Lambda School, the controversial coding bootcamp, is threatening a former employee for speaking out about problems at the school.
In an article published on February 11th, Sabrina Baez, Lambda’s former head of career services, told The Verge that she was called a “feisty Latina” and a “bulldog” when she pushed for a diversity initiative at the school. Baez had signed a severance agreement when she left Lambda after the incidents; the school sent her a letter claiming she violated that agreement by speaking to reporters and is demanding the return of her severance money (roughly $36,000). The Verge has seen that letter, which also says Lambda is prepared to file a lawsuit to collect.
Baez claims that Lambda tried to fire her in 2018 for not living up to a performance plan. When she told her manager she hadn’t received any documentation about this plan, she claims he walked back his comments and said she could stay. Baez says she decided to leave anyway because she no longer felt supported in her role. She was five months pregnant at the time and signed a nondisclosure agreement to get severance. Because of this agreement, The Verge agreed not to use Baez’s name in the article. She has decided to come forward publicly in this piece since the school is threatening legal action.
“It has come to our attention that you recently discussed Lambda School with members of the media including the Verge, and that in those conversations you shared confidential information of Lambda School as well as false statements,” Lambda’s letter to Baez reads. “These actions violated Sections 3 and 4 of the Agreement (Non-Disparagement and Confidentiality, respectively).”
When The Verge reached out to Lambda on February 6th to comment on Baez’s alleged experience, CEO Austen Allred said: “It is not accurate that she left of her own accord. Nothing like those statements was reported to us by her or anyone else about her, and if they were, we’d take immediate action. Out of respect for the employee, we can’t comment in deeper detail on this situation.”
In the legal letter Baez received, Lambda’s lawyers explicitly threatened a lawsuit if she does not return the money. “We hope that it is not necessary for us to commence suit against you to recover amounts paid to you under the Agreement,” they wrote. “Nevertheless, we send this letter as a reminder both of your obligations under the Agreement, and that we are prepared to file suit and to seek recovery of money paid, and all attorneys’ fees and costs incurred herein as a result.”
The Verge reached out to Lambda School to clarify which parts of Baez’s statements were confidential or false. The school did not respond.
The Verge’s reporting went beyond Baez’s experience, detailing ongoing issues Lambda faces with unhappy students and regulatory hurdles. In January, students from the school’s User Experience Design program wrote a letter to the school calling the program “a very bad experience” and “not worth the money.” They asked to get out of their income sharing agreements (ISAs), which are the bedrock of Lambda’s program. The school is also operating without state approval in California, meaning the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education cannot step in to help students if there is a dispute with the school. In the case of the User Experience program, the agency didn’t have to: Lambda let the students out of their ISAs.