Twitter Latest To Face Sex Discrimination Lawsuit

A former Twitter engineer has filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against her ex-employer, alleging that promotion opportunities are denied to women because of arbitrary promotion policies within Twitter that unlawfully favor men.

Tina Huang, who according to her LinkedIn profile worked at Twitter between October 2009 and June 2014 on the mobile team and the developer productivity team, filed the proposed class action suit last Thursday in California state court.

CourtHouseNews quotes from Huang’s complaint in which she states: “The company’s promotion system creates a glass ceiling for women that cannot be explained or justified by any reasonable business purpose, because Twitter has no meaningful promotion process for these jobs: no published promotion criteria, nor any internal hiring, advancement, or application processes for employees.”

In the complaint, Huang says she was passed over for promotion in 2013 without adequate explanation — despite years of service, excellent evaluations by peers and supervisors and an absence of criticism or disciplinary issues.

The lack of a formal promotion procedure at Twitter, such as published criteria or an application process, has led to a ‘tap on the shoulder’ culture that unfairly advances men, she alleges.

Frustration with the opaque promotion process led Huang to email Twitter CEO Dick Costolo in March last year detailing her concerns. According to court documents obtained by Mashable she says she was then immediately put on leave while the company conducted an investigation, and subsequently felt she had no choice but to resign after three months “without explanation as to the status of the investigation, or mention of any possible time frame for her return to work”.

In her complaint Huang notes that many early Twitter hires now hold senior management positions — and all of them are men. She also says she learned that seven men had been promoted to the senior staff engineer level at Twitter.

She claims Twitter has recognized it has a “company-wide, pervasive problem of discrimination” — noting that it has conducted internal diversity studies, focusing on barriers to women’s advancement, and recently began providing “bias mitigation” training across the company.

Last summer Twitter’s own diversity report recorded an overall gender balance of employees that skews 70:30 male. For tech employees specifically the skew increases to 90:10. And when it comes to leadership roles Twitter reported just a fifth of such roles being held by women, with a 79:21 skew in favor of men.

Responding to Huang’s suit in a statement provided to TechCrunch, a Twitter spokesperson said:

Ms. Huang resigned voluntarily from Twitter, after our leadership tried to persuade her to stay. She was not fired. Twitter is deeply committed to a diverse and supportive workplace, and we believe the facts will show Ms. Huang was treated fairly.

The lawsuit is just the latest sexism allegations to hit at the heart of Silicon Valley and the tech industry. Last week a lawsuit was filed against Facebook also by a former employee alleging sex discrimination and harassment. While the high profile Ellen Pao Vs. Kleiner Perkins trial — alleging gender discrimination and retaliation following a report of sexual harassment within the VC world — has been ongoing for the past month and is now heading towards closing arguments.

Add to that, last year Github also faced accusations of sexism from a former employee and female engineer. While Tinder’s parent company settled a suit last September brought by a former employee who had alleged sex discrimination and sexual harassment. That suit was settled with no admission of wrong doing.