TikTok logo seen on a smartphone on September 22, 2023
New York (CNN) --
New York (CNN) --
A former top TikTok executive is suing the company, alleging she suffered discrimination based on her age and gender during the three years she worked for the company.
Katie Puris, who worked in marketing at TikTok starting in 2019, says she faced unequal expectations as a woman, suffered retaliation for raising concerns about alleged treatment, and was ultimately kicked out of the company in the fall of 2022, according to a complaint filed on Thursday in the Southern District Court of New York.
Puris also alleges that the company responded inappropriately after she claimed to have been sexually harassed at an event she attended for work.
TikTok told Puris that she had been fired for “performance reasons,” according to the complaint. TikTok did not respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
Puris' lawsuit is not the first in which the social media giant has come under fire for alleged discrimination.
Puris' claims come after two black former ByteDance employees in the United States filed a formal complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in September 2023, asking the agency to investigate alleged discrimination. racial discrimination and retaliation against black workers in the company. At the time, a TikTok spokesperson told CNN that the company has “strong policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation in the workplace.”
In May 2023, Puris also filed a charge of discrimination and retaliation with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, before filing the lawsuit this Thursday.
Puris most recently served as TikTok's global brand and creative executive in the company's New York office and previously worked in other senior marketing and advertising roles, including at Facebook and Google. An ad campaign she worked on while at TikTok was included on AdWeek's list of “13 Campaigns That Made Advertising Professionals Jealous in 2021,” the complaint states.
After being invited to meet with a senior executive at TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, beginning in 2020, Puris “was subjected to unequal treatment” because senior leaders “determined that Ms. Puris lacked the docility and meekness specifically required of the employees,” the complaint states. She adds that “Ms. Puris, an accomplished executive who celebrated and championed her team's successes, did not fit that stereotypical gender mold.”
According to the complaint, the company's senior management openly expressed a preference for hiring "younger, less experienced employees whom they considered more innovative and flexible." When another manager later “insinuated that the company did not want so many high-level employees… Ms. Puris understood this to refer to her age,” the complaint states.
In early 2022, Puris expressed concern to human resources about his team's “extreme workload” and the toll it was taking on their mental health and well-being," noting that “at least five team members have taken or are currently on medical leave” this year “due to severe work stress and pressure,” the complaint states, adding that Puris was informed that taking a leave of absence would affect his compensation.
Puris alleges that she faced various forms of retaliation after raising concerns to human resources and management that she was being discriminated against and that her health was being affected due to her workload, including receiving poor performance reviews and being demoted. the size of your team. Managers pressured Puris to give certain employees lower performance ratings, even when they did not deserve them, to justify their firings, according to the complaint.
“Furthermore, following Ms. Puris’ protected complaints, TikTok began downplaying her at the company and important decisions affecting her team were made without her involvement,” the complaint states.
While on a work trip with other TikTok marketing employees to the Cannes Lion event in June 2022, Puris says she was sexually harassed by an employee of one of the company's business partners during a work dinner. The individual "slurred, spilled an entire glass of wine on Ms. Puris's plate and began repeatedly touching Ms. Puris's arm, asking her where to party after dinner and where they could go dancing," it states. the complaint, adding that a co-worker eventually helped her out of the situation.
After reporting the incident to a manager the next day, Puris alleges that it took nearly a week before she heard from TikTok's ethics team and more than a month before she received confirmation that the business partner's employee had been removed from the company. the TikTok account.
The lawsuit may increase scrutiny TikTok was already facing in the United States over its connections to its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, which was raised again as an issue at a Senate hearing with social media leaders including TikTok CEO Shou. Chew, late last month.
"I'm from Singapore, senator": TikTok CEO responds to Republican senator who questioned whether he belonged to the Chinese Communist Party
Puris alleges that after Chew took over as CEO of TikTok in May 2021 amid scrutiny of China's influence over the social media app, control of at least one key department remained in the hands of ByteDance leadership. The Global Business Solutions team, of which Puris' unit was a part and which "controlled all advertising dollars generated by TikTok and, ultimately, what, where and when ads were served," continued reporting to a senior executive at ByteDance in China, the complaint claims.
Puris is seeking unspecified financial compensation.