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WeWork Hit With 2 More Lawsuits Over Discrimination, Pay Equity

A pair of Black former WeWork employees are the latest to sue the faltering coworking giant for racial discrimination

WeWork UMD College Park
The front entrance of WeWork UMD in College Park, Maryland.

Former WeWork stock plan administrator Diane Allen and the company's former head of its diversity program, Christopher Clermont, both claim they reported instances of racial discrimination that went unaddressed in lawsuits filed Wednesday. Allen claims she reported sexual harassment and gender discrimination and it went unpunished, Crain’s New York Business reported

“Our clients and our office believe strongly in the claims against WeWork set forth in these complaints,” Seth Rafkin, the attorney for both plaintiffs, wrote in an email to Bisnow Thursday. “As the complaints make clear, there are important issues raised in these cases and we believe our clients will be vindicated before a jury.“

This is not the first time WeWork has been accused of mishandling instances of discrimination. 

In February, former WeWork Director of Employee Relations Ayesha Whyte, a Black woman, filed a lawsuit claiming she faced gender and racial discrimination in her year and a half at the company, seeking $285K in damages. Rafkin is also serving as Whyte's attorney.

In 2018, the company paid out $2M in a settlement to a former employee who planned to expose the sexual harassment issues at the company. 

During the same year, the company was hit with a lawsuit that alleged it didn't take proper action when a former employee claimed she was sexually assaulted at a WeWork Summit, one of the company's many alcohol-fueled events under co-founder and former CEO Adam Neumann.

In the lawsuit filed this week, Clermont alleges he was treated like “window dressing” and a “glorified event planner." Over his time working at WeWork, Clermont repeatedly brought up issues of race and gender discrimination at WeWork and was met with further racist comments and retaliatory behavior, he claims in the lawsuit

When Clermont was fired in November, a WeWork official informed him that several at the company had been trying to oust him for months, he claims. He also said in the suit that he was paid less than his white counterparts.

In a separate lawsuit, Allen said she faced sexual harassment at the hands of a co-worker during a WeWork Summit and that her reports of the harassment went nowhere.

“[Allen’s] experience as a black woman at WeWork was, in a word, horrendous,” the lawsuit claims. 

Allen alleges she was paid 12% less than her white male colleague in the same position and given the same salary as several non-Black women in lower positions. When she informed her boss of the pay disparity, she claims WeWork didn't increase her pay until long after her complaint. 

In a statement to Bisnow, WeWork claimed that it did address the former employee's claims of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and racial discrimination. 

"WeWork thoroughly investigated these complaints and found them to be wholly without merit," a WeWork spokesperson told Bisnow in an email Thursday. 

The lawsuits come as the coworking company wraps up a disastrous 12-month stretch. After a failed IPO in September, WeWork has been hit hard by the pandemic. It missed rent payments in April and is looking to reduce its portfolio by up to 20%, CEO Sandeep Mathrani recently said. The company's valuation dropped to $2.7B in May from its former peak of $47B. 

CORRECTION, JULY 9, 5:15 P.M. ET: A previous version of this story stated WeWork has given back 1M SF of space across the world. While it is working to reduce its portfolio, it is not clear at this time how much space the company has given back. This story has been updated.