A former top aide to WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann is accusing him and other executives of discriminating against her for becoming pregnant.
NEW YORK (AP) — A former top aide to WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann is accusing him and other executives of discriminating against her for becoming pregnant.
Medina Bardhi says in a federal complaint filed Thursday that she was demoted, derided for going on leave, and ultimately fired for raising concerns.
Bardhi, who was Neumann’s chief of staff until she was fired in October, is seeking class action status against New York-based WeWork, claiming a pattern of discrimination against women at the office-sharing company.
The complaint, filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, describes a culture at WeWork in which women were paid less than men, demeaned for getting pregnant and subjected to sexually offensive conduct at alcohol-fueled company events.
“Our hope is that this class action complaint will send a loud and clear message to WeWork and other startups that pregnant women cannot be forced out of their jobs, that women must be paid fairly and afforded equal opportunities,” said Douglas Wigdor, Bardhi’s attorney.
WeWork spokeswoman Gwen Rocco said the company will “vigorously defend itself against” Bardhi’s claim. “We have zero tolerance for discrimination of any kind. We are committed to moving the company forward and building a company and culture that our employees can be proud of,” Rocco said.
The complaint raises a new challenge for WeWork as it tries to regain the confidence of its employees, investors and customers in the wake of a failed attempt to enter the stock market. Neumann stepped down as CEO on Sept. 24 and gave up his controlling shares of the company in a financing deal with Japanese conglomerate Softbank that saved WeWork from possible bankruptcy. Bardhi said the discriminatory behavior began with her first job interview at WeWork in 2013, when Neumann “unlawfully and intrusively” asked her if she planned to get married and become pregnant. The complaint claimed that Neumann routinely asked that question of female job candidates.
Adam Neumann, WeWork’s co-founder, is seen in this Jan. 16, 2018 file photo.