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Friday, February 23, 2024

Ex-workers accuse TikTok owners of retaliation after lodging racism complaints

By Naomi Nix

Two Black ex-employees are accusing TikTok owner ByteDance of retaliating against them after they complained about racial discrimination in the workplace.

Nnete Matima, 42, and Joël Carter, 27, filed a complaint against ByteDance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency that administers civil rights laws in employment.

Matima, who sold ByteDance’s business collaboration tool Lark, and Carter, who worked as an advertising policy manager at TikTok, allege in their complaint that their direct managers routinely sabotaged their work performance while simultaneously disparaging them with negative stereotypes.

But when they formally complained to the company, they allege, the discrimination they experienced only got worse.

The complaint, which is seeking class-action status, alleges it was ByteDance’s “standard operating procedure” to “brazenly” retaliate against workers who complain about discrimination.

“This case represents the dilemma that way too many Black professionals face today: they can ignore discrimination and let biased supervisors sabotage their careers or they can report that discrimination and suffer retaliation that often leads to being ousted by the company,” Carter and Matima wrote in their complaint.

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It will be up to the EEOC to determine whether to investigate just their individual claims or investigate ByteDance for systematic patterns of discrimination and retaliation.

From there, the EEOC will determine if there is a reasonable chance that ByteDance violated the country’s laws barring discrimination against people on the basis of race or disability status, said Peter Romer-Friedman, the lawyer representing Carter and Matima.

“We believe there are other people whose rights have been violated and will be violated if this pattern or practice doesn’t end,” said Romer-Friedman, who has also represented clients who have filed EEOC charges against Meta.

“I’ve not seen such strong retaliation claims in a very long time in my professional opinion.”

ByteDance didn’t immediately have comment on the complaint.


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