The former head of global marketing at TikTok filed a lawsuit against the social media giant and its China-based parent company, ByteDance, alleging sex and age discrimination.
Attorneys Marjorie Mesidor and Monica Hincken filed the suit Thursday at the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of their client Katie Ellen Puris.
The lawsuit claims that Puris was “unlawfully terminated” in September 2022 and the complaints she made about “discriminatory treatment” by colleagues were not addressed.
“[ByteDance Chairman] Zhang [Lidong] and other corporate executives determined that Ms. Puris lacked the docility and meekness specifically required of female employees," the lawsuit alleged.
Puris joined TikTok in December 2019 and was promoted to lead the global business marketing team within two months.
She became "one of the most senior female executives" in the U.S.
According to the lawsuit, her performance was "extraordinarily successful." However, she claims that after attending biweekly meetings with Zhang, she faced "disparate treatment.”
The legal document claims that Zhang had “a stereotypical view of the way women should behave” and was displeased with Puris's leadership style, believing she celebrated successes “inappropriately.”
It then became obvious that Puris was being targeted as part of Zhang’s supposed “kill list.”
“Part of Lidong Zhang's 'kill list' approach was to build a case against any employee he placed on the list and instruct other employees to do the same,” the lawsuit stated.
Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that TikTok "failed to respond appropriately" after she reported that she was sexually harrassed at the June 2022 Cannes Lions event in France.
"As a woman who started her career in 1995, I was taught to be quiet if I wanted to be successful. Gender discrimination and sexual harassment were commonplace, but speaking out was career suicide," Puris said in an interview with Business Insider.
"Wisdom has taught me that I no longer need to be silenced or afraid to fight for change," she added.
TikTok has yet to respond to the lawsuit publicly.
This case comes amidst recent accusations of racism and retaliation against Black employees at ByteDance, which the company has denied.
It's important to note that these are allegations presented in a lawsuit and have not yet been proven in court. ByteDance and TikTok have the opportunity to respond and present their perspective on the situation.