Lawsuit: Meta-engineer asked to resign after exposing sexist hiring practices

Meta was hit Tuesday with a lawsuit alleging the company deliberately ignores sexist treatment of female employees. That includes an apparent practice of hiring and promoting less qualified men for positions instead of more qualified female candidates.

The complaint was filed in a US district court in New York by Jeffrey Smith, an engineer who joined Meta in 2018. Smith alleged that Meta was about to promote him when suddenly his “upward trajectory stopped” after he began to talk about supposedly misogynistic management practices in Meta.

Smith claimed that instead of a promotion, his Meta manager, Sacha Arnaud, suggested he resign shortly after delivering Smith’s first negative performance review, which reduced his bonus pay and hurt his company’s stock. Smith has alleged that he suffered emotional distress and economic damages due to this alleged retaliation.

“Punished almost immediately”

The engineer, whose direct reports consider him “proactive” and “the most thoughtful manager,” the complaint states, began protesting Meta’s treatment of women in the summer of 2023.

For Smith, the turning point in women’s advocacy at Meta came when the role of an “extremely capable Meta employee” was reduced during a company reorganization. Some of her previous responsibilities were assigned to two male employees, one of whom Smith considered a “particularly bad fit,” because the male employee had significantly less experience than the female employee and no experience managing other managers.

After that, Smith learned of a Meta research scientist, Ran Rubin, who supposedly evaluated the work of a “high-performing” female employee “more critically than the work of men.”

Smith said she repeatedly raised concerns about perceived sexist management to human resources and Meta leadership, but nothing came of it.

Instead of prompting Meta to intervene, Smith was overwhelmed when more women came forward, revealing what he considered “a pattern of negligent management” at Meta, routinely providing “overly critical feedback” and displaying “bias against women.” Three women specifically complained about Rubin, who allegedly provided poor management and “advocated for white men to have oversight” over women whose competence she “denigrated.”

“Rubin’s comments about each of these women were not based on any evidence, and all had significant experience and had no complaints against them,” Smith’s complaint said.

As Smith tells it, she couldn’t help but speak out after noticing that “a qualified employee was inexplicably stripped of responsibilities, a supervisor was highly critical of a direct report, certain managers showed prejudice toward the women they supervised, and that Meta exhibited systematic preferential treatment.” toward men in promotions and ratings, while failing to provide support for women’s professional development,” her complaint says.

Smith alleged that Meta “punished” him “almost immediately” after he spoke out on behalf of these women. Instead of incorporating employee feedback into her performance evaluation, her manager took the “very unusual” step of skipping a formal review and instead conducting an informal critical review.

Meta accused of “scaring away women”

“Smith felt intimidated,” the complaint said, and briefly stopped reporting alleged mistreatment of women. But in October 2023, “Smith decided he couldn’t stay silent any longer,” enthusiastically taking up his criticism of Meta’s supposedly sexist male managers. Some women had left Meta over the alleged treatment and, once again, he felt he should “express concern that the actions of Rubin and other managers were driving women away from Meta by treating them unequally.”

Weeks later, Smith received a negative annual performance review, but that didn’t stop him from raising a red flag when he learned that a manager intended to fill a scientific research manager position “with a young white man.”

Smith told his manager that “the two most qualified people for the position” were “both women and were not being considered,” according to Smith’s complaint. But his manager allegedly “responded by lashing out” and “questioning whether Smith’s response was ‘productive’.” After that, another employee accused of acting “disrespectfully” toward women “yelled at and insulted Smith,” while everyday workplace activities such as taking previously approved time off suddenly appeared to negatively affect his evaluation of performance.

Ultimately, “no action was ever taken regarding her complaints about Mr. Rubin or the culture at Meta,” Smith’s complaint said, but her manager suggested she “find a new job internally” before “stating that Smith should consider resigning from his position. role.”

Smith hopes a jury will agree that Meta violated anti-retaliation and anti-interference laws in New York. A victory could result in civil and punitive damages compensating Smith for damage to his “personal and professional reputation and loss of professional fulfillment.” It could also prevent Meta from continuing to mistreat women in the workplace, as alleged in the complaint.

An attorney for Smith, Valdi Licul, provided Ars with a statement characterizing Smith’s case as “yet another example of how large corporations fail to address sexist cultures and how they attempt to silence those who speak out against their practices.” “Hold Meta accountable and make it clear that sexism has no place in the workforce.”

Meta did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.

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