Silicon Valley is having a rough week. Today, the judge in the Ellen Pao trial ruled that Pao could sue her former employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, for punitive damages. Earlier this week, we reported that a former Facebook employee is suing the company for sexual discrimination and sexual harassment, among other offenses. Now it seems Twitter too will face legal pushback for gender discrimination. A former female software engineer at Twitter filed a class action lawsuit this week claiming the company's promotion process unlawfully favors men, according to Reuters.
There's a "shoulder tap" process for promotions
A class action suit was filed on Thursday in San Francisco by former Twitter employee Tina Huang, according to Pando Daily. The suit alleges that Twitter relies on a "black box" style of promotion, wherein employees are notified of open positions via a mysterious "shoulder tap" process. This fraternity-esque promotional style takes the place of any formal job postings, Reuters reports.
Huang claims she was overlooked for a promotion and ultimately let go after she complained about it. Text from the lawsuit, obtained by Mashable, says a largely male upper management is responsible for all the hiring decisions, and that creates an environment that favors men, intentional or not:
Promotion into Twitter’s senior technical positions is based on subjective judgments, by committees that are comprised of and dependent on upper management at Twitter, and predominantly male. These judgments are tainted with conscious or unconscious prejudices and gender-based stereotypes, which explains why so few women employees at Twitter advance to senior and leadership positions.
Twitter, however, maintains that Huang left the company on her own terms. "Ms. Huang resigned voluntarily from Twitter, after our leadership tried to persuade her to stay. She was not fired. Twitter is deeply committed to a diverse and supportive workplace, and we believe the facts will show Ms. Huang was treated fairly," a Twitter spokesperson told The Verge.
The lawsuit says it seeks to end Twitter's discriminatory practices on behalf of "all similarly situated current and former female Twitter employees."
In an unfortunate bit of timing, it was nine years ago today that Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey posted the first tweet ever.
Update, March 21st, 6:20 PM: This post was updated to include Twitter's response.