Former TikTok Executive Alleges Gender and Age Discrimination in Lawsuit

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A former senior executive at TikTok has filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging discrimination based on gender and age during her three-year tenure.

Katie Puris, who worked in marketing at TikTok starting in 2019, claims she faced unequal treatment as a woman, experienced retaliation for raising concerns about the alleged discrimination, and was ultimately forced out of the company in fall 2022, according to a complaint filed in the Southern District Court of New York.

Puris also accuses the company of inadequately addressing her report of sexual harassment at a work event.

According to the complaint, TikTok informed Puris that she was terminated for “performance reasons.” The company did not respond to requests for comment on the lawsuit.

This isn’t the first time TikTok has faced allegations of discrimination. Two former Black employees of its parent company, ByteDance, filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September, alleging racial discrimination and retaliation against Black workers. TikTok stated it has policies against discrimination, harassment, and retaliation.

In May 2023, Puris filed a discrimination and retaliation charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission before filing the lawsuit.

Puris, who most recently served as TikTok’s head of global brand and creative in New York, alleges that she faced differential treatment because she didn’t conform to stereotypical gender norms expected by senior leaders.

The complaint further states that senior leaders openly favored hiring younger, less experienced employees, and that Puris felt her age was referenced when a manager implied the company wanted fewer high-level employees.

Puris raised concerns about her team’s workload affecting mental health and well-being in early 2022, but was reportedly told that taking leave would impact her compensation.

After raising concerns about discrimination and workload, Puris alleges facing retaliation, including poor performance reviews and reduction of her team size. She also claims pressure to give lower performance ratings to justify terminations.

Additionally, Puris alleges being sexually harassed at a work dinner during a marketing event in June 2022. She reported the incident to a manager, but claims TikTok’s response was delayed.

The lawsuit adds to TikTok’s existing scrutiny over its ties to its Chinese parent company, ByteDance. Puris alleges that even after Shou Chew became TikTok’s CEO in May 2021 amid concerns about Chinese influence, control of key departments remained with ByteDance leadership.

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