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WeWork faces gender and racial discrimination lawsuit

WeWork has been beset by multiple employment actions that suggest a change in culture is overdue. Claims for gender, racial and pregnancy discrimination have all been filed against the commercial real estate company in recent years. 

A former human resources employee, Ayesha Whyte, recently filed a lawsuit against WeWork that alleges gender and racial discrimination. WeWork initially offered Whyte, an African American woman, the position of Director of Employee Relations along with a salary of $195,000. 

Once Whyte accepted the position at WeWork, the company changed the promised director role to an unspecified position and lowered her offered salary by 20 percent. With the pay cut, Whyte was now making less than she did at her previous role at The Disney Corporation. WeWork also forced Whyte to search for a candidate to fill the director position she was initially offered.

A pattern of racial discrimination

A white woman was eventually chosen for the director position. The new hire had previously been rejected for two other roles at WeWork for being underqualified. Whyte claims that the company fosters a greater culture of racial discrimination, with people of color being underpaid and kept out of leadership positions.

WeWork’s chief legal officer, Jennifer Berrent, once told the company’s diversity team that she “can’t empathize with black people.”

Multiple allegations of gender discrimination

In addition to the racial discrimination claim, pay discrepancies led Whyte to also file a gender discrimination claim. During her time at the company, a white man was hired to a temporary position comparable with Whyte’s and he was paid twice as much as she was.

Whyte is not the first person at WeWork to spot a pay discrepancy. Another female employee filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against WeWork for gender-based pay gaps. In response to the allegations, Berrent is reported to have responded that men take risks that women don’t.

The company has also faced a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit and a report of sexual assault at the hands of male employees.

Moving forward

The outcome of this lawsuit is still unclear, but it is estimated that Whyte could receive $285,000 or more in compensation if her lawsuit is successful. However, the company’s multiple lawsuits make it apparent that WeWork must improve their culture and treatment of employees. Female employees, and employees of color, deserve to feel equally valued and compensated for their work comparably with white men.

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