inequality in Silicon Valley

Now, of course we don't know that any of this is true, and it will be ip to a judge and jury to make that final decision. But I can say that it is certainly within the realm of possibility, considering a series of pretty terrible stories coming out of the tech world in 2014.

There was the sexual harassment claim made against GitHub, which forced the resignation of co-founder and former CEO Tom Preston-Werner. There was also RadiumOne CEO Gurbaksh Chahal who was forced out by the company's board of directors after he pled guilty to two misdemeanors for domestic violence and battery, paying a $500 fine after he was caught, on videotape, beating his girlfriend 117 times.

Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam resigned his position after he made a series of tasteless annotations to the text to the manifesto left behind by Elliot Rodger, the man who shot and injured 13 people, while killing seven others, including himself, in Santa Barbara. One of the notes made reference to Rodger's supposedly “smokin’ hot" sister who, according to Moghadam, must have played a part in him wanting to kill a bunch of people.

There were the leaked e-mails from Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel from his time in college, in which he refers to women as "bitches" and "sluts." One sample e-mail read, "“LUAU FUCKING RAGED. Thanks to all of you. Hope at least six girl [sic] sucked your dicks last night. Cuz that didn’t happen for me.” Signed affectionately, “fuckbitchesgetleid. Spiegel.”

And then there was the sexual harrassment suit from Tinder co-founder and former VP of marketing Whitney Wolfe, alleging a series of incidents of harassment from the company's chief marketing officer, Justin Mateen, who she had previously had a relationship with.

Mateen was accused of not only removing Wolfe's title as co-founder because of her gender, but also of publicly insulting her, including calling Wolfe both a slut and a whore in front of other team members. Tinder CEO Rad, who allegedly ignored Wolfe's complaints about Mateen, was also named in the suit, as was Match.com, whose CEO Sam Yagan was also accused by Wolfe of doing nothing about Mateen's behavior.

The suit was eventually settled, with Tinder not admitting fault.  Rad was said to be losing his job, but still remains in the position.

With incidents like that, can anyone say with a straight face that they don't at least partially believe Hong's story? Silicon Valley has a lot of work to do before we won't automatically believe it when someone alleges harassment. 

(Image source: ernsterfirm.com)