TikTok and its parent company ByteDance are being sued by a former employee who claims the video-sharing platform fostered an environment where she was sexually harassed.
According to court documents obtained by The Blast, the female employee alleged that she was discriminated against based on age and gender, leading to an unlawful termination despite exceeding the expectations of her job description.
TikTok Accused Of Sexual Harassment By Former Female Employee
The woman, who served as the head of the Global Business Marketing team, claimed she joined TikTok in December 2019 as a Managing Director and U.S. Head of Business Marketing.
In a short time, she exceeded the company's expectations and was promoted to lead the Global Business Marketing team within just two months. According to the former employee, who has worked at FaceBook and Google, that was the start of her troubles.
She recalled being invited to attend and participate in bi-weekly meetings with Lidong Zhang, the Chairman of ByteDance, where she was subjected to disparate treatment. She claimed that Zhang and other corporate executives determined that she lacked the docility and meekness specifically required of a female employee.
"In sum and substance, Lidong Zhang had a stereotypical view of the way women should behave, and [her], an accomplished executive who celebrated and advocated for her team’s successes, did not fit that stereotypical gender mold," the filing read.
Things got even worse when she neared the age of 50 as the "company executives made it clear that they preferred young, less experienced employees who they believed to be more innovative and pliable. 'Hungry' with a desperate display of a need for approval was how the Company defined its ideal employee; generally associated with the young and inexperienced."
In another instance, when she was allegedly sexually harassed at an off-site TikTok event, the former female employee lamented that her several complaints fell on deaf ears, leading her to choose "between her own safety and work opportunities." As a result, her health worsened.
The woman also received a devastatingly low performance review and was denied her annual bonus, causing the company to move her out of her position and ultimately unlawfully terminate her contract. She is seeking declaratory, injunctive, and equitable relief, as well as monetary damages, to redress TikTok and ByteDance's unlawful employment practices
The Former Employee Says: 'I No Longer Need To Be Silenced'
The bombshell lawsuit was filed by Wigdor LLP, who represented Cassie in her sexual trafficking and rape lawsuit against Diddy, said in a statement:
"For three years, Ms. Puris devoted almost every waking hour to TikTok. She created award-winning campaigns while building and managing a large international team of employees. By all metrics, she was enormously successful at her job and created a successful team. Yet, when she began complaining about the discriminatory treatment she received and the Company’s failure to properly handle her sexual harassment complaint, she swiftly suffered retaliatory consequences that resulted in her unlawful termination. TikTok’s actions against Ms. Puris are illegal and we look forward to vindicating her rights."
The ex-employee, Katie Puris, also shared an emotional statement about her lawsuit, saying, "As a woman who started her career in 1995, I was taught to be quiet if I wanted to be successful. Gender discrimination and sexual harassment were commonplace, but speaking out was career suicide. Wisdom has taught me that I no longer need to be silenced or afraid to fight for change."
TikTok is yet to respond to the allegations levied against them.