A former Facebook employee who was fired in 2013 is suing the social network for sex discrimination, sex harassment, race discrimination, and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other allegations. The employee, Chia Hong, claims that Facebook was a "hostile work environment," where she was belittled, ordered to organize parties and serve drinks to male colleagues, and asked why she didn't just take care of her child.
Hong, who also goes by the name Chloe, worked at Facebook for more than three years, first as a product manager and then as a technology partner in finance. She was fired on October 17th, 2013. The suit [embedded below] names other defendants besides Facebook, including Anil Wilson, as well as a number of John Does (so that names can be added later). Hong claims she was discriminated against both for being a woman and for being Taiwanese and that she was replaced by a "less qualified, less experienced Indian male."
A Facebook spokesperson sent The Verge the following statement denying Hong's allegations:
"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."
The lawsuit was filed on Monday in San Mateo Superior Court. Hong is being represented by Lawless & Lawless, one of two law firms currently representing Ellen Pao in her gender discrimination suit against the Silicon Valley venture capital firm. The fact that Pao's case has made it before a jury is rare, so the trial is being closely watched.
Hong is asking for punitive damages. The judge in Pao's case, coincidentally, expressed doubts this week as to whether her lawyers had proven "malice, fraud, or oppression," the standard for punitive damages under California law. Hong claims she received raises and got feedback that her performance was satisfactory, but still suffered "a pattern and practice" of discrimination. There are no major incidents described in the complaint, rather a number of alleged micro-aggressions showing discrimination for gender and race.
The lawsuit accuses Anil Wilson of:
...regularly ignoring or belittling plaintiff’s professional opinions and input at group meetings in which she was the only woman or one of very few; asking plaintiff why she did not just stay home and take care of her child instead of having a career; admonishing plaintiff for taking one personal day per month to volunteer at her child’s school, which was permitted under company policy; ordering plaintiff to organize parties and serve drinks to male colleagues, which was not a part of plaintiff’s job description and not something requested of...telling plaintiff he had heard she was an "order taker," by which he meant that she did not exercise independent discretion in the execution of her job duties.
Hong also claims she was told "that she was not integrated into the team because she looks different and talks different than other team members." The credibility of Hong's claims will no doubt get wrapped into the ongoing, heated discussion about sexism in Silicon Valley.