Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Spotify sued for gender discrimination by former US sales exec | UNLIMITED | CMU


Spotify is being sued in the US over claims of gender discrimination and that the company routinely pays women less than men.

Former Spotify sales exec Hong Perez is suing the streaming service’s US company and its Head Of US Sales, Brian Berner. She claims that there is a culture of disrespect against women at the company, set by the leadership style of key senior staff. In particular she singles out her former boss Berner, who she says “engineered the termination of [her] employment on baseless grounds”.

Among other things, she alleges that Berner organised networking trips to the Sundance Film Festival for sales staff in 2016 and 2017, referring to them as “boys’ trips”. Only male staff were selected to attend, despite there being more qualified women in the team. She adds that upon their return, men on the trip spoke of taking drugs while away, and one had become involved in a “physical altercation”.

These violated Spotify’s Code Of Conduct, she said, but Berner did not instigate any investigation or discipline against those involved.

On claims of pay discrimination, Perez says that her male counterpart was given a higher pay rise than her and another female colleague, despite her experience and performance surpassing the man in question.

She says that other men at the company were paid higher than female counterparts. Also, she claims, one male executive was promoted “after he had been the subject of a sexual harassment complaint and received multiple warnings from the company”. This same man, she says, later arranged a men-only supposed business trip to visit strip clubs.

Then alleging that this discriminatory attitude runs throughout the company’s hierarchy, Perez says in her lawsuit that “the Chief Financial Officer told a large audience of Spotify employees point blank at a company townhall Q&A session that he does not care about diversity at the company”. She adds that an HR exec had also confided in her that he had “gone easy on a male employee found to have engaged in harassing conduct because the Head Of Human Resources had ‘a soft spot for him'”.

In terms of her dismissal from the company, she says that Berner used her as a scapegoat for his own improper actions in negotiating a deal. She also accuses him and Spotify of defamation, for an email he sent to staff following her dismissal. In it he is said to have told staff that she had “acted in ways that are against our code of conduct and guidelines for internal compliance”.

For its part, Spotify denies Perez’s clams. In a statement to Variety, a spokesperson said: “At Spotify, we do not tolerate discrimination of any kind at any level. While we cannot comment on the specific details of a pending litigation, these claims are without merit”.

Perez is seeking damages to be determined at trial, including for loss of earnings and emotional distress. She is also requesting a jury trial.


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